Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Prayer of Jabez: mini-review

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying,
"Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil, 
that I may not cause pain."
So, God granted him what he requested.

The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson was a pretty big deal in Christian publishing back in 2000 when the book first came out.  I remember seeing the book everywhere--in secular bookstores and on the library shelves as well as in the Christian bookstores.  There was a lot of buzz about it in the Protestant church world.  There were Prayer of Jabez study groups and prayer groups.  All that seems to have died down.

Dr. Wilkinson's insights into that very short portion of the Bible--1 Chronicles 4:10--are very enlightening.  I do appreciate his interpretation of Jabez's request.  He asks for God's blessing--for "the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has the power to give."  We are to ask for what we cannot do for ourselves.  But--not selfishly.  We ask that we might "enlarge our territory."  In Wilkerson's interpretation, "enlarge my territory" means to increase our opportunities to use that unlimited goodness to touch individual lives and the larger world for God's glory.  He rephrases the prayer to read:

O God and King, please expand my opportunities and my impact in such a way that I touch more lives for Your glory.  Let me do more for You!

And the rest of the prayer is to be kept from evil--to be kept even from the temptation of evil--so that our works will be good and we will not hurt anyone (even ourselves) by what we do.

Anyone who reads this book and thinks that the prayer is about "God make me rich.  God make me Big. God, it's all about me." has absolutely missed the message.

I do agree with others who have commented on the mantra-like style to Wilkinson's insistence that this is the only prayer you need. That this is what it's all about 24-7.  If this were it, then there wouldn't be a whole Bible.  There wouldn't be the teachings of Jesus.  This is an insightful prayer...and one that should be understood.  But it's not the only one.  Three stars.

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