JABEZ AND THE SUCKER PLAY Brothers, let me pose a scenario to begin our time together this month. You’re out in the yard washing the family car, when your 16 year-old son or daughter comes up to you and asks for the keys to do a little running around town with their friends. You may hesitate, but you toss your offspring the keys, give them the traditional lecture of being careful behind the wheel, and remind them to fill the gas tank when they bring the car home. Now, let’s replay the same situation: Only THIS time, a 16 year-old stranger comes up to you, and asks for the keys to the family car. What is YOUR reaction going to be? Right! You would tell them to skip on home, and ask THEIR OWN PARENTS to provide them with transportation. Even though we’ve been bombed with ‘It takes a village to raise a child’; when it comes to another teen asking for your car keys, you would politely, but firmly draw a line in the sand. That teen is not your responsibility. I’ve been hearing a lot about ‘The Prayer Of Jabez’ lately, and it certainly has sparked a lot of public discussion about the issue of prayer; just like the TV show ‘Touched By An Angel’ sparked public discussion about angelic beings once it hit the air. Personally, I am MORE excited about what Jesus has done for mankind, rather than Jabez--but I digress! While its nice that prayer is becoming ‘hip’ to talk about in the public arena, brothers, I’d like to warn us about believing someone, or something too quickly, based merely upon appearances and ‘public acceptability’. The very person in whom you are attempting to place your faith could lead to you into being played for a sucker, in more ways than one. One HAS to look at prayer from a biblical, and practical viewpoint, and not OUR viewpoint. Unless the person praying has a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, they are not part of God’s family, nor are they God’s responsibility. I hate to be cold, brothers, but God is not obligated to give the keys of His kingdom to non-family members. This also includes answers to prayer, no matter how eloquently the prayers are prayed. THE TRUTH ABOUT PRAYER: Follow my point as we head out for a prayer safari. If one expects to use their stove, they must have made a commitment to, and established a relationship with either their local Gas or Electric utility. If one expects to be considered married, they must have a commitment to, and established a relationship with either their husband or wife. If one expects to have their prayers heard and acted upon, the individual must have made a commitment to, and established a relationship with God. Otherwise, one can ‘pray all day’ and still wind up doing little more than exercising their lungs. Because someone can pray a prayer, hold a rosary, face Mecca, howl at the moon, or wear a clerical collar DOES NOT mean that they have a right relationship with God. Just because someone can name the name of the Lord, fill a stadium or conference center, or flip a few Tarot Cards does not mean that the person is a student of the Bible. Nor does it mean that a person is PROPERLY connected to God, through Jesus Christ. OTHER OLD TESTAMENT PRAYERS MORE POWERFUL: Any Bible student knows that there are other Old Testament figures who prayed prayers that are better, and more powerful than the Prayer of Jabez. Moses prayed, and was able to part the Red Sea. Abraham prayed, and Lot’s life was spared before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Elijah prayed and fire came out of the sky. Job prayed and the lives of his friends were spared AFTER they gave him bad advice. Esther fasted and prayed and the lives of her people were spared. Hannah prayed and received an answer in the form of a baby. Ruth prayed and later married Boaz. Naomi prayed and the joy returned to an otherwise bitter life. However, ALL these individuals realized that God had the right to answer their prayers as HE saw fit. In fact, the three Hebrew men, prior to their being cast into the fiery furnace in Daniel, Chapter Three, gave God the right to either answer their prayer--or NOT. They still refused to bow their knees to a wicked king. One has to recognize the sovereign nature of God, in answering prayer. How many best-selling books on prayer have been written about them? None, because the prayers of these individuals from the Old Testament (and others) were based in firm reliance on God and His timetable; not the timetable of men and women. CHECK OUT THE RELATIONSHIP: Some of the best con-men and con-women can sound ‘Holy’ when in front of a crowd. Over the past few decades, society has witnessed men and women who sound good, smell good, and look good, but have led hundreds to their deaths all in the name of fame, money, or public visibility. They sought to have people to ‘bow their knees’ to them, instead of God. Their followers wound up dead, in many cases. Many of the ‘cons’ sounded great when they prayed in public. Brothers, don’t fall for the ‘sucker play’. You have the right to check out ANYONE who steps forward to pray for you, with you, or about you. Don’t be the victim of a ‘sucker play’ when it comes to your spiritual health, or the spiritual health of your family. Put another way: If someone were going to operate on you, you’d want to see some credentials to make sure that the surgeon were actually qualified--OR, if the surgeon were just masquerading as a surgeon to get some on-the-job experience by cutting on YOU! America has long been the land of the rising dollar sign. Anything to make a buck, regardless of the outcome, or consequences. We have two things in abundance in this nation; ‘schemes’ to make money, and ‘experts’ to put forth the best ‘scheme of the day’ to make money. Unfortunately, the field of religion is not exempt from ‘sucker plays’. Don’t YOU become a victim. THE TRUTH CONCERNING EFFECTIVE PRAYER: We now live in New Testament times, thanks to the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When it comes to prayer, God uses the New Testament standard in the Bible. His creation, no matter how good they may look, how good their intentions, or how great they sound while praying can set the standard, nor the timetable God uses to respond to prayer. What are some of the New Testament rules of prayer as contained within the Scriptures? Here are a few of them: *Avoid using prayers for public show. *Avoid using repetitive prayers as a ‘good luck charm’. *Avoid using prayers as a means of building individual prestige. *Avoid using prayers as a means of forcing someone(s) to do your will. Wow! That knocks out the Prayer of Jabez, as far as the way SOME people have been putting it forth as a ‘catch all’ to ‘get’ answers from God! By the way, here are a few things that will block prayers from being heard: *Mistreatment of your wife. *Sin in one’s life. *Prayer outside of God’s will. *Praying for things over people. *Praying with the wrong motives. *Not praying in secret. *Being fearful while praying. *Disrespect of one's parents. BUT WAIT: THERE’S MORE: If I may proceed, the Lord’s Prayer, as Christ taught His followers to pray, is more important than the Prayer of Jabez. In fact, it is held to be the Model Prayer, as Christ came to fulfill the law, and was better than the prophets who came before Him. Let’s look at how HE taught prayer: *Giving tribute to His relationship with God. *Asking for His daily bread. *Forgiving others. *Deliverance from evil people. *Pray expecting an answer from God. *Acknowledging the Kingdom of God. Further, the New Testament urges that we have a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ in order to have our prayers HEARD. In the name of Jesus, we can pray about anything, no matter how big or small. PLUS we are commanded to pray without ceasing, and to pray with others and FOR others, including our leaders, family members, and our country. Yes, even pray for strangers. But, we have to pray with the right attitude, and the right relationship with God, if we expect our prayers to be heard. We also have to realize that God answers on His timetable; and not ours. MERCHANTS A-PLENTY TO TAKE YOUR MONEY: As I mentioned before, God is not obligated to listen to the prayers of non-family members UNLESS they pray the prayer of Salvation to get INTO HIS family. Then, they are considered by God as being part of HIS family. And, HE does answer prayer! If you are serious about prayer, don’t waste your money for this scheme or that ‘formula’ book. God is not bound by formulas, nor begging, nor pleading. God is bound by His word. Instead of throwing your money at someone who ‘claims’ to have a relationship with God, via the Psychic Hotline, the Horoscope, or even the Prayer of Jabez; invest your money in a good, KJV Bible, and read what IT has to say about prayer. Then, just DO it! Prayer is a full-contact sport! Either you do it, or you don’t. Sometimes, I think that many people enjoy talking about doing, rather than actually doing! Thus, the reason why the ‘Self-help’ rack of the bookstore is always full. Sadly, this trend even surfaces in ‘Christian’ bookstores. God’s Word never needs an ‘assist’ from a book by men or women. Yes, there are great Commentaries out there; great resource material out there; but the BOTTOM LINE concerning the walk of a Christian is going to be based on the Word of God. We will EACH have to give an account--before God--about our activities, time, and yes, even reading material, when all is said and done. Now, it is up to each individual to determine their reading material. However, if you REALLY want to see the accomplishments of prayer, I would urge anyone to get a copy of ‘Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs’. Contained within the covers of this book is what ultimately happens to men and women who have prayed without ceasing; they ultimately are blessed, but not in the ways one may think. Think of the Bible as being God’s way of tossing you the keys to His mode of transportation. All you have to do is turn on the ignition, by opening your Bible. All you need to know about prayer is contained within that book. Don’t become a financial victim of those who want to get into your pockets, by trying to ‘manipulate’ your spiritual life. If you want to learn how to pray, read the New Testament. Yes, the Bible holds that both testaments are important; but we are under the New Covenant. True prayer liberates the individual; not enslaves them, nor robs them. Just like the Model Prayer, as the Master intended it to be. Mike Ramey is the author of ‘The Manhood Line’, a biblical, business, and common-sense column written monthly for men. To correspond, via email: [email protected]. (C) Copyright 2001, Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications (24).