Who would ever name their child Pain? Well Jabez in Hebrew means sorrow or pain. Everyday of his life Jabez was reminded that his mother had born him in great sorrow and pain. As Jabez grew, he discovered the God of Israel and knew Him to be faithful.
In a rather boring book of Chronicles, right in the middle of long lists of names you can barely pronounce like “Heleth begat Jereth who begat Jezoar . . .,” you know those long passages that put you to sleep? There is a sudden abrupt change, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” and he said a simple and rather bold prayer. “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory. May Your hand be with me. Keep me from evil, so I might not be in pain.” You could also translate it, “so that I might not cause pain.” “And God granted him his prayer.”
About 15 years ago, I discovered a small book, The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce H. Wilkinson. The stories of what people had experienced as they, too, prayed this prayer emboldened me to pray it over my own life. I wanted to reach more students, make a difference in my community. Having learned that the Bible is powerful if read, believed, and spoken out loud in faith, I didn’t realize how powerful that little prayer would be in my own life.
At the time I was a teacher at Johnson Jr. High School and Pierce High School, teaching ESL. I enjoyed my job and loved my students. After praying this bold little prayer, my “territory was expanded.” I became the Spanish and Choir teacher at Pierce, starting the AVID program and Spanish Honors. I was able to reach a more diversified group of students. A number of years later, I officially retired from teaching and got hired by a Consortium of schools, doctors, medical offices and Colusa Regional Medical Hospital as we implemented the B.E.S.T. Program, guiding students to explore medical jobs. I was asked to teach in all five county high schools: Pierce, Williams, Colusa, Princeton and Maxwell. When the funding dried up, we had reached hundreds of students, many of whom went on to careers in the medical field. It has been my privilege to keep in touch with many of them or their parents and see what an impact my classes had on their lives.
Now I teach at the Sheriff’s Office and the Probation Department. We are able to provide the inmates with English and writing skills, practical math applications, improved reading skills, etiquette and manners, geography, and other basics they missed along the way. The classes at the Probation Department are free and opened to the public for those who didn’t earn their High School Diploma. It’s like a one-room school house, small classes and affecting many students from many different backgrounds, nationalities, religions.
I’m glad I stepped out in faith; I’m grateful that God answered my Prayer of Jabez.
■ Loraine Joy is a small business owner and Arbuckle resident. Contact Loraine at firstname.lastname@example.org