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The Prayer of Jabez

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The Prayer of Jabez, a book based on a passage in the Old Testament javascript popup window, has sold four million copies in America with the message that greed is Godly It is a message that has struck a welcome chord with both well-to-do and cash-strapped Americans: greediness is next to Godliness. That is why a slim volume has sold four million copies - even more, in some states, than Bridget Jones's Diary.

The Prayer of Jabez has been the publishing sensation of the year, which is unusual for a work of biblical exposition - especially one that deals with Chronicles, a stretch of the Old Testament as arid and hard to cross as the Gobi Desert.

Of course, there is a gimmick: Jabez prayed for more cows, more sheep and more land; and by updating his prayer, modern Americans believe they will get more money.

It has worked for the author, Bruce H. Wilkinson, an Atlanta evangelist whose organisation ''Walk Thru the Bible'' has grown steadily for the past 30 years: he claims it is represented in 40 countries.
Please Lord, make me rich, The Times (England), May 10, 2001



The slim volume, little more than a sermon, is one in a large field of religious self-help books. At first glance, the book appears to be spreading the "prosperity gospel" popular in the 1950's and 1960's, which taught that there is no shame in praying to God for a red Cadillac. With its blatant materialism, the prosperity gospel eventually became an embarrassment for evangelicals.

But "The Prayer of Jabez" offers a new view of the prosperity gospel. It preaches that it is perfectly fine to ask God for personal success, as long as that success has a godly purpose.

"Jabez prayed for more property," the author, Dr. Wilkinson, said. "He was a farmer or herdsman, and he was asking for more business. When I talk to business owners or managers, I tell them that if their business is honoring the public and they're treating their employees well, it's right to ask God to bless their business."

Jeffrey H. Mahan, professor of ministry, media and culture at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, said: "It fits with the narcissism of the age. Religious life is focused on me and my needs."



Not everyone is buying the idea. One camp of conservative theologians believes "Jabez" is stunning in its selfishness, using verses buried in the Bible as a religious excuse for wanting money and material goodies.

"American culture is very oriented toward paychecks and big houses," says Rev. Daniel L. Gard, graduate school dean at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Ind., a Lutheran school. "This basically gives those same secular values a religious shellacking."

Gard lumps the bestseller with what he calls megachurch Christianity, the sort of money- and power-driven religion that came to be symbolized by the rise and fall of televangelists such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.

But Wilkinson says he is not preaching materialism.

"One of the biggest misunderstandings of the book is that I'm teaching prosperity gospel. I don't believe that," he said.

The publisher of Apologetics Index does believe it is good to pray Biblical prayers. However, he does not support the prayer approach - nor the theology - presented in The Prayer of Jabez. He is concerned about the overemphasis many Christians place on material prosperity. For a good alternative to The Prayer of Jabez, see Praying Like Jesus.

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Jabez was a good and honorable man who asked God to bless him and God did. It's an example of God providing for and caring for His chosen people. Jabez asked and GOD sovereignly CHOSE to answer. The focus here is on God and His provision. I read through Chronicles several months ago and Jabez and his prayer stood out to me and I smiled when I saw it because it made me see what a great God we serve. Jabez asked and our loving Father gave him what He requested - not because Jabez said the right thing or twisted His arm, but because God decided to show His glory to Jabez by answering his prayer. Period - end of story.

However, I think Bruce Wilkinson would disagree with me. Wilkinson claims that if we'll just pray the prayer of Jabez, word-for-word, every day for a month (p. 86), then we'll finally see God's power released in our lives. To Dr. Wilkinson, the key isn't God's choice to answer Jabez's prayer. To him, the key is that Jabez stumbled upon the RIGHT FORMULA for asking things of God. Wilkinson reverses the cause and effect and declares that Jabez was honorable because he figured out the right way to pray. Wilkinson's emphasis is on Jabez finding the correct method instead of on God and His Sovereignty.

Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive study on prayer I'd like to touch briefly on some of Dr. Wilkinson's major tenets and let you see what the major fallacies are in his teachings.

Christian God, prayer, and American evangelicalismOff-site Link (Contra) Mark Talbot, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College, reviews The Prayer of Jabez  for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals: ''It is distasteful to criticize a fellow Christian's book this thoroughly. Yet there is good reason to fear that Wilkinson's book is encouraging many to think about God and the Christian life in ways that are insufficiently biblical. May God himself keep his people from falling prey to this book's inadequate theology.''
Christian Little Mantra, Giant ScoreOff-site Link (Contra) by Douglas M. Jones, author of the book The Mantra of Jabez : A Christian ParodyOff-site Link
Christian More magical ''Jabez'' type prayersOff-site Link (Contra) Sandy Simpson, tongue firmly in cheek, provides ''A Prayer For Every Occasion And For Everything You Want''
Christian My friends all pray the prayer of Jabez & and all I got was this lousy T-shirtOff-site Link (Contra)
Christian Praying like JabezOff-site Link (Contra) By Mike Oppenheimer
Christian The Prayer of Jabez: A Brief EvaluationOff-site Link (Pro, with some cautionary words) By Don Whitney
Secular Say a little prayer for meOff-site Link (Contra) "The Prayer of Jabez": New age self-help with Christian trappings. From the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal
Christian Significance in a Small PackageOff-site Link (Pro) Book review by Christianity Today
To put it another way, in Jabez, Wilkinson is long on the individual's existential meaning and on exploiting the chance, short-term encounter for God, but short on the meaning of perseverance and ordinary suffering. Such themes play a larger role in his sequel, The Secrets of the Vine, his effort to teach readers how to cooperate with God in his bringing about the results promised in the prayer of Jabez. Secrets also retains a spiritual optimism and pragmatism that, frankly, is inspiring at times.

But if exaggerations in Jabez  can be chalked up to hyperbole, overstatements in Secrets of the Vine  often can lead to serious misunderstandings. For example, Wilkinson implies that if there is major sin in our lives, we won't bear fruit for God. But many recent pastoral sex scandals are shocking precisely because the offending minister was, in fact, bearing a great deal of fruit in ministry.

It is easy to critique a book for what it lacks—and in these two brief tracts, naturally a lot is missing. Still a qualifying adjective here, a cautionary sentence there, would have alerted the reader to the more complex and challenging nature of the Christian life. But perhaps this is too much to ask of a writer and speaker who obviously enjoys his role as a motivator.

Nevertheless, Wilkinson has accomplished much, especially in Jabez, for which we can be thankful. He's managed to get millions of Christians to realize afresh their divine significance, reminding them of the ministries God has for them, encouraging them to think big when it comes to helping others. It's not the whole counsel of God, but neither is it a bad start for those who had forgotten, or never knew, that the living God is as near as a prayer.
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- Books -        Click On Titles To Order At Discount           » More Books
Christian The Cult of Jabez: And the Falling Away of the Church in AmericaOff-site Link by pastor Steve Hopkins
Christian I Just Wanted More Land - Jabez: A Careful Analysis of Bruce Wilkinson's the Prayer of JabezOff-site Link by Gary E. Gilley
Christian The Lost Prayer of Jabez, Professor Larry Pechawer shows that today's version of the Prayer of Jabez is a mistranslation. See: From Jabez, With Regrets
Christian The Mantra of Jabez : A Christian ParodyOff-site Link by Douglas M. Jones
Christian Praying Like JesusOff-site Link by James R. Mulholland
In a time when spiritual seekers seem to be looking for a magic formula for prosperity, blessing, and protection through prayer, theologian James Mulholland offers a different perspective in Praying Like Jesus: The Lord's Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity. ''Our Father who art in heaven...'' Using Jesus's classic prayer from the New Testament as a framework, Mulholland offers a critique of the multimillion-selling book, The Prayer of Jabez and suggests looking to Jesus, rather than Jabez, for instruction on how to pray. In a conversational, almost pastoral tone peppered with personal anecdotes, Mulholland outlines a simple way to talk to God, focusing on self-denial, commitment, compassion, and gratitude. The point of prayer is not to get what you want, he writes, but rather to receive what you need. There's no pat formula for prayer here--just a call to revolutionize your prayer life through renouncing selfishness and committing to a new way of living. Those who find ''name it and claim it'' books about prayer alarming will be challenged by this satisfying, alternative take on the subject.
Source: Amazon.com ReviewOff-site Link, Cindy Crosby
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About this page:
The Prayer of Jabez - Research resources on biblical and unblical teachings
First posted: Jul. 14, 2001
Last Updated: Feb. 19, 2002
Link to: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/p12.html
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