As mentioned on an episode of When We Understand The Text, before Bruce Wilkinson wrote his bestselling book, the prayer of Jabez was preached by Charles Spurgeon. He preached it faithfully and does leave you wondering if God will hear your prayers if it not worded in the way Jabez did it. This is the sermon Spurgeon preached on the prayer of Jabez:
“Oh, that you would bless me!”
[1 Chronicles 4:10]
We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brothers, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow. It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the experience, there will be the most pleasure in the outcome. Just as the angry storm gives way to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy. Sorrow is the messenger; gladness is the prince it ushers in. Cowper says: -
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”
To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those tasks that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings. While our grief called the offspring of desire “Benoni,” the son of my sorrow, our faith has afterwards been able to give it a name of delight, “Benjamin,” the son of my right hand. You may expect a blessing in serving God if you are enabled to persevere under many discouragements. The ship often takes a long time coming home, because she has been detained enroute onloading an excess of cargo. Expect her freight to be all the more the better when she reaches the port.
More honorable than his brothers was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow. As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well directed, his fame so well known, his name forever preserved - he was above all, a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and justifiably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. The best honors are those that come from God: the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service. When Jacob was given the name Israel, he received his rank and jurisdiction after a memorable night of prayer. Surely it was far more honorable to him than if it had been bestowed upon him as a flattering distinction by some earthly emperor. The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High. Jabez, we are told, was more honorable than his brothers, and his prayer is immediately recorded, as if to insinuate that he was also more prayerful than his brothers. We are told of the petitions in his prayer. All through the prayer it was very significant and instructive. We have only time to take one part of it - indeed, that one part may be said to comprehend the rest: “Oh, that you would bless me!” I recommend it as a prayer for each one of you, dear brothers and sisters; one which will be available at all times; a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer which would always be appropriate in your joys or in your sorrows.
Oh that you, the God of Israel, the covenant God, would bless me!
The very substance of the prayer seems to lie in the intensity of the request. There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings in name only: they satisfy our wishes for the moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They delight the eye, but are dull in the taste. Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish as they are used. Though for awhile they delight the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, “Oh, that you would bless me!” I know that whoever God blesses shall be blessed. The good thing in the blessing is bestowed with the goodwill of the giver, and shall produce so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a great blessing, for there is nothing comparable to it. Let the grace of God prompt it, let the choice of God appoint it, let the bounty of God confer it, and then the endowment shall be something very godlike; something worthy of the lips that pronounce the blessing, and truly to be desired by every one who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. “Oh, that you would bless me!” Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.
We may set this in contrast with human blessings: “Oh, that you would bless me!”
It is very pleasant to be blessed by our parents, and those respected friends whose blessings come from their hearts, and are backed up by their prayers. Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son. One might feel it would be a thing to be deplored through life if he had lost a parent’s blessing. We like to have it. The blessing of our spiritual parents is comforting. Though we do not believe in the blessings given by a Roman Catholic Priest, we do like to live in the love of those who were the means of bringing us to Christ, and from whose lips we were instructed in the things of God. And how very precious is the blessing of the poor! I am not surprised that Job treasured that up as a sweet thing. He said, “Whoever heard me spoke well of me.” If you have comforted the widow and the fatherless, and their thanks are returned to you in the form of a blessing, then it is a great reward. But, dear friends, even after all that parents, relatives, saints, and grateful persons can do in the way of blessing, it all falls far short of what we desire to have. O Lord, we want to have the blessings of our fellow-creatures, the blessings that come from their hearts; but, “Oh, that you would bless us!” for only you can bless with authority. Their blessings may be nothing but words, but yours are powerful and effective. They may often wish to do what they cannot do, and desire to give what they do not have at their own disposal, but your will is omnipotent. You created the world with only a word. O that such omnipotence would now give to me your blessing! Other blessings may bring us some small amount of joy, but in yours is life. Other blessings are mere specks in comparison with your blessing; for your blessing is the title “to an unfading eternal inheritance,” to “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” David prayed, “With your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
You can read the entire sermon here.