In an increasingly ungodly America, God’s people can choose to run around in a panic like chickens with our heads cut off. Or we can remember that God is a God that works for His glory always, take refuge in Him, and walk His paths no matter what. The Psalmist provides us with a fabulous prayer to offer as God’s people in the midst of rebels.
Thanks to Jason Hardin for reposting this. I thought I would pass it along too.
If you’re a parent, perhaps you can relate to these words by Bob Hostetler:
For years, like any responsible Christian parent, I prayed daily for my two children, Aubrey and Aaron. I prayed for God’s blessing and protection throughout their days. I prayed for them to be happy. I asked God to help them through difficult times and to help them make wise choices. My prayers were regular, heartfelt, and—for the most part—pedestrian and repetitive.
I wanted more than that, however. I wanted so much for my children, but when I knelt in prayer, I invariably found the same tired words rolling from my lips, like an adult whose table grace never progressed beyond “God is great, God is good, now we thank him for this food…”
So Bob developed his own “parent prayer program,” a simple practice that revolutionized the way he prays for his children. Each day of the month, in addition to his prayers for their safety and for the concerns of that day, he also prays for a specific character trait, virtue, or fruit of the Spirit to be planted and nurtured in his children through his efforts (and his wife’s), through the influence of others, and through his children’s own actions and decisions. At the end of each month, he begins praying through the list again.
I really appreciate Bob sharing his plan and inviting others to “duplicate it—or improve upon it—to help you pray specifically and purposefully for your children.” Below is a slightly adapted list I plan on adopting for my own prayer life.
- Salvation – “Father, my heart’s desire and prayer to you is that my children may be saved, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Rom 10:1; 2 Tim 2:10).
- Growth in grace – “I pray that they may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
- Love – “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph 5:2).
- Honesty and integrity – “May integrity and honesty preserve and protect them” (Psa 25:21).
- Self-control – “Father, help my children not to be like so many others around them, but let them be alert and sober in all that they do” (1 Thes 5:6)
- A love for God’s Word – “May my children grow to treasure your Word as more precious than gold and sweeter than honey” (Psa 19:10).
- Justice – “God, help my children to love righteousness as you do and to act justly in all that they do” (Psa 11:7; Mic 6:8).
- Mercy – “May my children always be merciful, even as their heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
- Respect – “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect for authority, for themselves, and for others” (1 Pet 2:17).
- Strong, Biblical self-esteem – “Help my children develop a strong sense of self-worth that is rooted in the realization that they are your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10).
- Faithfulness – “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts” (Prov 3:3).
- Courage – “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions” (Deut 31:6).
- Purity – “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions” (Psa 51:10).
- Kindness – “Lord, may my children always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Thes 5:15).
- Generosity – “Grant that my children may be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future” (1 Tim 6:18-19).
- Peace and peaceability – “Father, help my children pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom 14:19).
- Joy – “May my children eagerly receive your Word and be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit’” (1 Thes 1:6).
- Perseverance – “Lord, teach my children steadfastness in all that they do, and help them to run with endurance the race that is set before them” (Heb 12:1).
- Humility – “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Tit 3:2).
- Compassion – “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassionate hearts” (Col 3:12).
- Responsibility – “Grant that my children may learn to faithfully bear their own load as dedicated stewards, for your glory” (Gal 6:5).
- Contentment – “Father, help my children learn the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need, through Christ who can strengthen them in any and every circumstance” (Phil 4:12-13).
- Faith – “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb 11:1).
- A servant’s heart – “God, please help my children do your will from their hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as to you and not to men” (Eph 6:7).
- Hope – “May you, the God of hope, fill my children and make them overflow with hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).
- Patience – “Do whatever you must, faithful Father, to help my children develop patience in well-doing as they seek for glory and honor and immortality” (Rom 2:7).
- A passion for God – “Help my children to learn that your steadfast love is better than life and that the greatest joy is found when our souls cling passionately to you (Psa 63:3,8).
- Self-discipline – “Father, I pray that my children would develop discipline to consistently seek your wise instructions, that they may walk in ways that are right and just and fair” (Prov 1:3).
- Prayerfulness – “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives would be marked by prayerfulness, that they would pray at all occasions with all kinds of supplications and requests” (Eph 6:18).
- Gratitude – “Help my children to live lives that overflow with thankfulness, giving you thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 2:7; Eph 5:20).
- A heart for evangelism – “Heavenly Father, help my children to develop hearts for the spread of the gospel, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all the peoples” (Psa 96:3).
What about you? Could a similar approach to prayer supplement your efforts to bring your own children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? (Eph 6:4)
“Note that the Psalms thus propose to speak about human experience in an honest, freeing way. this in contrast to much human speech and conduct which is in fact a cover-up. In most arenas where people live, we are expected and required to speak the language of safe orientation and equilibrium, either to find it so or to pretend we find it so. For the normal, conventional functioning of public life, the raw edges of disorientation and reorientation must be denied or suppressed for purposes of public equilibrium. As a result, our speech is dulled and mundane. Our passion has been stilled and is without imagination. And mostly the Holy One is not addressed, not because we dare not, but because God is far away and hardly seems important. This means that the agenda and intention of the Psalms is considerably at odds with the normal speech of most people, the normal speech of a stabled, functioning, self-deceptive culture in which everything must be kept running young and smooth.
“Against that, the speech of the Psalms is abrasive, revolutionary, and dangerous. It announces that life is not like that, that our common experience is not one of well-being and equilibrium, but a churning, disruptive experience of dislocation and relocation. Perhaps in our conventional, routinized prayer life (e.g., the daily practice of the office) that is one of the reasons the Psalter does not yield its power–because out of habit or fatigue or numbness, we try to use the Psalms in our equilibrium. And when we do that we miss the point of the Psalms. Moreover, our own experience may be left untapped and inarticulate and therefore not liberated…
“Thus I suggest that most of the Psalms can only be appropriately prayed by people who are living at the edge of our lives, sensitive to the raw hurts, the primitive passions, and the naive elations that are at the bottom of our life. For most of us, liturgical or devotional entry into the Psalms requires a real change of pace. It asks us to depart from the closely managed world of public survival, to move into the open, frightening, healing world of speech with the Holy One.”
Have you ever read the first ten chapters of I Chronicles? Talk about chloroform in action. I generally just scan through them and try to get done with them as quickly as I can. However, stuck smack in the middle of this droning roll call of humanity stands I Chronicles 4:9-10.
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘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!’ So God granted him what he requested” (NKJV).
Apparently, when God got to Jabez’s name, He wanted to call attention to it. It is as if when God was going through this roll call and He got to Jabez, He stopped and said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. You need to know about this guy.” But what was it that made him so special? Why did he stand out in the crowd? As I consider these two verses, I notice five keys in Jabez that will help us also stand out in the crowd.
1. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.
Can you imagine being named “Jabez”? That sounds bad enough for us today just because it is so archaic. But when you recognize that it meant “Causes pain,” you suddenly realize how bad it really is. Every day of his life, just by hearing his name, Jabez was called “causes pain.” Can you imagine hearing day in and day out that you are nothing but a pain to those around you? After a while, you might begin to believe it. Jabez’s mother prophesied his life for him. She told him over and over again that he would be nothing more than a pain. But Jabez refused to listen. He prayed to God that he would not cause pain.
These kinds of prophecies go on all the time. Every day parents, professors and peers prophesy our lives. Some times it is positive. Some times it is negative. Each day some children are told they will be doctors, lawyers and even presidents. Others are told they will be hoodlums, thieves and crooks. Some are called the class star, some the class clown. Some are Daddy’s girls, while others are Momma’s boys. When we hear these message over and over again, we begin to believe them.
You do not have to be limited by the prophecies of your parents, professors and peers. You, like Jabez, can stand out in the crowd if you will simply throw yourself on God’s mercy and let him help you be all He has planned for you. Don’t let the crowd determine where you will stand.
2. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing still and start going somewhere.
Jabez had goals. He wanted an enlarged territory. Within the context of his mother’s prophecies for him, this is impressive. It demonstrates a great mindset. He wasn’t trapped within his circumstances. He would step out of those and pray that God give him a blessing to help him with his plans.
What plans do you have? While we are not of this world, we are in this world. God has not demanded that we hole up in monasteries and have no involvement or plans within this world. We are allowed to have goals. We are allowed to have plans. Yes, we must keep them within the confines of God’s will understanding that we will be judged. However, if we just stand still, we will never stand out. No, don’t get bogged down in worries about the future. But look ahead. Plan ahead and ask God’s blessing on your future as well as your present.
3. If you want to stand out in the crowd, stop standing and start kneeling.
Sadly, so many have focused on what Jabez prayed, even turning it into a mantra of sorts to be repeated as if the words themselves are magical that they have missed the real point. We must not so focus on what Jabez prayed that we miss the important point is that Jabez prayed. Jabez was not more honorable because of what he prayed. He was more honorable because he prayed. He was more honorable because the fact that he prayed represented that he relied on God.
When God wanted us to know about Jabez, he didn’t tell us a out his property, his prowess, his predecessors. He told us about his prayer. If God were going to point us out to the world, would He have anything to say about our prayer life? The fact is, we can only stand out if we rely on God.
I think that is why these two verses are even here. In the books of Chronicles, God is going to tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of people. In reality, they are all judged based on how they measure up to Jabez. Do they rely on God or on idols? Do they pray to God or to false gods? That will be the dividing line between those God blesses and God condemns.
If you want to stand out in the crowd, you can’t do it alone. God has to be on your side. So, stop standing and start kneeling.
4. If you want to stand out in the crowd, recognize you aren’t standing on your own two legs but on legs God has given you.
Jabez recognized that he could not enlarge his own borders. From the beginning of God’s dealings with the Israelites, He pointed out that He would be the one to enlarge borders. Jabez grasped that and instead of relying merely on his own strength, he relied on God’s strength.
Too often today, we have a “pull myself up by the bootstraps” mentality that says we don’t need help. We have this idea that we can do things all on our own and only need God for really big things. That just isn’t true.
You realize, of course, that the only reason you are breathing today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are moving today is because God is letting you, right? You realize, of course, that the only reason you are walking today is because of the legs God has given you, right?
The fact is, apart from God we can do nothing. Therefore, if we want to stand out in the crowd, we must start recognizing any real strength comes from God and not from us. We can’t do this on our own. We have to rely on God.
5. If you want to stand out in the crowd, don’t let Satan cut off your legs.
Jabez understood that committing evil would be contradictory to what he was asking of God. He did not expect, as too many do today, to live however he wanted and still receive God’s blessing. However, he also knew evil was too powerful for him. Therefore, he asked God to keep him from evil so that he would not be a pain to others.
We need to recognize this. We may have all kinds of plans. We may even say we are relying on God and offering all kinds of prayers. However, if we are going from our prayers to simply walk in sin, Satan will cut our legs out from under us and we will not stand out in the crowd. Sin is diametrically opposed to what God wants for us. If we want to stand out in the crowd, we need to turn from our sins.
Keep in mind the last two points, however. We will not overcome sin on our own or by our own power. We will only be able to do that by relying on God. This is not about proving to God how great we are. This is about recognizing how weak we are and just surrendering to Him to help us overcome.
What a great example Jabez is. He stood out in a crowd and we can too. But we have to follow these same five steps.
If you would like to read more about this or hear a sermon I have presented on these very same points. Feel free to check out the presentation made to the Franklin Church of Christ at the link below.