[Column] Petition Precedes Blessing

In the fourth chapter of 1 Chronicles are many names of the descendants of Judah. Among them is Jabez who was blessed by God through his earnest prayers. Ironically, the meaning of the name Jabez is “sorrow.” He was named as such because his mother “gave birth to him in pain.” In the Jewish tradition, the name signifies prophetic meanings and hopes. That his mother named him “sorrow” indicates the trials and hardships they had been subject to. For Jabez, his name itself must have been a painful reminder of his past hurts and pains. Nevertheless, he did not succumb to pessimism. Instead, he looked to God in faith and hope. He prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me” (1 Chronicles 4:10). In the King James Version, the same verse is translated, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed.” It does not say, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me” but “Oh that thou wouldest bless me INDEED.” Jabez sought not just blessing but the true blessing. We can sense desperation and fervor in his prayer. He cried out loud to God, “God, grant me abundant blessings.” Can you hear Jabez’s passionate, spirit-filled prayer?

If indeed blessing comes from God, there is nothing wrong with petitionary prayer. While shamanism is founded on the principle of seeking prosperity and wellbeing through the worship of nature, Christian faith addresses God as the source of all blessings. The true meaning of blessing is “a supernatural grace, unattainable by man.” In other words, it is miracle and grace only God can grant. If our finance, business, health, children’s wellbeing, spirituality, etc. are from God, they are indeed blessings. We must be mindful that God desires to bless us. God’s act of blessing can be traced to the beginning of humanity: “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Life, reproduction, prosperity, and dominance are God’s blessings and will. Blessing is God’s nature. However, we must remember one thing. We are to earnestly seek blessing from God as did Jabez.

The Prayer of Jabez by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson has become a beloved Christian book for some time. In the book, there is a story of a man named John who goes to heaven. Guided by Peter, John discovers a bizarre building without any windows. When he asks what it is, Peter discourages him from further finding out. As John grows insistent and impatient, Peter takes him inside through the only entrance. There John sees many boxes with red ribbons wrapped around them. When he notices names on the boxes, he painstakingly locates his box and opens it. Inside the box were blessings God desired for John while on earth. Yet, they could not be delivered because John never earnestly sought them. Petition is an important indicator of our faith.

The Bible clearly tells us: “You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Many of us are familiar with the story of Prophet Elijah in which he stopped the rain for three and a half years and later caused the rain through prayers (James 5:17-18). If we do not seek blessings, they will not be granted to us. We must pray and earnestly seek heavenly blessings. As the Bible says, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours who only prayed earnestly. Like Prophet Elijah, Jabez also earnestly sought God and received answers to prayers and honor from God (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Let us strive to be like Jabez who earnestly sought and enjoyed heavenly blessings.

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