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For Church Leaders

by Dr. Richard Burton

“When we ask for God’s blessing, we are calling for divine provision beyond the natural. Is it not wrong to be selfish in our prayers? Apparently not. Jabez enthusiastically wants to receive from God. This is a great example for those whose prayer lives need a kick-start. ”
As I write this article, my ministry is in transition. This is a churchy way of saying I am without a job. To say that being in ministry transition is a challenge is a huge understatement. There are many reading this article who have been in a season of change and can relate to transitioning ministries or what is otherwise known as being “in between.”

Anyone who has been “in between” hears similar things from well-meaning people. For example, they say, “This is your chance to take a much needed rest” or “Take the opportunity to have a holiday” or “You can use this time to grow closer to God.” Huh? The latter bit of advice is puzzling: we are churchleaders; should we not already be close to God? As close as we should be?
Are we not to be an example for others to follow? Is it not an error to wait until we are in transition in life or ministry before calling out to Him? Too often we have seen men and women in our churches wait for a crisis in their lives before calling out to God. It is unfortunate to see them display this pattern. We, however, are supposed to be different.

Personal prayer and the discipline of prayer can take many forms including praise, penitence, petition, thanksgiving, intercession, meditation, listening and more. Regardless of the form of our pleas to God, it is hard to improve upon the prayer of Jabez, found in 1 Chronicles 4:10.
A brief overview of the prayer reminds us of how potent this petition is. There has been much written about Jabez’s requests, but the following brief explanations remind us how helpful this prayer can be. There are four parts to the prayer:

“Oh, that you would bless me”

As Jabez begins his prayer, he boldly asks for a spiritual impartation to be upon his life. When we ask for God’s blessing, we are calling for divine provision beyond the natural. Is it not wrong to be selfish in our prayers? Apparently not. Jabez enthusiastically wants to receive from God. This is a great example for those whose prayer lives need a kick-start. Pray it upon yourself; pray it upon others.

“enlarge my territory”

More bold petitioning from this honourable man. Jabez wants more territory and responsibility so he can use it for God’s glory. Jabez aims to make a mark for the God of Israel here. He looks at his present circumstances and concludes, “Surely I was born for more than this.” Often as leaders we look at our position and say something similar. We can ask God for more responsibility. Once you have it, remember it was He who gave it to you. It is to be used for His glory.

“let your hand be with me”

Have you noticed the progression in this prayer? Having asked boldly for blessings and territory, Jabez now realizes he will need the hand of the Lord to be on him, help from above to guide him as he moves from being in want to having plenty. With these words Jabez makes clear his utter dependence on God and the need for His guidance—His heavenly hand of protection and guidance.

“keep me from harm so I will be free from pain”

Once your life extends beyond the commonplace and advances on new territory for God, you are invading someone else’s turf. The final aspect of the prayer is a request for victory over temptation. Jabez wants to avoid temptation (harm) and avoid the trappings (pain) that result from giving in to worldly enticements. A person’s prayer life has to be strong to face the enemy’s unwelcome attacks.

Jabez prays this for himself. The power of the prayer can also be unleashed as it is prayed for others: your family, friends, neighbours, congregational members. Immediately following my most recent season of ministry, the Lord clearly told me to intercede for a number of men and women in my former assembly. Not knowing exactly how to pray or what to pray for, I have implored the powerful Jabez prayer over them by inserting their names where Jabez uses me, my and I. These people needed to be prayed for and I needed to be praying; the necessity went both ways. This usage of 1 Chronicles 4:10 will enhance your prayer life, especially as it relates to intercession.

Keeping it Simple
Prayer is communicating with the Divine. It does not have to be complicated. Prayer does not have to sound like Shakespearean prose. God understands what is in our hearts and knows our words before we speak them. The key to prayer is that our mind and heart are engaged in the requests we hear about. If we maintain a posture of submission before the heavenly Father and present our requests to Him in word and thought, then we are communicating with the Divine—allowing prayers and intercessions to be uttered out of the depths of our being.
Paul the Apostle realizes the challenge of always finding the right words for God when he admits in Romans 8:26b (NIV ©2011) that “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” With this as our mindset we are on our way to fulfilling the admonition from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray continually or, as the King James Version translates it, pray without ceasing. This simple one-verse petition includes a request for blessings from God, more responsibility, protection, godly guidance, strength in times of temptation, and the ability to battle and win amidst spiritual warfare. 1 Chronicles 4:10 presents us with this brief yet powerful prayer. Pray it for yourself and pray it for others. It is a commanding prayer for church leaders to utilize.

I once heard it preached that “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” With marvellous power at our disposal and the prayer of Jabez as a helpful pattern, there is no excuse for idleness in the arena of prayer in a church leader’s life.

Whether you are healthy or need a doctor, young or old, rich or poor, a pastor or a board member, well employed or unemployed at the moment, there is no excuse—now is the time for closeness with the Almighty God.

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DR. RICHARD BURTON—has been a frequent contributor to a variety of publications produced by The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
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