Rev. Davis is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, North Port, Florida.
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life
By Bruce Wilkinson
A VERY DANGEROUS BOOK!
Reviewed by Rev. Bruce C. Davis
In I Chronicles 4:9-10, the prayer of Jabez is recorded. “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.” Jabez sought the blessing of God and asked for His protection, provision, and guidance; God was pleased in His sovereign good pleasure to answer this prayer for His name’s sake. Many people now know about this prayer through a short (92 pages) best-selling book, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, by Bruce Wilkinson, founder and president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries in Atlanta. In fact, over four million copies have been sold since the book was published about sixteen months ago. The author asserts that “People…are excited about what happens to them when they pray Jabez. They get a whole new vision of what can happen to them. God can bless them a whole lot, but they must ask for it….”
The publisher’s promotion on the back cover and the author’s preface to the book clearly reveal the unbiblical direction in which the book will take its readers.
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.
(From the back cover)
I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief—only one sentence with four parts—and tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains the 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.
(From author’s preface)
A true call to prayer should be welcomed anytime, and such a call to prayer takes seriously what the Word of God teaches on prayer. The Prayer of Jabez fails miserably in this regard. The book unashamedly deviates greatly from historic Christian teaching on prayer that is consistent with the Word of God and the Reformed confessions and catechisms. The flaws and weaknesses of the author’s theology are consistently promoted as biblical truth throughout the book. From a biblical perspective, this book is very dangerous. The errors are subtle because the author uses broadly Christian vocabulary, language that is strikingly similar and identical to the language used in word-faith and other charismatic movements. Many points that the author asserts are true are simply not true when evaluated in the light of God’s Word. Some examples are the following statements: “He (God) becomes great through you.” “When you take little steps, you don’t needGod.” “He (God) will never send someone to you whom you cannot help.”
Wilkinson advocates praying the prayer of Jabez verbatim, word-for-word, for a month in order to see the power of God released in our lives. For Wilkinson, the prayer has become the secret to success in every endeavor. God is viewed as a butler who responds in a mechanical manner when certain words are recited. One critique of this book stated that it is so easy for individuals to “read this book and come away thinking that prayer is a series of inputs and outputs.” What seems to matter to the author is finding the right formula to pray and then repeating the formula until the desired results occur. His is a gimmicky approach to prayer. He asserts that the formula he has discovered, if followed diligently according to His instructions, guarantees successful praying.
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).
For Wilkinson, the main thing in prayer is not a focus on God’s character and ways and purposes but on man’s character and method of praying and his desires that God is obligated to grant him as the prayer of Jabez is offered to God on a daily basis. Prayer, according to Wilkinson’s interpretation of Jabez’s prayer, is not God-centered and based on the merits of Jesus Christ but rather man-centered and based on man’s desires and formula in approaching God. In this bizarre approach to prayer, we effectively cause God to become our servant. We end up boxing Him into a corner so that He has to answer our prayers just as we want Him to. We put God into a position so that He cannot say “no” to the countless repetitions of this prayer. Thus God is coerced and manipulated into answering our prayers. He is put into a position in which He has to give you what He longs to give you but wouldn’t give you apart from responding to this particular prayer.
Wilkinson’s book is surely a cruel book in that it teaches that if we fail to see God’s power unleashed and receive miracles by praying this prayer, we are undoubtedly spiritually deficient. Our faith has not brought about the desired blessings. What devastation there must be when a person, while praying this prayer, goes through one of God’s dark and frowning providences, e.g., a death of a child, a terminal illness, a loss of employment. What is God doing by ordering these hardships and afflictions while the person is busy praying the prayer of Jabez on a daily basis? Wilkinson offers no biblical answers.
There are many things in the book that contribute to its being unsound theologically and unbiblical in its propositions. The book advocates that it is the will of God that His people always prosper in material, earthly things, and that His people should have whatever they desire. The prayer of Jabez, prayed according to Wilkinson’s instructions, is supposed to guarantee the obtaining of the desire of our hearts. This kind of thinking and acting is consistent, not with the Word of God, but with the health, wealth, and prosperity perversion of the gospel and the “name it and claim it” crowd. Wilkinson’s careless and reckless approach to prayer is an affront to God’s people who suffer for His sake according to His will.
The book does not give Jesus Christ the preeminence in our prayers. In fact, our abiding union with Jesus Christ and our access to the Father through Him is minimized at best and largely ignored in the book. Christ’s name is mentioned only a few times in the whole book. Sin is discussed as a barrier before God in our prayers, but it is viewed as something that we can make right ourselves, a mere bad habit that we can break rather than a disease that is incurable apart from the grace of God in Christ.
A great emphasis in the book is on rituals, formulas, and repetition. Prayer is seen to be efficacious and virtuous the more it is repeated. Daily and weekly rituals are suggested in the book in order to assist people in praying the prayer of Jabez over and over; but our Lord warns us in the gospels of the danger of vain repetition and empty rituals in prayer. Wilkinson’s overall position on prayer seems to be unscriptural and an eclectic blending of various prayer traditions with a veneer of Christianity.
Wilkinson ignores the centrality of the Lord’s Prayer as our model prayer, and, for all intents and purposes and without any biblical warrant, substitutes the prayer of Jabez for the Lord’s Prayer. Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches one thing; Bruce Wilkinson teaches the opposite. Who is right and who is wrong should not be a difficult judgment to make.
Wilkinson uses the word “miracles” very frequently and loosely in this book. His understanding of miracles is not according to the Bible. The prayer of Jabez, which becomes a selfish and self-centered prayer through Wilkinson’s spin on it, is to be repeated in order to bring about the release of God’s blessings and receive miracles.
Wilkinson’s testimony is that his experiences over the years validate his method of praying. His own “success stories” and those of others are reinforcement of his conviction that vain repetition of this prayer results in the prosperity of the one praying. Therefore, the experiences of men are exalted above the Word of God, according to Wilkinson. But this is no different from the many adherents of false religions who ascribe validity and legitimacy to their respective religions and beliefs because of whatever “successes” they have. So many assume that anything “good” that happens to them after they begin engaging in some ritual must be because of the ritual itself. Wilkinson, by his own testimony, falls into this camp.
Is it legitimate to use biblically the prayer of Jabez in our own prayer life? Of course it is. But is it the only prayer we should pray? Of course not. There are many other prayers in the Bible that should be incorporated into our personal and corporate prayers. But in answer to the question, “Do you Jabez?” you should answer a resounding “No!” Following the instructions of this book will be spiritually disastrous. Although there are true statements among all the false and anti-biblical teachings of the book, at best all the author offers his readers is spiritual fluff that is as helpful to the readers’ spiritual development as a teaspoon is to someone wanting to empty an ocean. This book is not a nugget of gold but rather a lump of coal. Avoid it and books like it at all costs. The author is not qualified or competent to teach others concerning the Christian life or how we are to pray to our covenant God.