A Biblically based commentary on current issues that impact you
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson
by Dick Kuffel
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”
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- Bruce H. Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez; Breaking Through to the Blessed Life; (Multnomah; Sisters, Oregon 2000).
- Ibid. 7.
- Ibid. 87.
- Ibid. 92.
- Ibid. 15.
- Ibid. 15.
- Ibid. 15.
- Ibid. 17.
- Ibid. 18.
- Ibid. 29.
- Ibid. 30.
- Ibid. 45.
- Ibid. 62.
- Ibid. 76.
- Ibid. 86.
Critical Issues Commentary
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