The Prayer of Jabez

by Mal Couch

President & Professor of Theology & Languages
Tyndale Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX

 

  In 2000, a little book by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson took the evangelical world by storm. This small 93 page hardback volume by Multnomah Publishers seemed to touch a certain felt-need that few books have done in recent years. The book received immediate response and won the Golden Medallion Award in 2001 from the Evangelical Press Association. From a popularity standpoint, the author must have done something right. Wilkinson is founder and president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries that has a worldwide reach in helping people understand the unfolding plan of Scripture.

 But what is going on? Does the book reflect what the Bible teaches? Does the book give false impressions as to what the Word of God actually teaches about prayer? How could such a very small devotional book prove so successful? What is it saying that other inspirational and devotional books are missing?

 We may not be able to answer all of these questions successfully. But because of the way the book has been received, and because of its message, an attempt to find answers may be important.

 First, let me say how dangerous it is to do such a critique on a book that is receiving such rave reviews. Some may call anyone who tries to evaluate this work, “a spoil sport” who wishes his books would have similar success. Or, many may raise the question, “Why are you even spending so much time on answering the book? Don't you have better things to do?”

 In fairness it is important to say that there are some good things in The Prayer of Jabez that Bible believing readers will appreciate. And it should also be pointed out, that while this critique will try to be candid, no one can out-guess the motive of Wilkinson as to why he wrote the book. But we have an obligation to evaluate what he put down in print.

Who Was Jabez?

  The man Jabez appears to drop in out of the blue in a very detailed chronological section found in 1 Chronicles 4. Only two verses (9-10) give to us the story of Jabez.

 And 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 Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldst keep me from harm, that it may not pain me!' And God granted him what he requested.

 Without a doubt this man was an honorable and wise believer in the God of Israel. It is probable that he is the same person whose name is mentioned in 2:55. In that passage, because of the spiritual fame of Jabez, a town or an area of territory was named after him. What is so interesting is that 2:55 says, “And the families of scribes (the Sopherim, secretaries, teachers of the Law, the wise men)…lived at Jabez.” Thus, Jabez possibly was responsible for establishing a school, library, or training center for men to study the Scriptures. But this cannot be one hundred percent proven.

 The name Jabez means “pain, sorrow.” Apparently his mother experienced a painful delivery at the time of his birth. There seems to be a play on this thought when Jabez shows concern about God keeping him from harm, “that it may not pain me!” With this we are not certain what Jabez has in mind. Is this spiritual pain or the fear of enemies taking his life? The passage does not give us the answers.

 Technically, Jabez does not make a request of the Lord. The Hebrew text actually reads in the intensive Piel verb forms, “to greatly bless [Piel Inf.], let Him greatly bless me! [Piel Imperf.]” This is in the form of a vocative or a wish, not exactly a request. Gill calls this a supplication, “oh, that Thou wouldst bless me, indeed!” [1] The rabbinical commentaries translate it as an idiom, “if to bless Thou wilt bless me.” [2]

 The last part of verse 10 reads in Hebrew, “and if thine hand will be with me, and thou wilt deal without (Heb. away from) evil, that I suffer not!” [3] Or, “Grant that the grief implied in my name may not come upon me!” [4]

 In this passage we actually read of the heart and the desire of Jabez. Prayer is a blessed privilege for all believers in God. But Jabez was pouring his heart out to the Lord with a great sigh, desire, and wish, that God would bless him. And indeed, the God of Israel gave him the wish of his very soul. We read, “God granted him what [he] requested.” The Hebrew text confirms what we have just written. “Requested” is the Hebrew word sha'al and should be better translated in this context, “wish for, desire.” [5]  

The Problem

  The problem with Wilkinson's book is not his focus on the spiritual and physical longings that Jabez poured forth to the Lord. The problem comes in the expansion into our period of time, with blanket statements, by which Wilkinson paints the picture that all requests (or even wishes) put before the Lord will come about today just exactly the way we want. It would appear that Wilkinson has joined the Faith Movement that he is advocating the Wealth, Health and Prosperity teaching!

 Does he write certain ideas in his book that would lead the reader to believe this? Has he given in to the popular philosophies and teachings of the day, espoused by many in the Christian television ministries that say we should have everything we desire if we simply ask for it?

The Doctrine of Prayer

  Before going on it is important to review how the Lord does indeed hear and respond to us. We can find in the Bible examples of the Lord answering our requests with: (1) yes, (2) no, and (3) later.

  (1) There are thousands of examples in Scripture of the Lord answering prayer with a yes. Everyone who trusts the Lord has seen Him answer in a positive way many of the prayers we pray. Often, however, the answer does not come in the form we wish. Looking back over my life I can see how the Lord dealt with me in a better manner than I would have dared to imagine. So the fact that God does indeed answer prayer is a given!

  (2) Paul's thorn in the flesh is an example of the heavenly Father saying no to the pleading words of the apostle (2 Cor. 12:1-10). Paul says he entreated God three times for the thorn to be removed (v. 8). However, finally he understood by revelation that the thorn was given to keep him from exalting himself (v. 7). The Lord further showed him, “My grace is sufficient for you; for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). By this the apostle learned that through his weaknesses “the power of Christ may dwell in me” (v. 9b).

 A crucial but mysterious lesson comes to us when God says no. He may have other more important purposes for us than we can see on the surface. We do not understand all things clearly. And, since He is the Potter and we are the clay, He has absolute right over us to do with us as He pleases. The Prosperity folks fail to see this. They want God to do what they want, when they want it! (Shades of the American "Me" generation!)

 (3) The story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1) is a perfect example of the Lord saying, later! Because she had no son, she was tormented by her husband's second wife Peninnah. She was provoked and irritated by her (v. 6), and yet Hannah went up year after year to the Tabernacle pleading with the Lord for a child (v. 7). In great spiritual pain she was “oppressed in spirit” and “poured out” her soul before the Lord (v. 15). It was the Lord who withheld from her a child (v. 5), but opened her womb at His own proper moment later (v. 20).

Why Prayers May Not Be Answered

  They may not be answered because the request may not be for honoring Christ. Jesus said, “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you” (John 15:16b). While this promise may look so simple, it has some complications, because many of our prayers are selfish and are not for the glory or the name of Christ. Our egos are so magnified that we usually do not realize that our prayers have only our own interests in view.

 They simply miss the mark. Paul reminds us that we sometimes “do not know how to pray as we should” (Rom. 8:26b). This is why he adds that the Holy Spirit intercedes “for the saints according to the will of God” (v. 27). The Spirit pleads before the Father the deep issues of the spiritual life that we are too limited to fully understand (v. 26b).

 They can often be selfish and self-serving. James writes, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). James implies that our prayers may be for things that are really from the world (v. 4). He adds, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (v. 4b).

 They can be shortsighted and do not take into account the will of God. James warns believers of thinking they are the captains of their own ships. All of our prayers must still operate under the overall providence and will of God. James chides believers who think they will still be alive next year and, because of their own personal efforts and immortality, simply do what they want to do (4:13). James argues, instead of thinking you will live tomorrow and do your own pleasure, “you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that'” (v. 15). “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (v. 14).

 They are not answered because of sin in the life. A perfect example comes from the epistles of the apostle Peter. One of Peter's concerns is in regard to how husbands treat their wives (1 Pet. 3:7-12). If the men fail to honor their wives as fellow heirs of the grace of life, their prayers will be hindered and not heard (v. 7).

 It may be true that Wilkinson lightly touches on some of the above principles in his book. But the overwhelming impression that one comes away with when reading The Prayer of Jabez, is that by a prayer formula, miracles will happen almost automatically in the life of the child of God. In a sense, there are some solid doctrinal things said, but too often, there is the mixing of oil and water--error with truth. As well, there are phrases that come straight out of the heresy of the cult of Unity, and as well, from extreme mysticism. However, this author hopefully wishes to give the benefit of the doubt to Dr. Wilkinson, that he did not intend to bring heretical thoughts into his book.

What the Book The Prayer of Jabez is Saying

  Release and empowerment. On the back cover of the Jabez book we read, “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 can then, “break through to the life you were meant to live.”

 The Scriptures never paint the picture that blessings are withheld from us, in the way stated above. The hindrances that blunt the believer's witness have to do with carnality (being fleshly; 1 Cor. 3:2-3), and as well, by sin that grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-31). The statements above give the impression that the Lord's plans are thwarted and that He is helpless to use His children as He sees fit. The statements also make it sound as if the believer is really in control of how God acts and responds.

 A Prayer that God always answers. In the Preface statements in the front of the book, Wilkinson writes that we can “still ask God for the world.” We may do this by using the prayer of Jabez, “a daring prayer that God always answers,” and that “contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.” (Preface) Further, Wilkinson writes, this prayer “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.”

 The prayer of Jabez has to do with Jabez. It does not reflect how God deals with each believer on a daily basis in this dispensation. Many believers suffer physically. Many are thrown into persecution and poverty. Why does the author think we can ask for the world? Why would he say that God always answers this prayer?

 In God's providence, His power is using all of us as He sees fit, literally second by second! But that power may not be the external, energetic blasting work of God that expels energy in all directions. It may be in quietness whereby spiritual wars are won slowly and progressively. Wilkinson is hitching a ride with those who only want a dynamic sensational acting God, and they want Him to work right now!

 How does Wilkinson know that thousands are applying the truths of the prayer of Jabez on a regular basis and seeing daily miracles? The copy of the book I have in my hand was published in 2000. Does Wilkinson have absolute evidence that thousands have seen miracles when this printing of the book came out? Maybe so! But this is a pretty big statement.

 That God heals, that God can perform miracles, that God is using His children, have never been issues with some of us who are cautious about the Jabez book. The concern lies in the fact that the hype creates an expectation as to how God must perform in the way we see fit, and not the way He really works in this world.

 And what of the statement, “ask God for the world.” In my opinion, this is wrong theology. Humility says, “Oh God, I will not ask for the world! Just mature me and use me a day at a time. I'm too limited and stupid to dare ask for the world!”

 Putting words in the mouth of Jabez. Wilkinson seems to give us a wrong view of Jabez. He writes about this man, “He wanted more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark for the God of Israel” (p. 30). Wilkinson adds, “When Jabez cried out to God, 'Enlarge my territory!' he was looking at his present circumstances and concluding, 'Surely I was born for more than this!'” (p. 31). Is this really what the context of 1 Chronicles is saying about Jabez? Hopefully, all of us want to serve the Lord. But the statement, “Surely I was born for more than this!” seems to be what many Christians in our present day are saying. This is not the Jabez I seem to find in Scripture!

Wilkinson continues to try to out-guess Jabez. He writes,

 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 fears 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)

 This is not the way 1 Chronicles 4:10 reads! The text tells us Jabez longs and wishes for God to bless him, and then says, “Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border.” The borders did not get moved by themselves! Jabez asks God to move them! This, by the way, seems to be a statement of both expansion and protection. He asks God to extend the borders probably as an act of defense.

 God is waiting? The apostle Paul tells us, “It is God who is working in you, both to the willing and the doing of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Though it is true that God may shelve us because of carnality, still His work will be accomplished with us, without us, through, over, and under us—if He so desires! But Wilkinson seems to me to write with a certain Arminian flare that is not biblical. He writes, God “is waiting for you to ask,” for example, about increasing your executive and business opportunities (p. 31). He adds, “Asking Him to enlarge that [business] opportunity brings Him only delight.” (p. 32)

 While it is true we should ask God to bless our work, what if it is God's will to close down your business? What if the businessman is killing his family with his job? And what if materialism is eating away at his spirit and his emotions? What I believe Wilkinson misses is that we should say, “God if you wish to bless my work…I am not adequate for this task. Please keep my priorities straight!” In my experience, only a few Christian businessmen can maintain a sense of balance with great success. The question should always be, “But God what do you want of me?”

 Too often in the book Wilkinson seems to be saying that God's blessings come mainly in the realm of prosperity and success. I pray that he really does not mean this. But again, certain things he writes gives the reader that idea. And the idea that God seems to be waiting on us and somewhat helpless appears to be very evident in the book. What if our victories are but very small spiritual changes, in our lives or in others? What if seed is planted that will not bear fruit for some years in the future? What if we are sacrificed on the altar of persecution and are never blessed and rewarded until glory?

 Wilkinson says, when you pray, “You will know beyond doubt that God has opened heaven's storehouses because you prayed” (p. 84). But what if God wishes to bless us despite ourselves. Are we really that good and faithful that we cause Him to finally open His storehouses? And what if He decides to withhold blessing or health from us, for His own purposes and His divine, mysterious will? Does this mean we are failures?

 So much that Wilkinson writes seems contrary to what the apostle Paul pens in his Philippian letter while suffering for Christ's sake:

 I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things [under all these circumstances] through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11-13).

Paul also writes,

 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. . Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:8-17).

 Instant change! It's up to you! Again sounding very Arminian, Wilkinson writes,

 God really does have unclaimed blessings waiting for you…your want for God's plenty—has been His loving will for your life from eternity past…you can proceed from this day forward with the confidence and expectation that your heavenly Father will bring it to pass for you. (p. 17)

 With all due respect, God does with us as He pleases. But Wilkinson says that we stand by the river's edge, and if we pray the prayer of Jabez,

 at that moment, you will begin to let the loving currents of God's grace and power carry you along. God's great plan for you will surround you and sweep you forward into the profoundly important and satisfying life He has waiting. (p. 17)

 But what if, as we humans measure things, God has a small place for you in His providence? What if He allows cancer to strike, or takes you home in an automobile crash? Cannot the Potter and the Master do with us, the clay, as He pleases? Yet in the language Wilkinson uses, there is little room for an absolute sovereign God to have His will in our lives! Success as a Christian depends upon us!

 I pray that Wilkinson does not believe this, but his book certainly does reflect this philosophy.

Wilkinson goes on:

 Ask God every day to bless you—and while He's at it, bless you a lot. God's bounty is limited only by us…God's nature is to bless…What counts is knowing who you want to be and asking for it. Through a simple, believing prayer, you can change your future. You can change what happens one minute from now. (p. 29)

 And he writes, “You will change your legacy and bring supernatural blessings wherever you go” (pp. 91-92).

 The apostle Paul tells us that God has already “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” and that He has saved us by predestining us as sons through “Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:3, 5). In this life there are no absolute physical and material guarantees that He gives us. Through the corridors of sin and pain, He is leading us to a better time and a more glorious land. This world, and the promise of a surface prosperity, is not what Christianity is all about!

 Notice also that Wilkinson writes that you can change what happens “one minute from now.” In other words, your life and your destiny are in your own hands, not the hands of the Lord! And instant success will come upon you. No waiting. No seasoning. No trials and sacrifice. It is all going to happen to you “one minute from now.”

 Empowerment and release. There has never been a question about the biblical doctrine of how the Holy Spirit uses believers. The power of the Spirit of God does indeed work in us to cause us to carry out His purposes. But by His providence, He works in ways that are not our ways! Our present generation has been so influenced by the Charismatic Movement that we only look for explosive and energetic spiritual happenings. The small quiet workings of God's Spirit are too slow for our fast-paced view of the Christian life.

 Many verses may be cited that speak of the way the Lord really extends His divine power. For example, Paul writes to the Corinthians and the Ephesians of, “the power of God directed toward you” (2 Cor. 13:4), and, how God works “His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:29). It is certainly true that generally He works “faith with power” (2 Thess. 1:11). But many today are seeking almost a magical power that is explosive and can always be measured by an outward, physical manifestation. Wilkinson says that if a businessman is doing his work God's way, “it's not only right to ask for more, but He is waiting for you to ask.” (p. 31) From this statement, it is not a far leap to believe that God is rather passive and impotent, and simply has to wait on us to get anything accomplished.

 To become empowered is not a bad thought in itself, but it has become a signet cry of the Charismatic mentality and represents their thirst for some "sign" manifestation.

  It would probably be correct to say that Wilkinson's Jabez is popular because it has captured the language of the most mystical Christians of today. Wilkinson became the ally of those always needing and seeking empowerment and manifestation. For example Wilkinson writes that Jabez, “distills God's powerful will for your future” (p. 12). (What Wilkinson means by this is a theological puzzle to this author!) He adds, “Each of Jabez' requests can release something miraculous in your life.” (p. 15), and by praying the prayer of Jabez often, “As you repeat the steps, you will set in motion a cycle of blessing that will keep multiplying what God is able to do in and through you.” (p. 83)

 If you plead as Jabez did, according to Wilkinson, you have a guarantee of explosive events in your life! He writes, “You and I are always only one plea away from inexplicable, Spirit-enabled exploits. By His touch you can experience supernatural enthusiasm, boldness, and power. It's up to you.” (pp. 60-61) It is hard to believe, because of Wilkinson's theological training that he would say, “It's up to you”!

 But Wilkinson goes on and says that, with the prayer of Jabez, “..we release God's power to accomplish His will and bring Him glory through all those seeming impossibilities,” (p. 48) “then asking for God's hand upon us is our strategic choice to sustain and continue the great things that God has begun in our lives” (p. 49).

  It does not take long to understand in Wilkinson's writings just who is actually in charge of the blessings that start to flow around us. It is not the Lord! God is impotent and has to completely wait on us to accomplish His will! Statements like those above pander to the flesh and glorify self-importance and personal power. But to be fair, we really are not convinced that Wilkinson believes this! Yet it is impossible to escape the meaning of such wild statements that are found on almost every page of his book Jabez.

 The violation of the doctrine of miracles. The sovereignty and providence of God never takes a lunch break! The Lord is moving all things to a specific end. However, in that providence He also answers prayers and changes the course of the events in His world. Yet again, His will is not thwarted or put on hold! But to say that His providential work in our lives is always to be called the miraculous, is not good biblical theology!

 Wilkinson speaks of miracles in Jabez as Charismatics often do when they emphasize signs and wonders. While not using the words signs and wonders, Wilkinson comes very close to doing just that. He calls God's daily leading, blessing, and providence, a miracle! He says, by praying the daring prayer of Jabez, “God always answers…[this prayer] contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God.” And, Wilkinson himself experiences “every day His power [because of this prayer],” whereby one is “seeing miracles happen on a regular basis.” (Preface) How this works is not explained, but Wilkinson further states, “each of Jabez' requests can release something miraculous in your life” (p. 15). This is a statement implying mysticism not miracle! He goes on, “Your life will become marked by miracles.” (pp. 24-25) Such miracles can be yours because, “Through a simple, believing prayer, you can change your future. You can change what happens one minute from now” (p. 29).

 Would not every human being on earth like to have such a guarantee and a promise of having such authority with God and His will?

 Wilkinson then further confuses miracles with God's ongoing providential working with His children. He writes, “Miracles don't have to break natural law to be a supernatural event.” (p. 43) He adds, “Plead with Him, 'Lord, use me…you release miracles.' At that moment, heaven sends angels, resources, strength, and the people you need…You'll have a front-row seat in a life of miracles” (p. 44).

 What an astounding overstatement that is meant to first and foremost trigger great emotional exuberance because God must do things in our lives just the way we wish. God is placed in a box; He must dance to our tune!

 As all of us present each prayer to the Lord, we do not know how His own great work will be accomplished. The Lord does things His way, in His own time. But notice the instantaneousness of how this prayer is to be answered. No waiting. God must respond suddenly at the call of the believer. And furthermore, all resources will be provided quickly! Even angels are on call to do what you have requested!

 Finally Wilkinson argues, that by praying the Jabez prayer, you can rush back into God's presence. “Don't squander even for a minute the miracle that He has started in your life.” (p. 85)

 How sad! And how demanding that God cannot be God and do as He pleases in His world!

 Bible students who have done their homework would not agree with Wilkinson. The Scriptures speak of miracles, but what is said is most important. The Bible speaks of miracle (dunamis), sign (semeion), or wonder (teras). About miracles Edgar writes:

 There is no explicit statement in the New Testament that … miracles were performed by members of the local church. If someone insists that the Corinthian church actually performed all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, then there is still no proof that any other church performed such ministries. In other words, there is no evidence that miracle-working…[was] in the first-century Church. They were not common but were mainly performed by the apostles. The Epistles definitely state that miracles… were for the confirmation of the gospel message as it was proclaimed in new areas…The miracles in Acts were performed for and before multitudes, did not depend on the recipient's faith, never failed, and were performed almost en masse. This fits perfectly with the opinion that the miracles (sign gifts) were to confirm the gospel to unbelievers. They were not primarily for the benefit of the faithful. They were not evidence of someone's faith…The claims of modern-day proponents of…miracles do not agree with the practice of the early Church, nor with the purpose, nor with the results. [6]

 Edgar seems to speak to Wilkinson's Jabez book when he further writes:

 Christians often wonder, How can I live the Christian life to its fullest?…Is my justification sufficient so that by faith, I can live the Christian life as God intended? Can I be satisfied with that which God has provided for me in Christ? For many the answer is, No. A large number of Christians, called “charismatics,” say that we need more. What all believers received when they believed in Jesus Christ is not enough [for them]. Every believer needs more [they say] in the sense of supernatural evidence, including miracles…They look for personal, self-oriented miracles as evidence of God's presence and power. The desire for these miracles is caused by a basic lack of satisfaction with a life of faith. This sense of lack is a consistent testimony from those who turn to the charismatic position…The stress among charismatics today is on miraculous experiences, experiences that serve mainly to confirm and strengthen the individual believer and to make one's ministry effective. [7]

 Did the book of Acts say that? Though it is very subtle, Wilkinson puts false doctrinal thoughts into the book of Acts. Referring to Acts 4:23-31, he says:

 the early church believers continually sought to be filled by 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). They were longing to receive more of God's “hand”—a fresh spiritual in-filling of God's power that would turn impending, certain failure into a miracle. (pp. 55-56)

 In the study of the Bible, it is important to avoid putting words in the mouth of the Lord or in the mouths and thoughts of His servants. The book of Acts does not paint the picture that Wilkinson thinks he sees in the statement above. It is true that the apostles and a larger number of believers gathered for prayer, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 14). But what they were thinking about this new work of God's Spirit, we are not told. Acts 2:42-47 also does not prove they were "waiting upon God and asking for His power." Acts 4:23-31 as well does not show the apostles “continually” seeking to be filled by God. Though it is true that after they prayed (v. 31), the Spirit sovereignly came upon them and filled them! But there is no indication that they prayed for this filling.

 Wilkinson does not keep his doctrine straight. In Acts, the filling of the Holy Spirit was indeed a sovereign work, whereas, with the filling (or control) of the Spirit mentioned only once in Paul's epistles (Eph.5:18), the believer becomes aware of this work which does not come about automatically, except with a request. Wilkinson ties the sovereign filling of the Spirit in Acts, with the filling by request in Ephesians. This is faulty biblical exposition!

 But does the apostle Paul tell us in Ephesians how we will be filled in order to be empowered to do mighty outward physical accomplishments? Does this filling “release” God's work for extraordinary ministry assignments? (p. 56)

 Paul prays that God grant the Ephesian Christians “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you … may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (3:16-19).

 Note: The power is to be in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you may be able to comprehend,…and to know the love of Christ…that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

 What Wilkinson tries to make these verses in Ephesians three say is not there. Paul is writing about a deep spiritual working of God in the inner man. A spiritual maturity and comprehension are in view, not the explosive, energetic accomplishments that are so prevalent in the teaching of mystical Christians today. Wilkinson concludes Chapter Four by writing about this filling, with these words: “You and I are always only one plea away from inexplicable, Spirit-enabled exploits…It's up to you” (pp. 60-61). For the most part, what Wilkinson writes in Jabez is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. However, it is more than foreign; it contradicts the spirit and the doctrines of Pauline theology. It panders to the flesh and human-power, though Wilkinson would certainly argue that this is not his intention. However, his words speak for themselves.

 The Christian mantra! The dictionary says that a Hindu or Buddhist mantra “is a sacred word or formula repeated as an incantation, or stock phrase.”

 Before reading Jabez I was warned by many outstanding Bible scholars that the book reflects such a mantra approach to the prayer of Jabez. This was hard to believe at first but my fears were proven to be correct.

 Wilkinson urges his readers to follow “unwaveringly the [30 day] plan outlines” in order to notice “significant changes in your life” (p. 86). What is the plan? On pages 86-87 he writes:  

1. 1.      Pray Jabez' prayer every morning. Keep a chart of your prayers.
2. 2.      Write out the prayer and put it on your bathroom mirror.
3. 3.      Reread this Prayer of Jabez book often.
4. 4.      Tell another person of your new prayer habit.
5. 5.      Begin to keep a record of changes in your life, especially the divine appointments and new opportunities you can relate directly to the Jabez prayer.
(Italics mine)
6. 6.      Pray the Jabez prayer for others.

 The clincher: “It's only what you believe will happenand therefore do next that will release God's power for you…when you act, you will step up to God's best for you” (p. 87). This statement is similar to the Hindu visualization and the Charismatic "name-it-and-claim-it" approach to prayer. God is bound to act when you simply believe that He will act in the way you wish. All of this makes possible “confidence in the present-tense power and reality of your prayers…you're praying in the will and pleasure of God. …You sense…the rightness of praying like this” (p. 91).

 The Hindu and Unity connections. Hindu writer Shakti Gawain in his book Creative Visualization (New York: Bantam, 1985) writes ideas very similar to Wilkinson. I am not claiming Wilkinson got his material from this book, but the connection of like-thoughts is frightening. Shakti writes:

 All things are now working together for good in my life [because] I am now attuned to the divine plan of my life. (p. 23) Always phrase affirmations in the present tense, not [simply] in the future. (p. 24) (Wilkinson: “Confidence in the present-tense power.”)

 Try as much as possible to create a feeling of belief, an experience that [the affirmations] can be true. (p. 25)

 Christ within me is creating miracles in my life here and now. (p. 26)

 Unity teacher Catherine Ponder writes about “affirming the divine plan” in the human experience. “There is a divine plan for my life. That divine plan is unfolding for me now.” [8] She gives an example of several businessmen who affirmed God's divine plan with the result, “They quickly observed a new surge of growth in business which brought increased prosperity” (p. 124). Shades of what Wilkinson writes!

Conclusion

 Wilkinson believes that the prayer of Jabez did something miraculous in his life. He writes, “As I look back over this divine appointment, I can see the footprints of Jabez and his little prayer” (p. 82). In so many words Wilkinson says it produced some kind of great spiritual happening in his worldwide ministry. “Let me encourage you, friend, to reach boldly for the miracle” (Ibid.). “I don't know what you call that, but I have always called it the miracle of Jabez” (p. 90).

 As already pointed out, the Jabez book is a mixture of oil and water. But it is the oil, that represents the things that are biblically and theologically incorrect, that is disturbing.

 I urge you to pass this Journal article to someone who may be fooled by what Wilkinson writes. His little book is loaded with false doctrine. Beware and examine what the Scriptures really say about the ongoing Christian walk!

 Oh, by the way, I picked up my August 27 edition of Newsweek magazine and found this: Journalist Kenneth Woodward wrote a review of The Prayer of Jabez and said,

 Wilkinson has turned this prayer [of Jabez] into a Christian mantra, claiming in his 94-page tract that if recited faithfully it will bring all sorts of blessings. (p. 47)

 Other publications got into the act! The Wall Street Journal wrote Jabez “is New Age self-help with Christian trappings” (May 25, 2001). Maybe the Wall Street Journal got into the act because in one place Wilkinson wrote, “Lord, increase the value of my investment portfolios.” The New York Times Book Review section wrote,

 Jabez's obscurity, textually and socially, makes him an ideal vehicle for the traditional American Christian narrative of conversion and redemption. Jabez is a biblical everyman, vaguely discontented with his lot and ripe for a turn toward God. As Wilkinson puts it: “Things started badly for a person no one had ever heard of. He prayed an unusual, one-sentence prayer. Things ended extraordinarily well.”… [Wilkinson] promises that if you take the steps, results will be yours within days.” (May 20, 2001)

 Wilkinson did not stop with this one book. He has spawned a Prayer of Jabez Journal, a Prayer of Jabez Bible Study, a Prayer of Jabez for Teens, a Prayer of Jabez Leather-Bound Special Edition, Prayer of Jabez tapes, Prayer of Jabez mugs.

 The deep significance of the prayer of Jabez also seems to have escaped the notice of Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Clement, Eusebius, Ambrose, Augustine and the other early church fathers…Likewise, the shocking truth of the prayer of Jabez seems to have bypassed John Calvin and Martin Luther. (The Plain Truth, September/October 2001)

  Enough said! Even the world, and hopefully many, many believers in Christ, are seeing through much of today's Christian mystical mutterings. Evangelical Christians are certainly divided now, and Satan is having a heyday!

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 [1] John Gill, Gill's Commentary, 6 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 2:459.
[2] A. Cohen, ed., Chronicles (London: Soncino, 1965), p. 21.
[3] Charles John Ellicott, ed., Commentary on the Whole Bible, 4 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1959), 3:231.
[4] F. C. Cook, ed., Barnes' Notes, The Bible Commentary, 14 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 2:323.
[5] William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 357.
[6] Thomas R. Edgar, Miraculous Gifts (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1983), pp. 103-04.
[7] Thomas R. Edgar, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), pp. 11-12.
[8] Catherine Ponder, Open Your Mind to Prosperity (Marina del Rey, CA: DeVorss, 1983), p. 123

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