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Book Review
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson

by Dick Kuffel

 

Summary

Jabez is an obscure person mentioned in only two verses of scripture: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. These verses offer no introduction, nor is there any reference from other scripture. From these simple beginnings Dr. Wilkinson has developed for us "principles”1 to learn how to "pray a daring prayer that God always answers.2 He comments, "It’s only what you believe will happen and therefore do next that will release God’s power for you and bring about a life change.3 That sums up the book pretty well: pray the prayer every day, focus on specific problems, keep a record to see the changes in your life, and enjoy the results. The result will be "[God’s] release of His miraculous power in your life now.4


Who Is Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson?

Dr. Wilkinson is the founder and president of "Walk Thru the Bible Ministries” based in Atlanta, GA. In his best selling book he mentions that they conducted 2500 bible conferences in the year 2000 (50 conferences each weekend), that they now publish 10 magazines recently exceeding the100,000,000 mark, and that he has a vision to create the world’s largest Bible teaching faculty with 120,000 teachers (one for every 50,000 people on earth).


What Is The Prayer of Jabez?

The following verses contain all we know about Jabez:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, "Because I bore him with pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:9,10)

What Is The Book About?

The opening paragraph of the preface summarizes the book and states that, "I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers . . . I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.

Chapter 1 sets the stage for the discussion with the following enticement: "The little book you’re holding is about what happens when ordinary Christians decide to reach for an extraordinary life—which, as it turns out, is exactly the kind God promises.5 Not unexpectedly it turns out that he has prayed the prayer daily for 30 years, that he attributes the outstanding daily events in his life to the prayer, and, most importantly, he wants to share the principles he’s learned with his readers.

What actually happened? Jabez was an honorable man who prayed; God responded to his prayer. Wilkinson concludes that, "clearly, the outcome can be traced to his prayer.6 Dr. Wilkinson then entices his readers with this: "I want to show you just how dramatically each of Jabez’ requests can release something miraculous in your life.7

He holds out even greater hope: "And with a handful of core commitments on your part you can proceed from this day forward with the confidence and expectation that your heavenly Father will bring it to pass for you.8  Chapter 2, "Why Not Ask?9, focuses on the first request: "Oh, that You would bless me indeed!” According to Wilkinson he is just asking for what God wants for us: God’s will. This is a request for supernatural favor; it is not wealth oriented. But the guaranteed by- product of asking for His blessing is miracles. God wants to bless us; but we never ask. His resolution: "What counts is knowing who you want to be and asking for it. Through a single believing prayer you can change your future. You can change what happens one minute from now.”10

His suggestions in Chapter 3, "Living Large For God”11 focus on the second request: "Oh, that You would enlarge my territory.” This is a request to, "Ask God to enlarge your life so you can make a greater impact for Him.” It is for more than just real estate, it includes influence, responsibility, opportunity to make a mark for God, and opportunity to be used of God. Much ministry that we can’t do on our own, we can do by God’s Spirit; "‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

According to Wilkinson, to do Chapter 3 we need Chapter 4, "The Touch of Greatness.”12 This is based on the third request: "Oh, that Your hand would be with me.” This is dependence—relying on Christ. Wilkinson suggests that we attempt to do things too big for us. This means stepping out in faith and releasing God’s power to do His Will. So, we are to ask for God’s presence and see the results of the hand of God in action.

Chapter 5, "Keeping the Legacy Safe,”13 focuses on the fourth request: "Oh, that You would keep me from evil.” According to Wilkinson it means to be kept out of the fight. God offers His power to not have to fight unnecessary temptation.

Chapter 6, "Welcome to God’s Honor Roll,”14 is a discussion of the opening words of verse 9, "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.

Chapter 7, " Making Jabez Mine,”15 is Wilkinson using the final phrase in verse 10 to move us to action: "So God granted him what he requested.” His conclusion is that God favors those who ask. He concludes that if you pay attention God will use you. God will open doors because you prayed. This is the cycle of abundant living, according to Wilkinson. Obviously, we want to get started. What are we to do? Suggestions (paraphrased) from page 86 and 87 include the following:

Pray Jabez prayer every morning—keep a record

Write out prayer; tape it in your bible

Reread the book once per week for the next month

Share commitment with someone and be accountable

Record changes in your life

Pray Jabez prayer for family, friends, church

The condition, however, is that you must first believe, then you must do to bring life changes.


Analysis

Old Testament genealogies often contained stories in the midst of lists. The prayer of Jabez is one such story expanding one of the four themes in 1 Chronicles 4—blessing related to faithfulness. To expand that simple story to become "a daring prayer that God always answers” is a stretch; the concept lacks support. And given the fact that Jabez is never referenced in any other scripture, there is little support for the expansion that Dr. Wilkinson provides in his 93 page "little book.”

Wilkinson’s conclusions in Chapter 1 (that "clearly the outcome can be traced to his prayer” and "Jabez’ requests can release something miraculous in your life” 4,5) suggest that the prayer is a tool, a device, a method—spiritual technology that works every time. Somehow God’s role, His desire to bless His people, His character and His plan for us seem to become lost in our drive to get our needs met. There is an underlying suggestion that I can continually have all I desire by simply reading the daily prayer.

Chapter 2 says that we should ask. Wilkinson teaches that God wants to bless us, but because we don’t ask He holds back. This creates a wrong picture of God. It suggests that you get miracles whenever you ask, which is not always the case. Wilkinson claims:

What counts is knowing who you want to be and asking for it. Through a single believing prayer you can change your future. You can change what happens one minute from now (page 8).

This is getting very close to "mind over matter” and "what your mind can conceive you can achieve” type of thinking. This is dangerous ground.

Chapter 3 focused on "Oh, that You would enlarge my territory.” Wilkinson states that it is more than real estate. He expands this to include influence, responsibility, opportunity to make a mark for God and looking for the opportunity to be used of God. That, however, does not make it a model for us with a guarantee of results just because Jabez’ request was granted.

Wilkinson teaches that our reach is to exceed our grasp—we are to attempt to do things too big for us, to step out in faith and release God’s power to do His will. Terms are as much of a problem here as are concepts. If a thing is too big for us, don’t do it. If it is big and we’re not quite sure how to achieve it, but it is worthwhile and the Lord seems to be supporting the work—go for it. But to "step out in faith and release God’s power” is a mechanical, programmed, plug-in-technology approach to getting our way. God doesn’t have a spiritual trip hammer activated by our presumption hoping He will cover the gap between our circumstances and some impossible end. We are thinking people who must do our best, act boldly in His behalf, and know that He will be there for us.

The fifth chapter, "Oh, that You would keep me from evil,” addresses avoiding confrontation. Our Lord has promised to be with us and that we will never be tempted beyond what we can handle. He also promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Why must we do the Jabez mantra daily to obtain what the Lord told us is our everyday provision?

The book closes with the thought that this "Jabez” prayer is the key; the prayer opens doors and creates the cycle of abundant living. The book concludes with the specifics of how to do the prayer of Jabez properly with the condition that first you must believe, then you must act if you are to bring life changes into your life. Maybe we should remember that repeating a rote prayer like the prayer of Jabez hardly makes one honorable. Pagans pray rote prayers, too.


Conclusions

The text begins by telling us that Jabez was a good man deemed "more honorable than his brothers.” He prayed a proper prayer and the Lord granted his request. That is good and we rejoice with Jabez that our God hears and answers the prayers of His people.

What troubles me about Wilkinson’s work is his expanding a two verse story to become a method to corner God to get what we ask for. This isn’t prayer. This is manipulation. God chose to answer Jabez’ prayer so evidently it was His will to do so for Jabez. It does not logically or biblically follow that it is God’s will for every subsequent believer to pray the same prayer. If we are trying to do the same we should pray according to God’s will as He declared it in the scriptures and pray according to the prayers included in scripture. Begin with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4, consider Daniel 9:3-27 as an example of prayer, and pray for the things we are commanded to pray for. Here are some examples:

  • The peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6);

  • That laborers will be sent out (Luke 10:2);

  • The salvation of Jewish people (Romans 10:1);

  • For our civil authorities (1T imothy 2:1,2);

  • The pattern shown in the Lord’s prayer;

  • Whatever else is needful in our lives (Philippians 4:6).

The focus of this little book seems to be on technique rather than on relationship with our Father. I am concerned that the prayer has become more important than the One prayed to. And I am uncomfortable with reading into the text so much that cannot be supported from scripture.

Believers would be better off to spend time in the Word, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer (Acts 2:42).



Issue 72 - September/October 2002




End Notes

  1. Bruce H. Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez; Breaking Through to the Blessed Life; (Multnomah; Sisters, Oregon 2000).
  2. Ibid. 7.
  3. Ibid. 87.
  4. Ibid. 92.
  5. Ibid. 15.
  6. Ibid. 15.
  7. Ibid. 15.
  8. Ibid. 17.
  9. Ibid. 18.
  10. Ibid. 29.
  11. Ibid. 30.
  12. Ibid. 45.
  13. Ibid. 62.
  14. Ibid. 76.
  15. Ibid. 86.




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Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1995 The Lockman Foundation.
 
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