May 21 | Daily Devotion

May 21 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a complete reading of the passage

Lectio Semi-continua: a shorter reading of the passage

Lectio Divina

The Chronicler continues to recount the roots of the worshipping community. His decision to emphasize the line of David reveals his purpose for writing the genealogical lists (1 Chron. 3:1). The royal line lives on even in exile (see especially vv. 3:17-24), which communicates that God has not given up on His plan to establish a community of God worshippers. The people have reason to hope.

In the middle of this record is a most unusual sidebar. One man, Jabez, stands out thanks to the extra attention the Chronicler gives to his life. But this man is not a king. He is not a prophet. He is not a family head. His birth was no easy event so his mother gave him a name that sounds very much like the word for pain. Her cruel intention is to remind everyone that this kid was a pain. But the kid borne through agony turned out to be a man who experienced unprecedented blessing. All that is said of Jabez is that he wants God to bless him, so he cries out to God for blessing, protection, and freedom from pain.   We are told, in nondescript language, that God granted his request (1 Chron. 4:10). Wow! That’s why “The Pain” is listed as a person of greatness in the genealogy.

Jabez’s story captured the attention of millions of modern Christians in 2001 when Bruce Wilkinson published his little book, The Prayer of Jabez. In it, he told of his own experience with Jabez’s prayer and encouraged other Christians to pray it too. His book sold 9 million copies and became a New York Times bestseller. However, a number of leading pastors criticized Wilkinson for promoting health-and-wealth- theology (the idea that if you pray and believe, God will make you rich). If that wasn’t the point, what then does Jabez’s prayer mean? And what do we do with other scriptural passages that seem to teach that God delights in blessing His people? For example, in Numbers 6:22-27, the priest is encouraged to pray for God’s blessing on the worshipping community! Moreover, in Deuteronomy 26:15, the people themselves are told to pray for God’s continued blessing as they give their tithes and offerings.

I believe that it is good theology to pray for blessing and to encourage others to do the same. But, just as with any passage of Scripture, the verses promoting this habit can be abused. People can pray with bad motives, such as a desire to be blessed so they can waste (and ruin) their lives (Jas. 4:1-4). People can pray with demanding hearts, actually attempting to boss God around as though they are entitled to more than they have been given. In fact, they are entitled to nothing, not even God’s grace (Luke 18:10-14). People can buy into the bad theology that godliness always results in a life of uninterrupted blessing, which is refuted throughout the Bible (for an example, see Job 1). But these cautions aside, the principle remains. In this case, good theology acts like the warning label on prescription medication: Don’t take this to excess! But do take it, and do pray it. I encourage you to pray for blessing on your life, on your family, on your friends, and on your church and community. Let’s cry out to God for blessing and have faith that He hears our prayers!

Lectio Divina  is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the Senior Pastor of  Calvary Church  in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of  A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.