And when [Jesus] had given thanks, He broke [the bread] and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” — 1 Corinthians 11:24
Years ago, David Wilkerson wrote a runaway bestselling book called The Prayer of Jabez. It focused on a couple of Bible verses in the Old Testament. If you’ve never heard of this guy, Jabez, it’s no surprise. He’s mentioned only three times in the Bible, so we don’t know a lot of details about him. While we’re told he was honorable (1 Chronicles 4:9), the name Jabez actually means “he causes pain.” His mother named him Jabez because his birth had caused such pain (v. 9). Most Bible scholars believe that his birth must have been exceptionally painful or traumatic for his mother to give him such a name.
Perhaps that’s why Jabez prayed this particular prayer:
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. — 1 Chronicles 4:10
We’re told God granted him this request.
When I read Wilkerson’s book, I was struck by the simplicity of this prayer. Bless me. Enlarge my territory. Let Your hand be with me. Keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. This is the type of prayer we all want to pray, right? Bless me. (Give me more of what I want.) Protect me. (Keep away from me what I don’t want.) Makes sense, right?
While I’ve prayed different versions of this prayer too many times to count, I’ve been forced to come to terms with its limitations. This prayer — although scriptural and useful — is focused on what we want, not necessarily what God wants. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. Someone could even argue that it’s somewhat shortsighted — even selfish.
Keep me from harm and free from pain makes sense. Who wants hardship? Who wants to struggle? But I wonder if we might as well be praying, “God, don’t let me grow. Don’t let me get stronger. Don’t allow me to trust You more.” Even though trials are never fun or easy to endure, God can often use them for His purposes. In fact, James, the half-brother of Jesus, was bold enough to tell us we should be thankful for the way God uses hardship to perfect us:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4
If we pray only for protection from trials, then we rob ourselves of our future maturity.
“Lord, keep me free from pain” feels like the right thing to pray — and often is. But if that’s our only desire, our biggest priority, then we may miss the perseverance that our trials produce. “God, protect me from harm” seems wise to pray — and can be.
But it’s the challenges in life that help us mature and draw us closer to Christ.
It’s fine to pray for safety and blessings, but what if you want more? What if you desire power from the Holy Spirit, strength from Heaven, unshakable faith, genuine intimacy with your Father?
Instead of just asking God to keep you safe, give you more, and protect your life, you may have to ask God to break you.
BLESSED BY BROKENNESS
For twenty-five years, I’ve had the same workout partner. His real name is John, but I call him Paco because, well, Paco seems like a better name for a workout partner. Even though Paco is older than I am, he’s one tough dude. I’ve never seen him throw a punch and he’s too kind to ever insult someone, but I have no doubt if push came to shove, I’d want him on my side in a street fight.
You might guess that Paco and I don’t cry together. We don’t talk much about our feelings. We’re workout partners, not crying buddies. But then something happened. Paco suddenly began experiencing severe ringing in his ears, and that’s when I saw a different side of my tough buddy than I’d ever seen before. I didn’t know much about tinnitus, but once I saw Paco suffer, I learned what a terrible ordeal it can be. For some, this constant ringing never stops. And there is no cure. For the more severe cases (like Paco’s), I understand it’s like a train driving through your brain. Twenty-four hours a day. Every day.
Although there are some devices you can use, the pain for many is unbearable. Tragically, Paco had one of the worst cases his doctors had ever seen.
After traveling to the top experts and specialists, Paco got the best advice from a fellow tinnitus sufferer. The guy explained that the noise would never go away. And the only way you can endure it is to get closer to God than you’ve ever been and pour out your life serving other people.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Just suck it up and smile as you act like everything’s okay. I remember when Paco told me about this guy’s advice. It seemed trite. Useless. But Paco hadn’t seen another person with severe tinnitus function as well as this man. So with nothing to lose, he tried it.
Daily, he pressed into God like he never had before. Reading God’s living Word. Meditating on His truth and love. Worshiping. Praying. Fasting. John and his wife, Jennifer, started a small group and began pouring into others. They “adopted” a single mom and her kids and started serving them selflessly. And in giving their lives away, the roaring in the brain never got better, but somehow John started getting better. The pain didn’t lessen, but John’s joy increased.
At the gym one day we were trying to work out. John explained to me that tinnitus is the worst pain he could ever imagine. And yet, by God’s grace, he’d never been closer to God than he was in that moment. He told me that in brokenness, he found joy.
I’m not sure if he started to get misty-eyed first or if it was me. But there in front of everyone in the gym, two lifelong friends couldn’t hold back our tears.
In the brokenness and pouring out of his life, John found hope. In the middle of his worst pain, he discovered a peace from Heaven that he didn’t have the words to explain. I had discovered it for myself. But now I saw it in him.
In our brokenness, we often experience God’s greatest blessings.
I’ll admit, it takes tremendous faith to pray this prayer. It requires divine boldness. And I understand why many wouldn’t ever ask for brokenness. But on the other side of fully trusting God, there is a blessing that cannot be found in comfort and ease.
The apostle Paul cried out desperately to God for healing and deliverance from some unknown trial. In three different seasons, Paul begged, pleaded, and petitioned God to take it away. But when God said no, Paul discovered something he would have missed otherwise.*
God’s grace was enough.
Who does God most often use?
God uses those who are broken and dependent on Him.
During the Last Supper, Peter listened as Jesus explained that His body would be broken. Just a little while later, after Jesus had been arrested, Peter experienced his deepest breaking. Three times Peter denied even knowing Christ. On the third time, the Bible says someone asked Peter if he was with Jesus.
Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. — Luke 22:60-61
For years, I didn’t notice that last part: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”
Peter denied knowing Jesus. Jesus saw the denial. And their eyes met. Can you imagine the shame, the sorrow, the brokenness Peter felt? But then when Peter experienced the grace of Jesus after the resurrection, no one was better prepared to preach on the day of Pentecost. God chose Peter to be a foundational part of His Church on earth. To tell others to turn from their sins. Because Peter had turned from his.
Years later, when Peter was asked to deny Christ, this time he refused. When the enemies of Christ wanted to crucify Peter on a cross, tradition tells us that he said he was unwilling to die as his Savior died. Instead, he asked to be crucified upside down. The same man who cowered in fear stood boldly in faith. He was a different man.
Peter was broken and poured out.
We may not be broken like Peter, or even like each other, but we will all face moments in life when we have a choice to make. When [my mentor] Gary told me I’d be broken, at first I fought to avoid the idea. As my trust and faith in God grew, not only did I accept it, but I also found the courage to pray for it. But there was something about brokenness that I didn’t understand.
True brokenness before God isn’t a one-time event; it’s a daily decision. Paul said,
I die daily. — 1 Corinthians 15:31 NKJV
What does that mean? Every day, he chose to crucify his own desires so he could live fully for God’s.
We are each called to die daily. To be broken and poured out. To become dependent on God’s Spirit. To rely on Him for our comfort, our guidance, our source of power.
Being broken isn’t just a moment in time born out of a painful event. It’s a daily choice to die to pride. To crucify lust. To destroy selfishness. Rather than living a life of ease, it’s a choice to live a life of faith.
You might experience it when you do what’s right, yet you are criticized by those who don’t understand. Or when you respond with love, instead of anger, to someone who attacks you. Or when you faithfully do something you believe God directed you to do, even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense and even when your coworkers mock you.
If you don’t want to pray this dangerous prayer, then don’t. Many people wouldn’t blame you. I sure won’t.
But if you have the courage to pray it, get ready. Get ready to know God, and be known by God, in a way you’ve not experienced before.
If you are struggling financially, fall on God and trust Him for His provision. If your life is falling to pieces, break along with it. Trust that God will be what you need. Adjust your heart. Guide your steps. If you have had a bad report from a doctor or you are afraid for the health of someone you love, pray to Jesus, the one who healed the sick and performed miracles in the lives of everyday people.
When things get difficult, many run from God. Don’t do that. Run to Him.
And don’t fight the breaking. Forget trying to appear strong. Be weak. Be vulnerable. Be broken. It’s in your weakness that you discover His strength. In your brokenness, you find His blessings. Let me remind you, this isn’t advanced Christianity. Brokenness isn’t just for monks and missionaries. Brokenness is actually the first step. It’s basic Christianity. The Gospel is an invitation to come and die. Die to your sins. Die to your past. Die to your flesh. And die to your fears.
It’s not a comfortable, halfhearted, part-time commitment to Christ. It’s a radical, daring submission to His will for your life.
You can play it safe. But my gut is you want more than that. I choose different. I am a faith-filled, bet-the-farm risk-taker. I will never insult God with small thinking or safe living. If there are blessings on the other side of brokenness, then break me.
Excerpted with permission from Dangerous Prayers by Craig Groeschel, copyright Craig Groeschel.
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If you’re read to pray “Break me”, buckle up! The blessings of brokenness are God’s greatest ones! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily