Today a new friend shared with me how the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) has been a spiritual aid for her. The translation she has committed to memory is this: “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that Your hand would be with me, that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain.”
I have not done a careful study of this scripture at this point though I am intrigued. What I do know is that my friend has been using this to enrich her prayer life, and I can see that God is blessing her. God is calling her to serve by reaching out to others in our hurting world. She wanted to visit with me to explore how she might participate in our “church without walls” ministry – a ministry that is developing as God calls us beyond church walls and established ministries to reach out in new, unconventional ways. My new friend wants to help us create a community that welcomes all – a community that celebrates difference as we care for one another and invite in those who are most often marginalized or forgotten. This is good, encouraging news.
Before we parted ways, we spoke about the last line in this text: “keep me from evil that I may not cause pain.” In a quick Google search, all I turned up were translations in which Jabez prays to be spared pain. I much prefer my friend’s version. It is a good thing to pray for God to help us avoid causing others pain. When I get excited about a new thing, I tend to want to rush out and share it, wanting others to experience the same joy. In those times of high energy and unbridled enthusiasm, it pays to be cautious. My best new idea — unwittingly foisted on another — could have the opposite effect from that which is intended. It could be experienced as overbearing or disrespectful. It is important to be mindful that as ministry develops – as this territory is enlarged — it is wise to pause frequently, to breathe and to check in with ‘the other’ in this emerging community.
Always, it is God who blesses us first. But then we have the opportunity to be blessed again as we make space for a variety of perspectives, not just our own.