Monday, February 24, 2014

"The Prayer of Jabez": Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about Bruce Wilkinson's book, "The Prayer of Jabez." The author dissects 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and divides it into a 4 part "breaking through to the blessed life" prayer model.  The first part examines the concept of praying for blessings. Today we will look a bit closer at part 2 of this prayer:

"Oh, that You would enlarge my territory!"

Wilkinson writes, "A plea for more territory is where you ask God to enlarge your life so that you can make a greater impact for Him."  It isn't to be mistaken with asking for a larger home, yard, possessions, or economic prosperity...but rather wanting "more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark for God." In essence, it's asking God for more ministry.  And for more opportunity to promote Jesus and share the hope we have in Him with those we encounter.

The author explains that when you pray for God to enlarge your territory, "people will show up on your doorstep or at the table next to you.  They'll start saying things that surprise even them."  They may end up asking questions, disclosing information to you, and doors will be opened for you to share your faith and be used by God.  He writes, "whatever our gifts, education, or vocation might be, our calling is to do God's work on earth," and "when you start asking in earnest for more influence and responsibility with which to honor Him, God will bring opportunities and people into your path."

If you are anything like me, you've felt disheartened when God has given you an opportunity to be a light that shines for Him and then you hesitate and miss out on it, (or end up walking through that door and blowing it completely.)  I've experienced both, and it's left me feeling as if I've wasted a good opportunity, blown my witness, or failed entirely.

Thankfully, with God, His mercies are new each morning, and every day presents us with the chance to try again...even if we missed the boat or messed up yesterday.  Now is as good a time as any to remind you of this blog's theme and inspiration based on Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion."  We are all a work in progress.  I find comfort in knowing He isn't finished with me yet.  That when I fail and make mistakes, He doesn't judge or discard me as a lost cause.  He's patient and merciful, picks me up, dusts me off, and gives me second chances.

"Oh, that You would bless me indeed...that You would enlarge my territory..."

I've been praying this prayer over my life since I first picked up this book last week.  I find there is nothing in life that fills me with more joy and purpose than knowing I am being used by God.  And as I shared the disheartedness of missed and failed opportunities, let's not forget the joys experienced when someone contacts you, and unbeknownst to you, shares how you have impacted and inspired them in their faith.  These moments encourage and propel us forward to continue pressing on in our own faith walk.  And I'm ever grateful for them.

Wilkinson describes some pretty significant and moving examples of how God has answered this prayer and "enlarged his territory." I am certain we, too, are capable of being part of some of these big things.  But, after praying this prayer, I was surprised at how my perspective shifted in the way I go about my day.  I don't want to lose sight of the little ways that God can enlarge our territory and allow us to plant seeds in the realms of "ordinary" life.  I believe these small ways are equally significant and to be valued.  And we are to seek after them as well, believing that God will use as as He sees fit.

For instance, Saturday I snuck off by myself to the mall to look for a new bathing suit.  I dread bathing suit shopping. Yes, I said it.  I dread it for it always leaves me depressed.  But, my cheap Target-bought swimsuits are a few years old, stretched out, and falling apart at the seams.  We've been taking the kids to our gym's indoor swimming pool 2-3 times a week since the first of the year and I've found myself in need of a new one.  I decided it's time to invest in one of better quality that may actually last longer than one Michigan summer.

As I collected a handful of suits to try on, I made my way to the crowded department store's fitting room.  Every room was occupied and there was a wait line quickly forming.  Before I knew it, I found myself chatting with a 67 year old woman behind me.  With the knowledge that I had prayed this prayer that very morning, I was on alert for any opportunities God may send my way.  This prayer has a way of allowing you to slow your pace and soak in all that happens around you.  Instead of rushing around consumed with your own schedule, looking to quickly check off your daily "to-do" list, you begin to take notice to those around you and embrace encounters of the ordinary.  For each encounter may just be an expansion of your territory, if you take notice and make yourself available.

So there in the wait line to the fitting room, the lives of two women (from distinctly different ethnic backgrounds and generations) intertwined, as we shared a few moments of life together.  Small talk of children and marriage surprisingly, yet naturally, led to discussions of faith and God.   I didn't initiate these topics, but I was on alert to their possibility, and walked through that door when it was opened.  And, right then and there, within the small, confined space of dressing room, I watched God expand my territory.  It may have only been an inch, or a millimeter, but I knew His hand was in that encounter.  And I left that fitting room with a heart of peace, (even despite my failure to find that decent overpriced swimsuit.)

If there is anyone out there still following this blog, I encourage you to try out this prayer, and stick with me as we move onward with it.  In the next days ahead, I will discuss parts 3 and 4 to this prayer model. Both have been tugging tightly on my heartstrings, as He has used them to whisper hard truth and strike a chord within my spirit.

Until then, be a light and ask God to expand your territory.  When we are available, He is always able.

2 comments:

  1. I am following. And the first part of this prayer and your post about it was so on target for me, as I face in to asking God for some big things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for following! And for commenting! Keep boldly going before His throne and circling those things in prayer! Makes me think of the parable of the persistent widow in the Bible.... her persistence paid off. Keep persisting, persevering, and trusting!

      Delete