The Prayer of Jabez
Hidden amongst the Chronicles in the Bible is a very strange paragraph which deviates from the line of heritage that Chronicles is mostly concerned with; that is, so and so begat so-and-so begat so and so, and so on (pun intended). Embedded in this 1 Chronicles 4:10 is something called the story of and the prayer of Jabez.
It is a very short piece which goes something like this, paraphrasing in my own language that which is translated slightly differently in various versions of the Bible: "And a woman birthed a child she named Jabez, which is translated as "I delivered him in pain and sorrow ", and Jabez was considered more righteous than his brothers and he prayed:
"Dear Lord, Oh, that Thou would bless me and increase my purview, and let me not lapse into Unconsciousness, whereby I may cause Harm, and our Gracious Father Endlessness Granted This unto Him ":
Also rendered as "And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested."
After that detour the Chronicles returns to the lineage of who begat whom begat who, almost endlessly. Torturous to read, but this simple Jewel stands in stark relief. How am I to interpret this short prayer? First, he asks for a blessing – and the blessing among the Jewish people of antiquity was the placing of the dying patriarchs hand upon the head of his firstborn son and imparting to him the spiritual power and blessing that the father has to give. Then, he asks for an increase in purview, which is the area under which one has control – one might also read it as "increase my reach and the power thereof". Finally, in the third section of the prayer he asks for God's continuous presence, so that he may not cause harm or suffer in vain himself.
These are three lofty requests, but it then says that God granted him that which he requested.
For me today the most important part of the prayer is connected with the word purview, the definition of which is:
1a : the body or enacting part of a statute
b : the limit, purpose, or scope of a statute
2: the range or limit of autha : the body or enacting part of a statute
b : the limit, purpose, or scope of a statute
: the range or limit of authority, competence, responsibility, concern, or intention
: range of vision, understanding, or cognizanceority, competence, responsibility, concern, or intention
3: range of vision, understanding, or cognizance
I am particularly concerned with definition 2, which describes the scope or boundary of one's authority and responsibility.
The question then falls upon me: what is the scope and boundary of my authority, competence, responsibility, concern or intention?
Certainly, the government of the United States is beyond my purview. I can have a small role in voting, and I can have a horizontal input with my activities, but these are attempts to enlarge my purview, acting outside of my real and authentic powers, perhaps in order to attempt to bend a higher power towards my wishes. But if I recognize my own purview I will come to understand that I am incredibly small – practically nothing. In my room I am large, in my building I am smaller and in my neighborhood I am a tiny speck of life which goes hither and thither.
If I read a newspaper or watch news on the television and take-up a political opinion which I then attempt to foist onto my fellows, I am looking and speaking outside of my actual purview. If I am to be a mature adult, and not simply a grown-up child who asks childishly for things to be different, I thereby become a fool. So I do not gossip, and I do not engage in useless dialogue, "barroom arguments" or anything of that nature. Men do not realize how much of their own energy is wasted by this frivolous imaginary powers that they pretend they might be in possession of. They are NOT.
If I am honest and sincere with myself and allow myself to be disillusioned from these imaginary false and chimera capabilities, and very soon come to the conclusion that my real purview is vertical while radiating out horizontally some short distance from myself. But myself – that self which is beneath the false and the ludicrous, within those bounds is my true purview. I may pray as Jabez did, that my purview or sphere of influence becomes enlarged, but I cannot do it – I have no power in that area. One might say that one's being has a number of limits: my actual physical body, the body of my emotions, the body of my mental facilities and my attention and powers of image making, or constructive imagination – constructive imagination is what I need prior to any real impact in the world of inertia, the world of things, and I cannot influence the being condition of another, unless there is a common aim or search for commonality.
Today this is my prayer. That we may find commonality, because we are all of one species.