The Prayer of a Man Named “Pain”

Scripture Focus: 1 Chronicles 4.9-10
9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 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. 

Reflection: The Prayer of a Man Named “Pain”
By John Tillman

Jabez was born from pain and named for pain. This man called “Pain” cried out to God to avoid experiencing or causing pain. We should never sneer or be surprised when people in pain pray for relief.

Jabez prayed for God’s provision, presence, power, and protection.

Praying for God’s provision includes praying for “things” but goes beyond that to pray for God’s providential will. Praying for provision means requesting what we need in order to do what God would have us do.

Praying for God’s hand means longing to walk in God’s presence. God is omnipresent and with us at all times and places, but when we pray for his hand on us, we mean a greater experience of his presence.

Praying for God’s powerful hand means trusting God’s arm is not too short to save nor too weak to work in and through us according to his will. God’s power is for his purposes. His power will not go with us if we stray from his purpose.

Prayer for God’s protection confesses humility. We acknowledge our lack of control and that we cannot protect ourselves from spiritual or physical dangers. Sin and death hunger to devour us, and we, like Cain, fail to master them. Therefore, we need God’s protection.

The chronicler inserts Jabez’s story in the genealogical record of Judah but does not list Jabez as anyone’s father or son. It is a little bubble of narrative bursting out of a chart of records. Why is this story here?

The Bible only mentions Jabez one other time. 1 Chronicles 2.55 notes a town of scribes presumably named for Jabez. Many of the texts we hold dear today were copied and cared for by scribes such as the ones who lived at Jabez.

Perhaps the chronicler knew of Jabez before the exile or even lived there? Whether or not this is true, Jabez’s prayer must be one the chronicler longed to see come true in his life and the lives of other exiles.

When hurting, cry for healing. When exiled or outcast, cry for rescue and inclusion. When called a cursed name, cry for blessing and fruitfulness. When suffering pain in this world and homesick for our true home, cry for relief. Lives defined by pain can find solace, salvation, and supply in God when we cry out to him.

Pray for relief and blessing from pain.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings

1 Chronicles 3-4  (Listen 8:52)
Psalms 80 (Listen 1:58)

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Lord, help us to ask and keep asking…grant us greater wisdom, enlightenment, hope, and power.

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God goes beyond giving second chances. Scripture is full of second chances, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh chances, and beyond.

Called to Prayer :: The Angelus

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
By John Tillman

Money always catches culture’s eye.

In 1889 a painting of a moment of prayer sparked a bidding war that resulted in Jean–Francois Millet’s The Angelus, selling for 580,650 francs, an unprecedented sum of money, and in today’s currency, close to 3.25 million dollars.

Heidi J. Hornik reflects on the painting in her article, A Call to Prayer.

“The work shows a peasant couple bowing their heads in prayer as the evening Angelus bell tolls. In this thrice-daily devotion—morning, noon, and evening—the church bell calls followers to a prayer of gratitude for the goodness of God expressed through the Incarnation.”

We have written before about the spiritual discipline of praying the hours, which is related to the type of prayer seen in the painting. We regularly point readers to the work of Phyllis Tickle in The Divine Hours prayers. 

In the painting, a community, separated by distance, was united by the call of the bell and by pausing to pray. It is not the bell or the distant physical church that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

“Millet…recalls that ‘his grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer…’”

The Angelus prayer centers scripturally around the Annunciation to Mary and Mary’s response. The message, both from the angel and from the Magnificat later in Luke’s account, speaks of good news to the lowly and the poor. The gospel always comes first to the lowly.

“After the 1848 Revolution in France, a peasant revolt that spread fear in Europe, Millet’s paintings were negatively reinterpreted as fostering a too grandiose view of the common people…Though our estimate of a work of art will always be influenced by our attitude toward its cultural, political, and religious context, perhaps the time has come for us to appreciate The Angelus as an honest depiction of a prayerful response to God’s presence…the prayerful couple’s humility seems wholly genuine, reflecting their response to the grandeur of God’s work in nature between them and the church shown in the distance.”  

The Park Forum seeks to be a bell in the distance, calling our readers to spiritual disciplines that foster unity and grant purpose and power. 

Whether in a maze of cornfields, or a maze of cubicles, or a corner office, may we be called to prayer by setting a chime, a reminder, or a notification. At that tone, may we take a humble posture, similar to these peasants, and may we pray.

*View “The Angelus” by Jean–Francois Millet via this link.
*Quotations from A Call to Prayer, by Heidi J, Hornik

We will forgo the Divine Hours prayer today, to pray together the concluding lines of the Angelus Prayer. You may still find a link to The Divine Hours here.

The Angelus:
“Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.”

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 3-4 (Listen -8:52)
Hebrews 9  (Listen -4:40)

Thank You!
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The early church’s rhythmic practice of daily prayer and readings unified them across the known world

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Art is not scripture. But all art preaches. Many times art preaches more effectively than a sermon.