Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"The Prayer of Jabez": Part 4

Well, I would have liked to have gotten this last post up before now, but life and mommyhood has gotten in the way.  Thank you for coming back and not giving up on me!  Today we conclude with the fourth and last part of the Jabez prayer model.

To refresh your memory, here is what we have covered so far:

Part one, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed!"
Part two, "Oh, that You would enlarge my territory!"
Part three, "Oh, that Your hand would be with me!"

And today, we end with part four:

"Oh, that You would keep me from evil!"

Wilkinson explains that while the previous part to this prayer asked God for His supernatural power to bless us and work through our weaknesses, in this last portion of the prayer, "our petition is for supernatural help to protect us..."  He states that success brings with it greater opportunities for failure...that when you are walking through open doors of ministry and opportunity, "you are going to experience more attacks on you and your family.  You are going to become more familiar with the enemy's unwelcome barbs--distraction, opposition, and oppression."  

Distraction.  Ugh...I am definitely guilty of this.  The past week has been filled with distraction that has left me feeling a bit off and in need of more concentrated focus with the Lord.  When talking with others as they asked how I was doing, I couldn't quite put my finger on it, except to answer, "I just feel distracted."  Life has a way of doing this.  We are often on the go, working around our calendars and chaufeeur schedules.  This is why it's so important to stay anchored in Jesus.  A bit more intentional distance from social media and things of this world, mixed with a bit more intentional closeness with the Lord through prayer and His Word, and I am feeling centered again.  Hence, my ability to write this post today.

Wait, how is it that in writing about distraction I become distracted again?!  Let's get back to the purpose of this post... "Oh, that You would keep me from evil!"

The author shares a conversation he once overheard in seminary.  A student was telling a professor how well his life was going and exclaimed, "When I first came here, I was so tempted and tested I could barely keep my head above water.  But now--praise God!--my life at seminary has smoothed out.  I'm not being tempted hardly at all!"  In hearing this, the professor became deeply alarmed and shocked the student when replying, "That's about the worst thing I could have heard!  That tells me you are no longer in the battle!  Satan isn't worried about you anymore."  There may be some truth to this.  In addition, I often find that as soon as I think I have an area of life "under control," there are usually stumbling blocks right around the corner reminding me that I am very much in need of and dependent on Christ to carry me through.  Staying rooted to my Anchor helps me to get back on track more quickly.

Elaborating further, someone once said, "Your danger is not in being on the edge of a precipice, but in being unwatchful there."  Sometimes those stumbling blocks sneak up on us simply because we haven't been vigilant and watchful once we've stepped out of the valley onto higher ground.  It's important for us to be watchful and on guard against temptation and attacks and to continuously pray for God to keep us away from these things.  And while nobody likes to be tempted and tried by the enemy, I believe that when we are walking in God's will and stepping out into the great unknown He has called us to, we are viewed as a threat and become an easy target for such attacks.  When you are up to God's good,  the enemy will do all he can to thwart the plans God has for you.  It's important to stay watchful in all seasons.

Wilkinson brought up another interesting point in his book.  He mentioned that many Christians often pray for strength to endure temptation and for victory over the attacks of the enemy, but sometimes, "we don't think to ask God simply to keep us away from temptation and keep the devil at bay in our lives."  He further tells us that in the model prayer Jesus' gave us, we are instructed to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)"  That without temptation, we would not sin.  So, daily, we should be asking God to lead and keep us away from it.  

While we won't ever be completely removed from all evil in this world, we most certainly can be prayerful in asking for God's protection against it.  Last week I volunteered in my 8 year old's classroom at school.  As soon as I stepped into the classroom, a voice booming from the loud speaker announced an impromptu all-school "internal threat" safety drill.  As about 15 students and I huddled into a small room taking cover under tables and shielding our bodies behind chairs and boxes, it saddened me that the world has even come to this.  That evil of this sort even exists...but, it does.  We aren't guaranteed exemption from it, but we are best to pray against it.  I am fortunate to drive by my children's school daily.  And each time I do, I pray aloud for their hearts, their minds, and for their safety.  Oh Lord, that You would keep them from evil!

And though Wilkinson mostly touched upon evil that comes from outside sources, he did mention a certain truth we should not overlook:  "a tiny indulgence of pride or self-confidence can spell disaster."  I think it's wise to remember our own sinful natures and how evil can just as easily rise from within ourselves.

The Holman Christian Bible translates the verses of this Jabez prayer as this:

"Jabez called out to the God of Israel: 'If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not cause any pain.' And God granted his request."  
1 Chronicles 4:9-10

Other versions say, "so that I will not endure pain" or "so that it will not grieve me." Let us not forget that some of the pain and grief we endure is caused on our own.  We are prone to wander and sin.  Following our flesh often leads to more pain and conflict for ourselves and for those around us. We all have blindspots that keep us from clearly seeing our own flaws and weaknesses.  We need God and His Holy Spirit to protect us from ourselves and the world, to keep our mirrors clean, and to lead and guide us onto the intended path He has for us.

Whether we are talking about the evil of this outside world, or the "no good" that lurks from within, let us petition God for His protection.  Oh, that You would keep me from evil!

Though I didn't realize it, the four components to the Jabez prayer model are things that I have prayed for regularly in the life of my family.  However, my prayers and thoughts were often independent and segmented.  I like the idea of using this scripture as a basis to cover over all of these areas in prayer.  Often times, it's easier to ask for one thing above the other, depending on our circumstances or feelings at the time.  The Jabez prayer model reminds us to go to God and petition these areas in equal importance.  It also acts as a catalyst to elaborate and deepen our prayer lives as we enjoy unparalleled intimacy and communion with our Maker.

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

1 Chronicles 4:10

Join me in petitioning our Lord for blessing, opportunity, His hand of power and presence to lead us, and His protection over our lives.  And always let it be with a heart of praise and thanksgiving for all that He is, all He will do, and for all He has done.

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