Bathroom Reading: Praying for Jabez’s Followers

Prayer of Jabez

The only book I currently have sitting in my office is Johnny Cash’s Man in White, and, while I love JR’s music and enjoyed Cash, the book, thus far has been very boring and not at all enthralling up until this point. Thus, when my stomach rumbled at work this morning, I looked at the community bookshelf for some reading material. Unfortunately, nothing jumped out… until… I saw one of my most hated books, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez, or How to Stop Worrying and Live Through Prayer Alone…

Admittedly, I didn’t read the first two chapters of this book this morning with an unbiased view, but I did several years ago when it came out and my mother bought 27 copies to give out to family and friends. From the door, it all seemed wrong to me; come, let us all pray this magic pray and we will be blessed, just like the rich reverend who wrote the book. Now, the prosperity gospel message that the book somewhat introduced into mainstream mainline Christianity in 2000 is flourishing, with preachers like Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and others involved in the Word of Faith movement (as well as other “prosperity theology” movements) all over our televisions, radios, and Barnes and Nobles.

Just last week, I found my self somewhat enraged when reading up on Joyce Meyer. A few weeks before that I argued on an online community about Joel Osteen and the Word of faith movement. Today, I remember this little book that started this mess; this is a book that poses the question, quite literally, if God wants us to be selfish in our prayers. Am I the only one who finds this notion ludicrous?

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (NIV)

In context, this is part of a genealogy. Do I think it means something? Of course. Do I think that Jabez’s prayer had bearing in his life? Yeah, I do. But, to me, it’s important to note that he was and “honorable” man and, that likely means that God blessed him, knowing that these blessings would be a blessing to the world around Jabez, not just Jabez. It is not about wealth, like the mansion Osteen lives in. It is not about Joyce Meyer’s $23,000 toilet either. Wilkinson, the author of this book, seemingly did a lot of good in his life and I don’t know what he did or didn’t do with his wealth and influence, so I won’t say a word about him in this regard… but what the book has since been used to justify is not only a joke, but it is hurtful and dangerous.

I keep coming back to a funny episode of King of Queens that I caught on TV the other week. In the episode, Carrie reluctantly accompanies Doug to church, where she prays about her job during the prayer time. When she gets the raise that she prayed for, she begins praying for all types of material things… for instance, she prays for shoes she wants to go on sale. Doug first criticizes her, then sees that it’s working, then joins in. They keep up this practice until it ends up hurting others (their pastor gets sick, for example)… then after a brief reprieve, they start up again, until it all explodes in their face totally. Funny episode, but not just because it is simply funny, rather funny because it’s true.

This Name-It-Claim-It theology practice by the Word of Faith folks that could very well have begun gaining it’s head of steam with Wilkinson’s book on the Old Testament man named Jabez is really not much different than the Herrernans praying for new shoes and their football team to win. Something to think about, at least.

Please feel encouraged to share your thoughts on this, as I am curious what others think about Jabez, Word of Faith, and the idea of prosperity. Maybe I am looking at it all wrong, but to me, it seems that wealthy folks like to use this to justify their wealth and these preachers are selling God as a magic man who will give you what you want when you want it, as long as you ask.

BONUS: Read on for the worst parable I’ve ever read.

There’s a little fable about a Mr. Jones who dies and goes to heaven. Peter is waiting at the gates to give him a tour. Amid the splendor of golden streets, beautiful mansions, and choirs of angels that Peter shows him, Mr. Jones notices and odd-looking building. He thinks it looks like an enormous warehouse – it has no windows and only one door. But when he asks to see inside, Peter hesitates.

“You really don’t want to see what’s in there,” he tells the new arrival. Why would there be any secrets in heaven? Jones wonders. What incredible surprise could be waiting for me in there? When the official tour is over he’s still wondering, so he asks again to see inside the structure.

Finally Peter relents. When the apostle opens the door, Mr. Jones almost knocks him over in the haste to enter. It turns out that the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons. These boxes all have names on them,” Mr. Jones muses aloud.

Then turning to Peter he asks, “Do I have one?” “Yes you do.” Peter tries to guide Mr. Jones back outside. “Frankly,” Peter says, “if I were you… . ” But Mr. Jones is already dashing toward the “J” aisle to find his box. Peter follows, shaking his head. He catches up with Mr. Jones just as he is slipping the red ribbon off his box and popping the lid. Looking inside, Jones has a moment of instant recognition, and he lets out a deep sigh like the ones Peter has heard so may times before. Because there in Mr. Jones’s white box are all the blessings that God wanted to give to him while he was on earth… but Mr. Jones had never asked.

Moral of the story, if you ask God for something, it’s yours.


~ by thepaintedman on December 11, 2009.

8 Responses to “Bathroom Reading: Praying for Jabez’s Followers”

  1. i read the man in white about ten years ago, and i remember liking it. now that you mention it, i think i remember it starting pretty slow and being dissapointed at first too.
    and wow, you weren’t kidding about that being the worst parable ever… there’s a reason that’s an email forward (i’m assuming) and not in the bible.

  2. Jesus as Santa is more convenient to our lifestyles than Jesus as Lord.

    Maybe if Jesus had had a little more faith, he could’ve been rich instead of crucified. Same goes for Paul, and Stephen.

  3. “This Name-It-Claim-It theology” — I am a bit befuddled about how you see Wilkinson’s book Prayer of Jabez fitting with name-it-and-claim-it praying. Back when I read the book some years ago, it didn’t suggest that we name and claim a blessing we want; on the contrary, the book advised readers to ask blessing without telling God what to do, and accept with gratitude whatever God decides to give or do. No name-it-claim-it there. And back when I read the book, the primary thing it suggested we ask for was more opportunity to minister or serve in greater ways.

    I think many readers prayed the “Jabez Prayer” with a name-it-and-claim-it attitude, but I didn’t find that in the book. Wilkinson invested a lot more significance in the prayer than is there Scripturally, so I’m not saying that Wilkinson was dead-on right in his book, I’m just saying that whatever else its faults or weaknesses, the book did not really teach name-it-and-claim-it theology.

  4. Aaron, that “parable” is actually in the Prayer of Jabez book… awful right?

    Phil, I appreciate your comment more than you know.

    Lambie, your point is well-taken. My issue may be more with those who were reading the book than the book itself. But, as I reread it yesterday while on the john, I was amazed at how little scripture was actually used to back up any point made in the parts of the book I was able to get through. I will have to try to open my mind up and read it again to see what made me hate it so much to begin with, the message or the misapplication of the message by its readers.

  5. Also, Lambie, it seems many others feel as I do… one such article here:

  6. I don’t know what you’re talking about… that parable is AMAZING.


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  8. […] to be confused with one of my least favorite “Christian” leaders, Joyce Meyer, this band of Jawbreaker fans has put together 10 awesome tracks, the opener “Orange […]

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