The Prayer of Jabez

by Bruce Wilkinson

Bruce Wilkinson, founder of Atlanta-based Walk Thru the Bible Ministries (he resigned as its president in February of 2002), is a popular speaker at many ecumenical, neo-evangelical national gatherings such as Promise Keepers, the Navigators, Focus on the Family, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Fellowship of Companies for Christ, and Christian Schools International, as well as BIOLA, Wheaton, Mt. Hermon, the Christian Business Men's Committee, Moody Bible Institute, and many others. While a student at Dallas Seminary in 1976, and under the guidance of psychologizers Howard Hendricks and Gene Getz, Wilkinson founded Walk Thru the Bible Ministries with a teaching faculty of six that today has grown to 120 in North America and 2,000 lay instructors worldwide. It is now the largest "Christian" seminar organization in the United States and conducts over 2,500 conferences each year. 

In 1998, Wilkinson founded Walk Thru the Bible International, a global initiative to develop "a Bible teacher for every 50,000 people in every nation of the world." In 2001, Wilkinson founded Global Vision Resources, a private nonprofit operating foundation that produces, markets, and distributes video and curriculum products to retail outlets, businesses, schools, and ministries around the world—"My goal now is to take [my teaching] beyond America to every nation across the globe through the mediums of video, television, and film"; Wilkinson planned a late-2002 move to California to pursue this goal. Then in July of 2002, while traveling and teaching in Africa, the Wilkinson's decided to move to South Africa and establish a ministry there.

In addition to The Prayer of Jabez (Multnomah:2000), Wilkinson has authored several other books—including Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs, 7 Laws of the Learner, Almost Every Answer for Practically Any Teacher!, Personal Holiness in Times of Temptation, Victory Over Temptation, Talk Thru the Old Testament, Talk Thru the New Testament—as well as served in editorial roles in the production of The Daily Walk Bible, the New King James Bible, The Closer Walk New Testament, The Open Bible: Expanded Edition, and The Family Walk Bible. Other shallow, Jabez-like books by Wilkinson include A Life God Rewards and Secrets of the Vine. His books have sold over 15 million copies combined.

Bruce Wilkinson was a guest on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program in early-March of 2001. Referring to Wilkinson's latest book (at the time), The Prayer of Jabez, Dobson claimed that it had sold one million copies in February 2001 alone, and the book's official Internet web site then claimed that sales totaled nine million, with more than 13 million in print. It was a USA Today/New York Times/Washington Post/Publisher's Weekly number one bestseller, and is being embraced by Evangelicals, Catholics, Fundamentalists, and even non-Christians. It won the Book of the Year ECPA Gold Medallion Award. Bill Gothard, who was recently asked to write a book on why the Jabez prayer works, said, "Because it's a cry, not a prayer, and crying is more powerful." 

To capitalize on the popularity of the book, Multnomah Publishers now has three versions for "kids": one each for preschoolers, 8-12 year-olds, and teens; The Prayer of Jabez Journal; The Prayer of Jabez Devotional (one for children, one for adults); The Prayer of Jabez Bible Study; The Prayer of Jabez for Women (by Wilkinson's wife); a 90-minute audio; a video, and a musical companion, The Prayer of Jabez Music … A Worship Experience (8/16/01, ForeFront Records/Multnomah Publishers Press Release; and Wilkinson's Internet web site). Also planned is a Jabez sequel. 

On top of all this, Multnomah has authorized a cavalcade of official merchandise, including Jabez backpacks, Christmas ornaments, vanilla-scented candles, mouse pads, and even a framed artist's conception of Jabez himself. Jewelry is also in the works, but a proposal for Jabez candy bars was rejected: "We want to be careful about not over-commercializing this," says Leslie Nunn Reed, the licensing agent. (Source: "A Phenomenon of Biblical Proportions," 8/14/01, L.A. Times.)

On Dobson's program, Wilkinson claimed that two weeks of praying the prayer of Jabez would change your life. After hearing the radio programs devoted to the book, and after reading the book, one should have serious reservations about Wilkinson's claims.

The Real Prayer of Jabez

The prayer of Jabez is found in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10:

And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. (KJV)

That's it. 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 of Jabez's prayer is on God and His provision and protection. Jabez asked and our loving Father gave him what He requested—not because Jabez said the right thing or manipulated God into granting his request, but because God decided to be glorified through Jabez by answering his prayer. Period. End of story.

Bruce Wilkinson's Position

The subtitle of the book is Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. The publisher's back-cover promo reads: 

Do you want to be extravagantly blessed by God? Are you ready to reach for the extraordinary? To ask God for the abundant blessings He longs to give you? Join Bruce Wilkinson to discover how the remarkable prayer of a little-known Bible hero can release God's favor, power, and protection. You'll see how one daily prayer can help you leave the past behind—and break through to the life you were meant to live. (Bold added.) 

In the Preface to the book, Wilkinson writes: 

I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief—only one sentence with four partsand tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains they key to a life of extraordinary favor with God. This petition has radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power. In fact, thousands of believers who are applying its truths are seeing miracles happen on a regular basis. (Emphasis added.)

Wilkinson then describes how to pray Jabez's prayer: 

The next morning, I prayed Jabez's prayer word for word. And the next. And the next. Thirty years later, I haven't stopped. If you were to ask me what sentence—other than my prayer for salvation—has revolutionized my life and ministry the most, I would tell you tell you that it was the cry of a gimper named Jabez, who is still remembered not for what he did, but for what he prayed—and for what happened next (p. 11). (Bold added.) 

I challenge you to make the Jabez prayer for blessing part of the daily fabric of your life. To do that, I encourage you to follow unwaveringly the plan outlined here for the next thirty days. By the end of that time, you'll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit (p. 86). (Bold added.) 

Wilkinson claims that if we'll just pray the prayer of Jabez, word-for-word, every day for a month, then we'll see God's power released in our lives. To Wilkinson, the key isn't God's choice to answer Jabez's prayer. The key is that Jabez stumbled upon the right formula for asking things of God. Wilkinson reverses the cause and effect and implies 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.

A brief examination of Wilkinson's major tenets reveal the errors in his teachings:

1)  The book assumes that Jabez was "more honorable" than his brothers, and for this reason, God heard his prayer and gave him what he desired. But "more honorable" is not an adequate treatment of the Hebrew text. A more accurate translation would be "more honored." This simple mistranslation is foundational to the book's radical departure from the Christian teaching on prayer. For Wilkinson, it is the character of the one that offers the prayer (being honorable) that assures one of God hearing and answering. The Biblical position, however, is that God hears and answers prayer, not on the basis of any merit on the part of the one who prays, but solely on the basis of the merits of Christ. (Source: 5/21/01, Christian News.)

2)  Jabez's prayer or Jesus' prayer? In Matthew 6:5-13 (and Luke 11:2-4), Jesus gives us some instructions on how to pray:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, USE NOT VAIN REPETITIONS (emphasis mine) as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for our Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. AFTER THIS MANNER (emphasis mine) therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (KJV)

Jesus says "after this manner" is how we should pray. Jesus' prayer was a template or guide for us to follow as we talk with God. (This is not to say that Jabez's prayer is wrong. James 5:16b says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Jabez's prayer certainly qualifies as the fervent prayer of a righteous man.) Yet Wilkinson encourages folks to pray Jabez's prayer verbatim, every day. This is also contrary to Jesus' instructions of "when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do." Wilkinson is clearly selling Jabez's prayer as a Scripturally-sanctioned incantation that can guarantee blessings.

3)  The book presents prayer as being essentially disconnected from our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. Christ's Name is invoked only a handful of times in the entire book, and then primarily in descriptive, historical ways. When sin is mentioned as a barrier to God, it is discussed only as something that the sinner himself can make right (p. 85). This borders on the ancient heresy of Pelagianism, in which sin is seen as a mere habit that a person himself can break, rather than as a condition of the soul that can be cured only by Christ. (Source: 5/21/01, Christian News.)

4)  Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez is more about the wisdom and shrewdness of the one doing the asking than the greatness of the One who answers the prayer (i.e., "Jabez's … request is a brilliant but little-understood strategy for … a blessed life"; p. 63). The major theme of the book is Wilkinson's belief that Jabez "got it right"—that Jabez figured out exactly what it took to get something from God and that was why he was considered more honorable than everyone else. Wilkinson implies that those who pray Jabez's prayer are just more clever than those who don't.

5)  Wilkinson seriously minimizes the Biblical emphasis on the believer's total dependence on God—"When you take little steps, you don't need God." But when you take big steps, according to Wilkinson, "which are beyond our ability to accomplish," then "you release miracles" (i.e., for the mundane, little things in life, we don't need God, because these things are in our own power to accomplish) (p. 44).

6)  The book encourages and sanctions selfishness as part of one's relationship with God. The Bible teaches that the believer's prayer is the process of our lining up our will with the will of God, and then obeying (Rom. 8:16-17; 1 Jn. 5:14-15). If my prayer does not line up with God's will as revealed in the Scriptures, then I need to ask Him to change my heart. Molding us by changing our desire is part of the sanctification process. But there is no cry to God to change our hearts in The Prayer of Jabez. Selfishness for it's own sake is encouraged. Repetition of Jabez's prayer is for the sole purpose of causing God to release His blessings and to receive miracles—"You will change your legacy and bring supernatural blessings wherever you go. God will release His miraculous power in your life now. And for all eternity, He will lavish on you His honor and delight" (pp. 91-92).    

7)  Wilkinson makes the chilling claim that we make God great (p. 49). Needless to say, he provides no Scriptural authority for this, because there is none; however, there are many references—Duet. 10:17, Psa. 145:3, for instance—to the fact that God is great. And there are many references to God making his people great (e.g., Gen. 12:2 and 2 Sam. 2:36). (Source: Review by L.S. Bottomly.)

8)  Success is seen as a measure of whether one has figured out the formula of Jabez. Wilkinson believes he has figured out the formula for success—"You can hang the Jabez prayer on the wall of every room in your house and nothing will happen. 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. But when you act, you will step up to God's best for you. I'm living proof. … This year [2000] Walk Thru will conduct over twenty-five hundred Bible conferences—fifty each weekend. The ministry now publishes ten magazines each month to help individuals and families grow in God's Word every day. We recently passed the 100 million mark in total issues published. … almost shocking evidence of what God's grace and Jabez praying can do" (pp. 87,88,89). (First emphasis in the original.) 

9)  The last section of the book is called "Redeemed For This," and implies that we were saved so we could successfully pray the prayer of Jabez and unleash God's power in our lives. And like the teachings of the charismatics, if we fail to see God's power unleashed, then we must be spiritually deficient.

10)  Wilkinson goes into each of the requests of Jabez, and in Max Lucado-like fashion, speculates about what Jabez was thinking or doing as he prayed, and/or the details of what supposedly happened to Jabez after the prayer: 

(a) "Oh, that you would bless me indeed …!" … In my mind's eye, I picture Jabez standing before a massive gate recessed into a sky-high wall. Weighed down by the sorrow of his past and the dreariness of his present, he sees before him only impossibility—a future shut off. But raising his hands to heaven, he cries out, "Father, oh, Father! Please bless me! And what I really mean is … bless me a lot!" [p. 22]

(b) "enlarge my territory" … The next part of the Jabez prayer—a plea for more territory … If  Jabez had worked on Wall Street, he might have prayed, "Lord , increase the value of my investment portfolios." When I talk to presidents of  companies, I often talk to them about this particular mind-set. When Christian executives ask me, "Is it right for me to ask God for more business?" my response is, "Absolutely!" If you're doing your business God's way, it's not only right to ask for more, but He is waiting for you to ask. Your business is the territory God has entrusted to you. [pp. 30-31] 

(c) … Jabez's third desperate plea: "Oh, that Your hand would be with me!" With that, we release God's power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities. [p. 48]  Notice that Jabez did not begin his prayer by asking for God’s hand to be with him. At that point, he didn’t sense the need. Things were still manageable. His risks, and the fear that go with them, were minimal. But when his boundaries got moved out, and the kingdom-sized tasks of God's agenda started coming at him, Jabez knew he needed a divine hand—and fast. [pp. 48,49]

(d) "Oh…keep me from evil." Jabez's last request is a brilliant but little-understood strategy for sustaining a blessed life. After all, as your life transcends the ordinary and starts to encroach on new territory for God, guess whose turf you're invading? In the previous chapter our prayer was for supernatural power to work through our weakness; in this one our petition is for supernatural help to protect us from Satan's proven ability to make us come in second. [p. 63] Do you believe that a supernatural God is going to show up to keep you from evil and protect your spiritual investment? Jabez did believe, and he acted on his belief. Thereafter his life was spared from the grief and pain that evil brings. [p. 74] 

How do we know any of this? There is never a mention of Jabez anywhere in the Bible again. Moreover, his stand-alone prayer reveals nothing of his background, nor his thoughts or feelings, nor his relationship with God before or after the prayer. To speculate in the manner Wilkinson does, is to take license with the Bible and, in effect, violates God's command not to add to Scripture.

11) Wilkinson also uses the success stories of others to validate his method (i.e., charismatic "story theology"). There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people who have prayed Jabez's prayer and attribute their prosperity directly to the mindless repetition of the prayer. Wilkinson's web site even has a forum to discuss success stories. One could just as easily cite the success stories followers of Islam who pray toward Mecca every day and credit that practice for their prosperity. Others credit Oprah, yoga, the tarot, crystals, or a host of other things for their success. Experience should never be used to validate any practice—only the Word Of God.

12) The formula Wilkinson is teaching leaves no room for God to say "NO" or "WAIT." Faithfully pray the prayer of Jabez, and you've got God in a box. Yet the Bible teaches that when one trusts Christ, a relationship is begun with Him that is in part defined by submission to the will of God and a recognition of His absolute right to do whatever He pleases with us. Frequently, that can mean that God says no to our prayer requests. According to Wilkinson, sin in our lives is the only thing that will stop the repetition of Jabez's prayer from working. Of course God answers prayer—in His own time and His own way and for His own purposes. Wilkinson reduces the notion of confident prayer to a gambit unworthy of an infinite God. He reduces Jabez's heartfelt prayer to a get-rich talisman. (Source: Review by L.S. Bottomly.)

Oh, how many professing Christians wish that Bruce Wilkinson were right—that they could repetitiously pray the same thing over and over for a month and God would be obligated to bless them and make them prosperous. But God's purposes for us and our lives are far beyond what we're able to comprehend, and sometimes we don't see His blessings until months or years after He's provided them (Genesis 50:20). We can't know the mind of God and we can't coerce Him into blessing us. He can't and won't be controlled or manipulated. If He could, then He wouldn't be God, and He wouldn't be worthy of worship, honor, and praise.
 
James Dobson's endorsement of The Prayer of Jabez has caused the book's sales to explode. Dobson has given credibility to what would have otherwise been denounced as the prosperity gospel or "name-it-and-claim-it" theology. [In fact, The Prayer of Jabez is tailor-made for the name-it-and-claim-it, health-and-wealth charismatic charlatans. The 7/14/01 World said this book "plays to the attraction of the 'prosperity gospel'—claiming that one need just pray this prayer and God will, in the words of Jabez, 'enlarge your territory.'" Charles and Frances Hunter (a.k.a. "The Happy Hunters"), in their 7/01 newsletter, write: "Many of you have called, written or spoken to us about the dream we had after we prayed the Jabez Prayer for the first time. We are so excited about this because the more we think about the dream the more we think about the far outreach of it. This not only meant that we will have an abundance of finances and things in the monetary area, but it includes the salvation of your family. The abundance includes not only the salvation of your family, but also healings you or your family need. ... Don't forget to pray for that $1 million gift we need!" (Source: 8/15/01, Calvary Contender.) A large ad in the Houston Chronicle has Wilkinson speaking at the huge Lakewood Church (charismatic), charging $15/individual, $25/couple. The ad says, "You will learn to release God's favor and power in your life." (Emphasis added.) (Source: 9/1/01, Calvary Contender.)]

The real tragedy of Bruce Wilkinson's book will be the carnage created as desperate souls follow his advice and pray Jabez's prayer for a month, and yet see no change or see things getting worse around them. The book has no discussion of what to do when the prayer seems to fail (e.g., a child dies, a marriage fails, a job is lost, healing does not come, etc.). Many of them will turn to themselves seeking the reason. Yet Wilkinson has guaranteed that the prayer will work. The clear implication is that a failed prayer equals failed faith.

Wilkinson teaches a shallow "results-oriented" faith that is supposed to guarantee success, as opposed to a deep, abiding, loving relationship with our Father that will sustain us through heartaches, failure, and success. Dr. Layton Talbert, in a book review in the Sep-Oct 2001 Frontline magazine, notes one of the book's philosophical flaws―"a tendency to confuse 'blessing' with 'success.'" He says: "The underlying assumption seems to be that an increase in successful ministry opportunities is indicative of God's blessing, and the lack of an increasing number … denotes the absence of God's blessing. This can create an unwarranted expectation on the part of readers which, when not realized, results in confusion, frustration, and disappointment with God or an introspective assumption that there is simply something wrong with them. The Biblical emphasis is on faithfulness, not fruitfulness. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were explicitly forewarned that their ministries would be noticeably 'unsuccessful' in terms of tangible positive influence and results; despite that, they were exemplary successes because they faithfully fulfilled God's commission for them."

One serious critic lumps this 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. "It attempts to give a Christianizing to some of the worst characteristics of our culture. You throw in a little God talk, and now it becomes an immediately sellable thing." (Source: "Godliness or greed? Prayer book seeks 'exponentially expanding blessings'," 6/9/01, AP story.) 

Another critic has even published a spoof book about Jabez"We figured this book was so popular that it had to be bad, so we went out and read it and we were right," says Douglas Jones, author of The Mantra of Jabez: Break on Through to the Other Side (Canon Press). Jones, who teaches philosophy at a Christian college in Idaho, adds: "It's not that we consider the book evil. It just captures everything that's silly about contemporary evangelical Christianity." Practice the Jabez mantra, says the book's dust jacket, and "soon you too will feel an adrenaline rush that you can call the Holy Spirit and use it to justify any fool thing you want to say." (Source: "A Phenomenon of Biblical Proportions," 8/14/01, L.A. Times.)

Summary

The Prayer of Jabez is a particularly dangerous work from a Christian theological perspective. It arises from a human-centered rather than a Christ-centered worldview. Although a call to take seriously the power of prayer is always welcome, that call must take seriously the theological realities of prayer. (Source: 5/21/01, Christian News.)

Bruce Wilkinson would surely proclaim that he both understands and believes in the commonly accepted principles of the normal/literal hermeneutic. In practice, however, for reasons that are quite inexplicable, he has chosen to ignore these principles and write a book using the devotional methodology. The result is that Wilkinson has elevated a little-known, and seemingly unimportant prayer to be the very apex of the Christian life and experience. (Compare this prayer to some of David's or Paul's or Jesus', especially John 17, and ask yourself, "Why has the author chosen the prayer of Jabez?") As has been shown, The Prayer of Jabez is not a proper interpretation of 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 at all. Rather, the author has chosen to spiritualize the text. He made up what he wants it to mean, called for an application based upon his faulty exegesis, underwrote the whole thing with testimonies and anecdotes instead of Scripture, and foisted it upon the church as the long-lost key that will unlock the unfathomable blessings of God. (Source: “I Just Wanted More Land”—Jabez, by Gary E. Gilley, pp. 61-62.) 

Nothing could be more absurd—unless, of course, a massive number of God's people are deceived by such a fad. And, sadly, this is what has happened. (Ibid.)

Closing Note

IF I have been crucified with Christ, and IF it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, AND the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and delivered Himself up for me, THEN the prayer of Jabez is irrelevant to my life. Why? Because the Christ in me would not seek the Father's blessing for Himself, but for those around  me. And our prayers should always be for our neighbor first, not ourselves.  

Apart from all this, is not the blessing of having Jesus the Lord of my life, and of having eternal life, blessing enough? If I believe He cares for my good and I truly am relying on His promises of provision, I have no need to ask for a blessing. All He gives to me is sufficient. And if He thinks I am lacking anything, He will see to it my needs are met.


Notes from a Review by Albert James Dager
Media Spotlight, Vol. 24 - No. 1

1)  Wilkinson offers what he says is a new discovery for effective prayer. By praying the prayer that Jabez prayed, Wilkinson claims, we can receive abundant blessings God longs to give us. 

2)  The man Jabez is found in two short verses of 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, midst the genealogy of King David. Between Coz who begat Anub and Zobebah, and Chelub who begat Mehir, we find Jabez. He just appears out of nowhere; there is no mention of who begat him, or whom he begat. He's just there.  No praise is given to anyone else in the genealogy; only Jabez is so honored by God. This has prompted Wilkinson to assume there must have been something extraordinary in Jabez's prayer for God to include it in what Wilkinson calls the "boring" history of Israel's family tree. 

3)  Wilkinson  asks, "How do I know that praying Jabez's prayer will significantly impact you?"  His answer: "Because of my experience and the testimony of hundreds of others around the world with whom I’ve shared these principles. Because, more importantly, the Jabez prayer distills God's powerful will for your future. Finally, because it reveals that your Father longs to give you so much more than you may have ever thought to ask for." 

4)  Wilkinson looks for God to "release something miraculous" in his life. However, chastisement may be miraculous, too, even if it isn't the pleasant "blessing" for which Wilkinson looks.  Such thinking assumes that when something miraculous is not being released in one's life, one is not being blessed. 

5)  Wilkinson draws some erroneous conclusions about ministry:  "When you start asking in earnest—begging—for more influence and responsibility with which to honor Him, God will bring opportunities and people into your path. You can trust Him that He will never send someone to you whom you cannot help by His leading strength." Not true. God sends detractors to try us by fire and to refine our faith. Some may be sent by God so that His Word through us might condemn them for their hard hearts. Wilkinson's careless approach implies that nothing but overtly "good" things will come our way. Tell that to Paul, Peter, and all the saints who have suffered for their faith. 

6)  Wilkinson applies to Jabez's prayer something that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus:  "Think of it this way: Instead of standing near the river's edge, asking for a cup of water to get you through each day, you'll do something unthinkable—you will take the little prayer with the giant prize and jump into the river!" (Emphasis Wilkinson’s.)  But read for yourself what Jesus said (Matthew 6:25-34). When our prayers focus so much on what we can get from God, we must question whether we are praying properly. 

7)  The Jabez prayer asks that God's hand might be upon him. Wilkinson states that this insures God's intervention in difficult situations which we initiate: " As God’s chosen, blessed sons and daughters, we are expected to attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed … unless God steps in …  With that, we release God's power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities." In truth, anyone who jumps out to do something at which he knows he will fail unless God intervenes is tempting God. This is one of the worst pieces of advice one can give. It is one thing to be led by the Spirit of God into areas over which it is impossible to gain the victory without Him. To "jump into the river" expecting God to rescue us in utter foolishness. 

8)  Wilkinson states that our "surrendered need turns into [God's] unlimited opportunity. And He becomes great through you."  Just who is in charge here? God isn't looking for "unlimited opportunity" that we may grant Him though our "surrendered need." The true servant of God is directed by the Holy Spirit, not by his own designs for greatness in serving God.  Nor does God "become great" through us. God is as great as He's going to get. We can do nothing to make Him greater. Such lack of understanding calls into question Wilkinson's qualification to teach anyone anything, let alone how to pray. 

9)  Wilkinson's lack of understanding is further evidenced when he says, "When we ask for God's mighty presence like Jabez and the early church did, we will also see tremendous results that can be explained only as from the hand of God …  They were known as a community who spent hours and even days in prayer together, waiting upon God and asking for His power (see Acts 2:42-47)."  Take a look at Acts 2:42-47. Where in those verses were they asking for God's power? God's power came at the right time in accordance with the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32. We don't know exactly for what they were praying. So we cannot know that they were asking for "God’s mighty presence." Such conjecture is typical of those who approach the Scriptures with their theological presuppositions. 

10) Jabez prayed for God to keep him from evil in order that it not grieve Him. Here Wilkinson warns the reader not to be complacent, in that the more you do for God, the more Satan will attack you.  Maybe yes; maybe no. This is not an iron-clad given. What Satan does is up to God more than it is up to Satan. No evil can touch us unless God allows it. Some people give Satan credit for more power than he possesses.

11) Wilkinson contends that God will keep us from evil and will protect our "spiritual investment." Yet in spite of his praying the Jabez prayer for thirty years, he has been involved with Promise Keepers from the start. What does that tell us about keeping from evil? 

12) We cannot build a theology of prayer upon one verse of Scripture that merely tells us what someone prayed.  It never ceases to amaze me how men try to tell us how to pray, meditate, and approach God by different means than that offered by the Lord.  Jesus didn't mean we are to pray by rote the prayer He offered as an example. It is a model for prayer. Except for the plea to keep us from evil, it does not model Jabez's prayer.  If Jabez's prayer is meant for all believers, why didn't Jesus just refer His disciples to that Old Testament verse? 

13) Now, not everything Wilkinson has to say is in error. But his little book is little more than spiritual fluff.  It is more anecdotal than Scriptural, supposing that a man's "experience" is to be desired above God's Word. For that matter, if thousands of people follow any rote practice, you can be sure a number of them will come back with good reports. They assume that anything "good" that happens to them after they begin their ritual must be because of the ritual.

[See also a review by Ralph Dettwiler.]
[See also a review by Berit Kjos.]


Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 3/2003

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