Maybe you’ve read the small, 93-page book that took the Christian community by storm back at the turn of the millennium. Since 2000,The Prayer of Jabez has sold more than 10 million copies, a huge number in the publishing world.
Tucked away in a lengthy genealogy of hard to say names are these words by a Jew named Jabez, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
The book and the wave it produced prompted people from here to there to ask God to bless them and enlarge their territories, that is, their influence, opportunities, and holdings. In the preface author Bruce Wilkinson writes, “I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief — only one sentence with four parts…but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God… In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” There aresignificant problems with Wilkinson’s interpretation of the prayer but what about the last line of the prayer, “that I may not cause pain”? Do we pray this enough?
We live in a world of intense pain. Sadly, some pain Christians experience comes from those who should be the last to inflict such harm. Onlookers have accused Christians of “eating their own,” “kicking him while he’s down,” and “friendly fire.” As Christians we never want to be the cause of another believer’s pain, but it’s all too easy. As proactive deterent to self-inflicted wounds, let’s pray, “Lord, prevent me from causing pain to another.”
In My Words
Painful words can escape our mouths or be the product of our fingers. Over the last few weeks I’ve read emails, social media posts, and text messages that make me cringe at the writer’s words. How could she not know the pain that would come because of hastily tapped out words? How could he not know that comment would leave the reader devastated? I’ve listened to communication between family members and shuddered at the harshness, the vulgarity, the threats, the sarcasm, or the complete insensitivity to the damage the words would do to the hearer. But these were not posts or phrases from unbelievers who have little capacity to do anything but hurt with their words. These expressions came from Christians! “Oh, Lord, grant that I do not cause pain in my words, especially toward other Christians.”
In My Neglect
A deep pain emerges from neglect. “He doesn’t…” “She won’t…” “Why can’t they just…” “My dad never…” A word of thanks not offered. A hug denied. An apology withheld. These and more examples occur again and again, day after day in our homes, relationships, and churches. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we Christians have everything we need to be vessels of good to other human beings as instruments of God. When we refrain from doing what is good to or for those who could benefit from our words and efforts, we sting the very people already in distress. Neglect says, “I don’t care about you,” an attitude that leaves a mark. “Oh, Lord, grant that I do not cause pain by neglect, especially toward other Christians.”
In My Actions
There’s a reason we use the phrase, “a helping hand” because our hands are a principle way we act when giving aid to another. Yet, some hands bring great pain when they strike, steal, or supply the route for addictive behaviors. What could be tools to bless become weapons to destroy. “Oh, Lord, grant that I do not cause pain by neglect, especially toward other Christians."
Most won’t argue the pain in the world and the pain closer to home. The curse means pain will be a part of our lives until we are with the Lord. However, the fact of pain doesn’t mean I have to be a contributing partner. In the words of Jabez, “Oh, Lord, grant that I may not cause pain.”
As always, I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.