Some might not think of Biblical prayer as an antidote to frenzy. But I came across a Bible verse recently that was just that, and it was like meeting a long lost friend who –suddenly standing there face to face —you realize how much you’ve missed them.
I Chronicles 4:10 is buried in one of those Old Testament passages with lots of unpronounceable names, yet like diamonds, is worth the excavation and retrieval. It’s about a fellow named Jabez whose extensive Biblical biography is exactly two verses long.
My love for this verse started at Costco, an unlikely location for a Biblical encounter, at the rapidly decreasing book stack as customers swooped copies into their carts. The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, a thin maroon leather book, was the source of all the action.
Wanting to see what all the excitement was about, I promptly put it in my cart as well, little knowing how it would influence me over the years. Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, Jabez’s author, is a Christian minister who not only called out this verse but also revealed how thirty years of praying with it had transformed his heart and life to serve God. And nine million buyers in its first year in print (2000) agreed.
9 Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked.
I’m writing about this little volume now not to encourage people to buy Wilkinson’s book or even pray with the I Chronicles passage. Rather, it’s to remind us what thoughtful, quiet study of even a single verse, a Biblical prayer, can do to change a life, especially in contrast to today’s frenzied pace with little serious contemplative time. Jabez’s prayer reminded me, many years ago in the midst of a busy consulting business, to daily insist on quiet time to hear God’s direction. Its reminder of quiet surrender and prayer for safety was a loving reinforcement of the spiritual blessings with which the Scriptures are filled.
This ‘Jabez approach’ offsets a phrase Michael Harris has coined about our 24/7 digital world in his 2014 book, “The End of Absence”. Harris sites a 2013 report that Americans aged 18-64 spend an average of 3.2 hours a day on social networking sites. In a book review in the August 7, 2014 Wall Street Journal, reviewer Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs writes about what encroaches as a result: “’Restless idleness’ is a good description of our new digital default.”
Such mental idleness is the subtle foe of thoughtful, life-changing study of the Scriptures. We’ve been warned and, like Jabez, can pray for safety from this most contemporary of lairs.
What examples do you have of single verses from the Bible that have had enormous impact on your life?
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