The encouragement in this chapter is to remember that praying together as a family for the neighbourhood that you live in makes a huge difference, it can transform your whole neighbourhood.
The example was given of one family that prayed for their neighbourhood, eventually seeing families coming to faith and an entire neighbourhood changed.
I have to admit that I struggled with the author's understanding of the prayer of Jabez. His prayer reads "Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying "oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that you hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!" And God granted what he asked." This was not a prayer for increased spiritual influence in the world around him, this was a prayer of a man who wanted to be blessed of God with more land and good health. Nothing more. Mixed into a long line of genealogies, Jabez was a man who prayed, a man who was born in pain (v9) and didn't want more of it. God extended grace to him and gave him what he wanted.
I do love this line, "that real disciples create real disciples" (p.29). We can train our children not to be afraid of the world but to pray through the world, through the territory that God gives them.
Praying through your neighbourhood as a family does this: It teaches you where you can be a blessing from God to those in your sphere of influence. Praying through your family can give you goals to meet. God answers these prayers and changes the family, and changes the neighbourhood.
I have to admit, I struggle with this idea.
I have an intellectual understanding of it, and I have seen prayer in surprising action on more than one occasion, but I struggle with the idea that the prayers of one family can have such a drastic result. And what happens if a family takes this approach and sees no change occurring? I suppose I am seeing more of the "what ifs" and less of the "God cans". It stems, I think, from fear. If I make this change, and pray with my family over the neighbourhood we are in now and over the future of where we will be, and God doesn't answer those prayers. What will I do with that?
I should not let this stop me.
Just as I don't want fear to stop my lad from doing or trying something new...I shouldn't let the fears that I have about "what if God says no" to prayer concerning this family and the areas that God might place us in.
See I have to remember this immutable truth God is the Lord. His decisions, his call, his ways. He knows ALWAYS what is the best for all his people. All he requires from us is the willingness to listen to what he wants and the simple obedience to his will. He works through the prayers of his people, and sometimes despite the lack of prayers of his people.
He still works things out according to his will.
It is a comfort and a hope.