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'Free me from pain': a prayer of transformation

Light for the Way seriesWe invite you to take a peek inside our Light for the Way devotional series. Each week we provide staff with an examination of a biblical reading to deepen our focus on scripture. Thank you for engaging with this series as we seek wisdom through prayer and reflection as a Christian Ministry.

By Chaplain Stephen Richards, Optage Hospice

"Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.' Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.' And God granted his request." — 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

In 1955, the founders of Presbyterian Homes & Services set out a Biblical framework upon which our ministry and mission are based. Over the years our work has remained committed to a Christ-centred and biblically based foundation.

In 2017, eight passages were set apart as those which represent the commitment we make to serve God and older adults. One of these is found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and has become known as "The Prayer of Jabez." At first glance, this passage appears to be simply about Jabez asking God to materially prosper him, but on closer inspection we find that Jabez is actually asking for God to fundamentally change the course of his life.

Jabez means "pain," and he was given this name by his mother. Clearly Jabez was born into difficult circumstances to be named this, and he could have simply resigned himself to that fact. "I am a pain!" But instead, he asks that God to change things. His prayer is that God would free him from pain and bring him into a place of blessing and growth. Expand my borders. Open my life up to new things. Jabez's prayer is grounded in the belief that God wants to enrich our lives. Jabez prayed, and "God granted his request."

Now this begs the question: how exactly does God free us from pain and bring us into new life? What do we need to do? One time Jesus was asked such a question by a religious leader. Which commandment truly captures the way God wants us to live? Jesus’ reply was that there are two such commandments. The first is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." The second is to "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:34-40). Elsewhere, Jesus also gave his followers this command: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34-35).

Jabez asked God to bless him, and God did just that. We, too, can ask God to bless us: to enlarge our borders for service and ministry. With Jabez we see the hope that the old can go and the new can come. When we live in the presence of God’s love, we can and WE WILL be transformed, and as this happens God’s love radiates through us to others. The proof is simply in the doing:

"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain."

And God answered this request.

More selected readings in the Light for the Way series:
Setting aside our differences
A dramatic reversal of power
Living in the unknown — finding hope in the future
Introducing Light for the Way, a new devotional series

In addition to Light for the Way, you can find reflections, devotions, music and other resources on the Pastoral Care website

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