Making Jabez Mine:
The Prayer of Jabez--Is It For
A Review by Ronald Gleason
Theres a relatively new book
out thats making quite a splash in the modern evangelical world. The
title is The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed
Life. The author is Bruce Wilkinson, who is the founder and president
of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. He has previously authored
Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs and 30 Days to Experiencing
The little book numbers only
93 pages and the font is fairly large, so its a quick and easy read.
I think that both of these attributes make it a sought-after book in modern
Christianity. Id like to take a few moments of your time and give you
my impression of the book. The reason why Im taking the time to do
this is for several reasons, not the least of which is that so many Christians
are reading this book and finding it helpful to very helpful. While there
are some insights and applications in the book that can be beneficial, on
the whole the book presents some serious problems of biblical
One disclaimer: Im
writing this for the Church of Jesus Christ. I have no desire to be polemical
or to kick another brother in the Lord in the shins. I do consider Bruce
Wilkinson a brother in Christ, but I think hes just wrong on some of
his statements and interpretations. Not all, just some. Where I disagree
with him with become increasingly evident in what follows. I hope that it
will be helpful for you.
The way Id like to go
about this is to begin with a thumbnail sketch of the book, give an explanation
of the Hebrew words in the text, go to an examination of what can be known
about Jabez and the author of the book of Chronicles where this prayer is
found, and then close with some comments and criticisms of what Mr. Wilkinson
A Thumbnail Sketch of the Book
The table of contents promises the reader seven chapters
of relatively short duration preceded by a preface. This is what the author
tells us in the Preface.
Dear Reader, I want to teach you how to pray a daring
prayer that God always answers. It is briefonly one sentence with four
partsand 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. Will you join me for a personal exploration of Jabez?
I hope you will! Bruce H. Wilkinson.
The chapters that follow bear these titles: Little Prayer,
Giant Prize (1), So Why Not Ask? (2), Living Large for God (3), The Touch
of Greatness (4), Keeping the Legacy Safe (5), Welcome to Gods Honor
Roll (6), and Making Jabez Mine (7).
Bruce Wilkinson had a life-changing experience during his senior year at
Dallas Theological Seminaryand it wasnt that he missed the rapture!
He heard a message from the seminary chaplain, Dr. Richard Seume. Heres
what Seume said that was earthshaking: Want a bigger vision for your
life? Sign up to be a gimper for God. A gimper, as Seume explained
it and Knute Rockne lived it, is someone who always does a little more than
whats required or expected. (pp. 9-10.) Dr. Seume also used this text
from Jabez' prayer to make his point.
Wilkinson told the Lord that he wanted to be a gimper for Him.
Im not certain what the Lord responded, but thats another story.
Since that time, hes prayed this prayer every morning for thirty years!
Jabez was a gimper for the Lord and Wilkinson knows that this prayer will
have a significant impact upon our lives. Why? Because of my experience
and the testimony of hundreds of others around the world with whom Ive
shared these principles. (p. 11.) But theres more. Wilkinson
asks us a very pointed question: When was the last time you saw miracles
happen on a regular basis in your life? (p. 16.)
Thats a very interesting question and I suppose Id have to answer
that I have never seen miracles happen in my life on a regular basis. Should
I now feel very guilty or that Ive missed a lot out of life? I believe
Wilkinson would answer Yes, but Id answer No. In fact, I believe Im
in pretty decent company because I dont think anyone in the Bible saw
miracles happen on a regular basis in their life. I certainly believe that
many of the men and women of the Bible saw Gods miracles take place
in their life as well as in the life of others. Thats an important
point. I wonder why Wilkinson didnt ask about miracles in the lives
of others? Some people in the Bible witnessed a number of miracles. Some
of the instances were more regular than others, but if were talking
about expecting a miracle weekly or daily Im convinced were missing
the point of the gospel. I also fear that we can take our focus off of Christ
and put it on the miracles that shouldif theyre genuinepoint
away from themselves and to God.
Wilkinson is convinced that God really does have
unclaimed blessings waiting for you. (p. 17.) If he means that God
wants us to be in prayer for both the physical and spiritual things of this
life then I wholeheartedly agree. What does it take to achieve these unclaimed
blessings? Nothing more than a handful of core commitments on your
part. (Ibid.) I havent been able to locate anywhere in the book
where Wilkinson tells what those core commitments might be except for a 6-step
program near the end of the book. But he is convinced that if youll
start praying Jabez prayer God will sweep you forward into the
profoundly important and satisfying life He has waiting.
Let me pause right here for a moment and ask a question.
Can we derive from the text of Jabez prayer that God gave him a profoundly
important and satisfying life? Based on the three times his name appears
in Scripture (I take the text in 1 Chr. 2:55 to be a place) I believe wed
be hard pressed to draw those conclusions.
Is This Name It & Claim
One of Wilkinsons theses is that Great men
of the faith think differently than the rest of us. (p. 19.) This may
very well be true. What Wilkinson is leading to, however, is yet another
question. Is is possible that God wants you to be more
selfish in your prayers? (Ibid.) He asks this question
in light of Jabez prayer that the Lord would bless him indeed. He
paraphrases this petition this way. Father, oh, Father! Please bless
me! And what I really mean is. . .bless me a lot! (p. 22.)
In light of this petition, Wilkinson
adds, Let me tell you a guaranteed by-product of sincerely seeking
His blessing: Your life will become marked by miracles. (pp. 24-25.)
At this point we can only ask if this is truly the biblical message. Is it
true that if I ask the Lord to bless me richly that my life will be characterized
as full of miracles? To make his point, Wilkinson uses the example of a
fictitious Mr. Jones dying and going to heaven. Wilkinson prefaces his remarks
with yet another question. What if you found out that God had it in
mind to send you twenty-three specific blessings today, but you got only
one? (p. 25.) Im of the persuasion that if God wants me to have
anything, He will make certain that I get it. But the author of the book
seems to believe otherwise.
He illustrates his point by means of the example of Mr.
Jones going to heaven. Jones dies and goes to heaven and St. Peter
is giving him the proverbial nickel-tour. There in heaven, Jones observes
an odd-shaped building and asks his tour guide about it. The building is
filled with packages neatly gift-wrapped. Do I have a package in
there? asks Jones. Yes you do, replies the poor saint that
has done nothing in heaven since his death but give tours and make up jokes.
So Jones rushes in and finds the gift box with his name on it and opens it.
Jones lets out a deep sigh like St. Peter has heard so many times before.
Because there in Mr. Joness white box are all the blessings that
God wanted to give him while he was on earth. . .but Mr. Jones never
asked. (p. 27.)
Thats just awful theology folks! In the first place,
the Bible tells us that there will be no more sadness in heaven. But Wilkinson
has Jones sighing deeply because of blessings he never received on earth.
Thats pretty pitiful. The next thing is even worse. If God is truly
sovereign as the Bible repeatedly says that he is, then His plan will never
be thwarted. Wilkinson doesnt tell us the theological reason why Jones
didnt receive all those blessings, but it seems to boil down to this.
God had these blessings somehow reserved for Jones, but he was such a bonehead
that he never asked for them. Even though God intended to give them to Jones
He never did because Jones didnt ask. It all sounds terribly Arminian
Should we be asking for Gods
spiritual blessing(s)? Absolutely! God is able to do superabundantly more
than we can ever think or imagine. (Eph. 3:20.) Probably one of the areas
of neglect in the Christian life is failure to ask our Lord to bless us
spiritually. The example that Wilkinson uses, however, is theologically
A Big Leap
Chapter 3 (Living Large for God) makes a quantum leap,
but I dont think its forward. When Wilkinson deals with the petition
Oh, that You would enlarge my territory! in Jabez prayer.
Interpreting the Word of God properly (2 Tim. 2:15) is of the utmost importance.
Modern Christianity is plagued by sloppy and inept interpretation. All of
us should be deeply concerned about how we interpret Gods Word in light
of the entire message and with a view to the immediate context of any given
Here is what Wilkinson says about the petition to enlarge
ones territory. The next part of the Jabez prayera plea
for more territoryis where you ask God to enlarge your life so you
can make a greater impact for Him. (p. 30.) Huh? How do we get there
from Jabez prayer? How do we rightly, correctly, and justifiably interpret
that petition to mean that we are to ask God to enlarge our life so that
we can make a greater impact for Him?
For Wilkinson, the conclusion is simple. From both
the context and the results of Jabezs prayer, we can see that there
was more to his request than a simple desire for more real estate. He wanted
more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark
for the God of Israel. (Ibid. Emphasis Wilkinson.) All right, then,
lets think about what hes said for a moment. First, he speaks
about the context. What context? Wilkinson has not taken the time to give
us any semblance of a context. How can he now appeal to that which is unknown
to us? If you go back and look at the abrupt appearance of this prayer what
can you deduce concerning its context?
Second, our attention is drawn to the results of Jabez
prayer. The text merely says that God granted his request. So if Jabez asked
for more territory and God granted his request how does that compute into
us asking God to enlarge our life so that we can make a greater
impact for Him?
Finally, how does Wilkinson know for certain that Jabez was asking for something
more than real estate? Looking at the text itself, how in the world are we
to conclude that this obscure prayer that only mentions real estate (territory)
means that Jabez really was praying for more influence, more responsibility,
and more opportunity to make a mark for the God of Israel? There is not one
shred of evidence for this type of conclusion. If ministers of the Word of
God play this foot loose and fancy free with the Word of God, what ought
we to expect from those who are less trained in interpretation?
In a similar vein when Wilkinson puts this paraphrase
in Jabez mouth, it is pure speculation. 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.) Here we see interpretation going from bad to worse.
We have no idea whatsoever of what Jabez was thinking when he prayed this
prayer. I think there is a very different biblical attitude of humility.
King David seemed to manifest this type of humility when he asked the Lord
why He had exalted him to such a high position in light of his circumstances.
(See 1 Sam. 18:18; 2 Sam. 7:18; 1 Chr. 17:16.)
Even though Wilkinson repeatedly
issue disclaimers that his interpretation of Jabez prayer has nothing
to do with the gospel of health and wealth, the following quote gives you
some idea of why his critics have accused him of peddling a version of health
and wealth theology. 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 youre doing your business Gods way,
its not only right to ask for more, but He is waiting for you to
Moreor lessinterpretation of this petition
causes Wilkinson to conclude that praying this prayer in the 21st century
has to do with appointments to keep. (p. 42.) This is synonymous
with asking God for miracles. (p. 43.) This gets hokeyor hokierwhen
he says, God always intervenes when you put His agenda before yours
and go for it! Amazingly, if you have prayed to the Lord to expand a border,
you will recognize His divine answer. Youll have a front-row seat in
the life of miracles. (p. 44.) I am under the impression that God has
an agenda (otherwise known as His determinate counsel) and that even when
I dont put His first, He has a way of overriding my agenda. Im
also less concerned about having a front-row seat in the life of miracle
than I am about witnessing Gods grace in the life of sinners and
A Touch of Greatness or the Numbers
Chapter 4 deals with the petition in the prayer where
Jabez asks that Gods hand would be with him. There are places where
Wilkinson seems to have made a turn for the better. Early in this chapter
he directs our attention to the phrase the hand of God and states
The churchs growth bears powerful witness to both the necessity
and availability of the hand of God to accomplish the business of God.
(p. 54.) Even stuffy old Presbyterians can muster up a heartfelt
Amen to that! In addition, he is to be commended when he says
When we ask for Gods 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. (p. 55.) Where the chapter derails
is when he gets involved in what Ill call the numbers game.
Let me let him explain this.
When he was a youth pastor in New Jersey he and twelve
other high school students planned an evangelism effort on nearby Long Island.
Their objective was to evangelize the youth in a particular suburban area
over a six-week period. They did all the necessary planning and brought in
a specialist in childrens ministry to help them prepare and strategize.
So far so good. When the specialist left Wilkinson said to the twelve kids,
If we dont have one hundred kids in each club by the end of the
week, we should consider it a failure. (p. 57.) Why? They prayed for
the Lords blessing, as they should have. But to make the statement
that unless you achieve a certain number the whole thing is a fiasco verges
on the ludicrous. How did he arrive at the number one hundred? Did the Holy
Spirit give it to him? Did he somehow derive this for Jabez prayer?
How? If God had chosen to bless them with five, ten, or none, would Gods
Word have returned to Him empty? (Isa. 55:11.) In addition to this, Wilkinson
and his group asked the Lord for thirty decisions for salvation by the end
of the first day. (p. 58.) God blessed their efforts beyond expectation
but right in line with the scope of our Jabez prayer.
What kind of message does this send to us lesser lights?
Are we failing because we dont pray the Jabez prayer,
mantra-like, every morning? Is it because our faith is too small? Is it because
were not trying hard enough? And what about all the others that have
witnessed faithfully and have seen little or no results? Are
we even supposed to look for results? What is to be saidif
anythingfor being used of and by God to plant a seed in a persons
Watching Your Flanks or Other Parts of Your Anatomy
Chapter 5 deals with being kept from evil. You think to
yourself that this is going to be a meaty chapter because all of us need
help in dealing with temptation. What I found here was a series of self-serving
anecdotes and success stories.
He begins by relating a conversation
between Dallas Seminary New Testament professor Howard Hendricks and a
fellow-student. The student tells Hendricks that hes reached a level
of sanctification at seminary to where he was hardly being tempted at all.
(p. 64.) My assessment is that he was kidding himself or Hendricks or
bothprobably both and that he really needed to work on pride, which,
if Im not mistaken is still a sin. Anyway, Hendricks answers,
Thats about the worst thing I could have heard. That shows me
that youre no longer in the battle! Satan isnt worried about
you anymore. (Ibid.) I wonder. The Bible tells me that Satan is a
formidable foe and works on Christians in a methodological fashion. (Eph.
6:11.) Were warned that he roams around like a roaring lion looking
for someone to devour. (1 Pet. 5:8.) It would seem that this would include
even deluded seminary students.
But Wilkinson does issue a very valid warning about temptation
and how, when our resistance is down or we are tired, we can fall prey to
things that would normally not tempt us. He cites an example, however, that
seems to be especially self-seeking and self-serving. Heres what he
Years ago, a cab had picked me up in downtown Chicago and was whisking me
down the Kennedy expressway toward the airport. I slumped in the backseat,
[sic] exhausted from a week of special meetings at Moody Bible Institute.
God had moved in remarkable ways. I had preached every day and counseled
scores of studentsseventy-six, to be exact (I kept a log). Now heading
home, I was physically and spiritually spent. Staring blankly out at the
traffic, I reached for the Jabez prayer. (p. 65.)
He made it to OHare and sat down on the flight in
between two men, each of whom was reading a Playboy or Penthouse magazine.
Silently, Wilkinson complained to God that he thought they had a
deal. He told the Lord that he just couldnt cope with that
situation in his current state and within moments both men swore and put
their magazines away. Yet another success story. Let me tell
you the story of a Christian I know. He was flying back from Mexico and sat
down next to a woman who had a small DVD player. She was watching a porn
movie on it. My friend was weary too and prayed that God would remove the
temptation. God chose to let him sit there the whole flight and turn his
head the other direction. Which was more successful? It can be
argued that my friend had as much success over evil as did Wilkinson or
Wilkinson concludes this chapter with these words. With
the fourth plea of Jabez as part of our life, we are now ready to move up
to a higher level of honor and exponentially expanding blessings. (p.
75.) Now let me see if Ive got this straight. Gods kingdom is
the safest investment and also shows the most remarkable growth. (Ibid.)
Thats true enough, but a lot depends on how you interpret that last
idea. We are to seek Gods kingdom and His righteousness and everything
else will be given to us as well. (Matt. 6:33.) Its also true that
this kingdom shows the most remarkable growth, but this growth is a quality
and not a quantity. I dont measure spiritual growth by counting noses
Does God Play Favorites?
Chapter 6 returns to the beginning of the account in Chronicles: Jabez was
more honorable than his brothers. Without explaining the context in which
the Chronicler penned those words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
Wilkinson believes these words beg the question: Do you think God has favorites?
He qualifies this question with these remarks. Certainly God makes
His love available to all, and Jesus came to earth so that
whosoever might call on His name and be saved. But Jabez, whose
prayer earned him a more honorable award from God, might have
made the case that God does have favorites. (p. 76.) What this boils
down to, then, is this. Simply put, God favors those who ask. He holds
back nothing from those who want and earnestly long for what He wants.
Moreover, to say that you want to be more honorable in
Gods eyes is not arrogance or self-centeredness. (pp. 76-77.)
Here Wilkinson is making reference to the beginning of the text containing
the prayer of Jabez. Since Wilkinson has not explained or opened the text
for us, the reader is only left to guessor worse, fantasizeabout
what the words might mean. Let me give you an example of what I mean. We
know nothing of Jabez brothers. To say that Jabez was more honorable
than his brothers might not be a true complement. Since we havent looked
at the text and its larger context yet, it would be difficultI would
thinkto decide a priori what the words more honorable actually
Two items seem to motivate Wilkinson in this chapter. The first is Pauls
admonition in Philippians 3:14 that Christians press on toward the goal for
the prize. The other is found in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 where we are told that
we will have to give an account to God for what we have done. Wilkinsons
theology comes shining through when he writes, The sorrowful alternative
does not appeal to me. I dont want to get to heaven and hear God say:
Lets look at your life, Bruce. Let me show you what I wanted
for you and tried repeatedly to accomplish through you. . .but you wouldnt
let me. What a travesty! (p. 77.)
Well, actually this is substantially worse than a travesty. Its a horrible
indictment about God and His sovereignty. In this example, God is portrayed
as impotent. He wanted to do all kinds of wonderful things for Bruce and
even tried repeatedly to get His creature to do what He wanted him to do,
but to no avail. What kind of image does this paint of our Lord? He certainly
doesnt seem to be the Lord God Almighty. His creature can thwart His
desires. God wants to do all kinds of things for us, but just didnt
seem to have the ability to accomplish what He wants to do.
Wilkinson then shifts gears a little
and gives us an example that I find mystifying. Like many of us, he seems
to have enjoyed the thrills of meeting deadlines and air travel. He gives
the example of being in Atlanta on his way to a speaking engagement in North
Carolina. A major accident had blocked all the lanes of traffic and it became
clear that he was going to miss his flight. What to do? Wilkinson prayed
this prayer. Lord, please make my flight late so I can catch it.
(p. 79.) Martin Hedman should have thought of a comparable prayer when we
were on our way to the PCAs General Assembly in Louisville, KY a couple
of years ago. We arrived in Atlanta from LAX and just as we landed a huge
thunder and lightning storm began. Down South they call that kind of storm
a red hill washer. Anyway, we sat in the plane on the tarmac
for longer than the flight from LAX to Atlanta! I prayed, but I guess I prayed
the wrong kind of prayers.
Wilkinson seems to have a kind of direct line
to Godall of us pastors are accused of having one of these phonesand
low and behold his flight was delayed. He tells us that not only was his
flight delayed but he began to see that the Lord might be arranging an
appointment for ministry for him. (Ibid.) He encountered a woman who
was very flustered and asked, What can I do for you? and she
punched him in the nose. No. She really didnt, but I could certainly
imagine a scenario where that would happen. Anyway, this turned out to be
an appointment for ministry. I mean how much more dramatic can
you make it? He was granted the privilege of witnessing to the woman, who
was considering divorcing her husband. To make it even more impressive, he
told the woman that they would be sitting together on the plane even though
they had different seat assignments. God arranged it all. The result? Let
me encourage you, friend, to reach boldly for the miracle. (p.
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.) This is nothing more
or less than a mantra or incantation principle. We seem to be guaranteed
that as we repeat these steps we shall receive an ever-increasing cycle of
blessing from God. Is this what the Lord promises us? Most certainly he promises
that He will bless His children. He also points us to example after example
of hardship and sorrow in the Christian life. My pastoral fear is that Wilkinson
paints a rosy picture of the Christian life that is skewed in the direction
of success and bereft of some of the true trials and hardships of reality
that mug us on a regular basis.
Wilkinson promise something else. This is the
exponential growth I referred to at the close of the previous chapter. You
have asked for and received more blessing, more territory, more power, and
more protection. But the growth curve soon starts to spike upwards.
(Ibid. Emphasis mine.) In theology we speak about the believers
sanctification or being made holy. The Bible is clear that this is not always
a curve that spikes upward. Sanctification is filled with growth and regress,
ebb and flow, times of great spiritual elation and times of spiritual dryness.
You get the impression from Wilkinson that if you plotted the
sanctification curve and if you were faithfully praying the Jabez
prayer youd get a steady upward climb. How good will it get? Ill
let Wilkinson tell you. Before I do, however, I should warn you that its
going to get very, very good. So good, in fact, that youll actually
have to ask God to stop blessing you. Dont believe me? Well, just
The will comeand come repeatedly during your
lifethat you will be so overwhelmed with Gods graciousness that
tears will stream down your face. I can remember saying to the Lord,
Its too much! Hold some of your blessings back! If youre
like many who use the Jabez prayer, including me, youll come to times
in your life when you feel so blessed that you stop praying for more, at
least for a while. (p. 84.) I cant speak for you, but I can never
get enough of Gods blessings in my life. If Im truly praying
for spiritual blessings and the Lord grants them I cannot conceive of a situation
or time when Id ask Him to stop! But then again, I havent prayed
the Jabez prayer very much.
Making Jabez Mine
Chapter 7 is the application. The first part of the
appropriation of this prayer comes in the form of a challenge from Wilkinson.
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,
youll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer
will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit. (p. 86.
Lets break this down and have some fun in the process.
Can you imagine Jesus saying something similar to His disciples? Hey,
guys. If you just pray this Lord's Prayer Ive taught you for the next
thirty days youre going to see some great changes in your life!
Where do pastors get off suggesting that Gods people do something God
has never suggested? This stuff is starting to get very scary at this point.
I know that Wilkinson did not command us to pray the prayer, but given everything
hes said up to this point, his suggestion/encouragement is almost a
command. Its like youre an idiot if you dont. Did Jesus
ever suggest anything like this to His disciples? No. Its as if this
obscure prayer has now taken on some magical mantra-like powers so that if
you follow Wilkinsons plan things are going to start going a lot better
in your life. What is that plan? It should come as no surprise that its
a 6-step plan for significant change in your life.
Here it is.
1. Pray the Jabez prayer every morning, and keep a record of your
daily prayer by marking off a calendar or a chart you make especially for
2. Write out the prayer and tape it in your Bible, in your day-timer,
on your bathroom mirror, or some other place where youll be reminded
of your new vision.
3. Reread this little book once each week during the next month, asking
God to show you important insights you may have missed.
4. Tell one other person of your commitment to your new prayer habit,
and ask him or her to check up on you.
5. Begin to keep a record of changes in your life, especially the
divine appointments and new opportunities you can relate directly to the
6. Start praying the Jabez prayer for your family, friends, and local
church. (pp. 86-87.)
Let me comment briefly on each of these steps to success.
It would certainly seem that life is more than the Jabez prayer. That is
why God gave us such diversity in His book, the Bible. The prayers recorded
there for us are anything but monotone. Our prayers are not to be rote, but
from our hearts. There is nothing wrong with journaling if
thats helpful to you, but Im not convinced that were required
to keep a calendar or chart just for the Jabez prayer, for Petes sake!
Give me a break!
Why should I tape the prayer in
my Bible unless Im only reading the New Testament, in which case Im
wrong. The prayer is already in my Bible. Im not opposed to taping
favorite or very helpful texts to your mirror or putting them on the
fridge, but my new vision is given to me by the whole counsel
With step 3 were headed right
in the direction of a blatant Roman Catholic theology. Its a sad truth,
but many Christians struggle with reading their Bible on a daily basis. I
honestly would have expected Wilkinson to encourage us to read the Word of
God daily in lieu of his book. Certainly Gods Word will show us a great
many more insights to life that weve missed than Wilkinsons book
ever will. Its like were got two authorities in our spiritual
walk now: the Bible and Wilkinsons book. This is serious, folks! Maybe
its just a cheap plug for his book, but I believe he could have done
a lot better on point number 3.
I think its important to have people hold you accountable for prayer.
Most of us are far too sloppy and negligent in our prayer life. Its
one thing to have my fellow-Christians hold me accountable to pray on a regular
basis. Its quite another thing to have them make sure Im praying
this specific prayer.
Divine appointments is another phrase for
opportunities to witness for God. Most of us are just to lazy to speak to
the people God brings into our lives already. If we were to sit down and
think about it, Ill bet we could list a number of people God brings
to us on a regular basis already. To make matters worse, if youre like
me you keep your mouth shut far too many times. To my distorted mind,
divine appointments is a cutesy way to say Providence. In Gods
providential governing of His created order, He brings all kinds of people
into my life with a high degree of regularity. What am I doing with those
Hes already given to me?
Finally, Id say we should keep praying for our family, friends, and
church. You dont have to prayer specifically the Jabez prayer to be
effective. Prayer is effective. Prayer is one of the most sublime gifts of
grace our Lord has given us. If you want to include the Jabez prayer in your
variety of prayers for family, friends, and your local church, Id encourage
you to do so. Id also encourage you to pray a variety of prayers for
the variety of spiritual needs our family, friends, and church
Wilkinson has some concluding remarks
that point in the direction of American success: numbers. Like it or not,
Americans are numbers oriented and numbers driven. Even though we dont
say it very loudly, we tend to determine truth by counting noses. Numbers
matter and they matter a lot to us. Success or failure can be gauged by numbers.
Your value as a human being can be closely associated with how much money
you earn. One of my fears while reading this bookthere are moreis
that Wilkinson throws numbers around as an indicator of success. He spoke
to 9,000, his church is large, he needs so many warm bodies at a Vacation
Bible School before it can be considered successful. The book ends on a similar
Over the years at Walk Thru
the Bible, our once feeble prayers have grown because He has never stopped
answering! I can remember when we had twenty-five or thirty Bible conferences
in a year. This year Walk Thru will conduct over twenty-five hundred Bible
conferencesfifty each weekend. The ministry now published ten magazines
each month to help individuals and families grow in Gods Word every
day. We recently passed the 100 million mark in total issues published.
Were told that these figures are not quoted to impress
us, but is just evidence of what Jabez praying can do. (p. 89.) But then
were on to more numbers. In January 1998 we began WorldTeach,
birthed from the womb of the Jabez prayer.
WorldTeach is an exciting fifteen-year vision to establish
the largest Bible-teaching faculty in the world120,000a Bible
teacher for every 50,000 people on earth. (Ibid.) In principle, this
is a very good idea. One of my first questions is, however, what kind of
theology are these 120,000 educators going to teach? Ive been in seminaries
where even small faculties cant agree. How ungainly is it going to
be to try to monitor 120,000? Then again, maybe theres going to be
no attempt whatsoever to monitor them, except, maybe, on their view of the
Tribulation and the Rapture.
Wilkinson ends by inviting us to join him for the coming
transformation. He ends with a promise. 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.) What is my legacy if Im a Christian?
Wilkinson seems to suggest that whatever it is, itll get substantially
better if I pray this prayer enough. This might come as a surprise, but as
a Christian, I believe that I receive supernatural blessings from my heavenly
Father because of Christ.
Now that weve looked at the book, lets go
back and look at the text. Wilkinson has mentioned it to us from time to
time, but it will be most helpful if we gain an understanding of it and then
move on to see how it fits into the fabric of the book of 1 Chronicles and
into the theology of the Chronicler.
The Hebrew & Greek Text
The only reason Im taking the time to even discuss
the text itself is that Wilkinson takes very little time to do it. He is
building his case on an admittedly somewhat obscure text in the Old Testament,
which is fine. It would have enhanced the book immensely, however, if he
had taken some time to tell us a little bit about the text without all the
technical jargon. For example, he could have pointed out that there are some
translation difficulties with some of the Hebrew words due to their (relative)
In the next section well take the opportunity to
examine the book(s) of Chronicles itself, how it got its name, when it was
written, and some of the key theological concepts of the Chronicler, just
to mention a few. For the present, we want to take a really quick look at
some of the peculiarities of the text and then well move on to talk
about the context of Chronicles in the Old Testament canon.
This section is going to be fairly technical and I
would understand if you want to skip on to the next section. Believe me,
I wont be offended in the least if youre not interested in this
The name itself is located in only two places in the Bible.
In 1 Chr. 2:55 it is the name of a place. In the prayer of Jabez it is found
three times. His name is somewhat obscure. Keil and Delitzsch comment in
this fashion. The word #Be[.y: donotes [sic] in ii. 55 a town or village
which is quite unknown to us; but whether our Jabez where father (lord) or
this town cannot be determined. In point of fact, there are many things
unclear to us. A. Noortzij is not atypical when he writes, Behind the
name, over which no one has been able to bring any light to bear, is the
possibility of a Kenite tribe, which was eventuallyin the course of
the centuriestaken up into Judah.
Even the connection with the preceding verses is not clear
to Old Testament scholars and commentators. As was mentioned above, it is
even up for grabs whether or not Jabez was originally an Israelite. The so-called
older commentators have drawn the conclusion that Jabez was a
son or brother of Coz. The newer commentators apparently have
little or no light to shed on the matter. So Ill just give you the
newer first and then the older and let you decide.
Roddy Braun writes concerning the verses, The emphasis here is. . .upon
Jabez prayer to God and the fact that God heard that prayer and
brought about that which he asked. This emphasis upon prayer
is a marked feature of Chronicles, and its inclusion here. . .reflects an
appreciation of that same interest. Gods grace is always available
to those who turn to him in prayer.
The older commentators, Keil and Delitzsch have this to
say about the text.
If there be any genealogical connection between the man Jabez and the locality
of this name or its inhabitants (ii. 55), then the persons named in ver.
8 would belong to the descendants of Shobal. For although the connection
of Jabez with Coz (not Bill CosbyRG) and his sons is not clearly set
forth, yet it may be conjectured (EmphasisRG) from the statements as
to Jabez being connected with the preceding by the words, Jabez was
more honoured than his brethren.
There are some interesting parallels with other Old Testament texts and
Jabez prayer even though the latter is shrouded in relative obscurity.
For example, there are parallels between Jabez mother giving him such
an odd namemeaning painand other Old Testament accounts. On the
other hand, there is a rather curious omission in Jabez prayer and
that is the absence of an accompanying vow on his part. A rather classic
example of what Im talking about is found in Genesis 28:20-22.
Unfortunately, Wilkinson makes no mention of this oddity in Jabez prayer.
Keil and Delitzsch offer this possible reason for the omission of the vow.
The reason of this is probably that the vow had acquired importance
sufficient to make it worthy of being handed down only from Gods having
so fulfilled his wish, that his life became a contradiction of his name;
the son of sorrow having been free from pain in life, and having attained
to greater happiness and reputation than his brothers. Really, though,
who knows? Keil and Delitzsch previously used the word conjecture.
Thats an apt word for the verses included in Jabez
One other word needs to be said before we move on. Im
not at all convinced that a vow must be attached to a prayer before its
valid. There are many prayers in Scripture where the ones praying
do not attach a a vow to do this or that. Ive certainly prayed many
a prayer where I merely asked the Lord to bless me without stating that Id
do anything. Its always been a foregone conclusion on my part that
what God wants from me, however, is joyful and willing obedience to Him.
Thats enough of this sort of thing. Lets move on to other
The Chronicler and
One of the most important tools of valid biblical
interpretation is called the grammatico-historical method.
Thats kind of technical talk for understanding the authors intent
in a given book along with an understanding of the books basic message.
This is one area where I believe Wilkinson really missed the boat. Throughout
his book he makes appeals to the Jabez text without really telling
us anything about the book of Chronicles itself. He also doesnt have
much to say about the context of the Jabez prayer, primarily because there
just isnt much to say about it.
So what I want to do in this section is to kind of lay
out what the Chronicler is about in his two books. I believe
this will help us get a handle on things when we continue in our investigation
of how this prayer ought to or can be used in the Church of Jesus Christ
and in our individual lives. Bear with me for a few moments while we get
some nuts and bolts things out of the way.
The Title of the Books
Before I begin with the yawn stuff, I want to thank our Lord
for making me a pastor. If I werent a pastor of such a lively church
I might not have taken the time to do this type of investigation right now.
But when youve got an enthusiastic congregation to work with, things
change. The questions that have arisen about this book under review have
taken me on yet another fascinating study of Gods Word and its application
in our lives.
The English title of the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles has an unusual history.
The titles originate neither from the original Hebrew nor from the Greek
translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (sometimes seen
written as LXX). The church father, Jerome, first applied this name in the
fourth century AD. Martin Luthers German translation called the books
Die Chronika, and this set the stage for the current name of the books.
This is not to say that Jerome or Luther or other English Bible translators
just made the name up out of thin air. Chronicle is a fairly
decent translation for the Hebrew idiom diberê hayy_mîm, which
is the accepted Hebrew title of the book. The phrase literally means the
events of the days which allows a smooth transition to thoughts such
The Greek translators of the Old Testament produced a quite different title
to the books. They called them Paraleipomena, which means the things
omitted. What were they talking about? Apparently they saw Chronicles
as containing things omitted from the books of Samuel and Kings.
The division of Chronicles into two parts goes back to the Septuagint. The
division is probably made for practical reasons and for no other reasons.
Once we take the time to read these two booksand unfortunately far
too few doit becomes evident that they are really a single unit.
What Kind of Book is
What should we expect to find when we read 1 & 2
Chronicles? Thats a fair question and deserves a good answer. Its subject
matter covers the whole of Israelite history from creation (see 1 Chr. 1:1)
to near the authors own time (1 Chr. 9:2-34), and in terms of the number
of chapters Chronicles is the third largest compilation in the Old Testament
after Psalms and Isaiah. But what kind of book is Chronicles. There are a
few apt descriptions of it.
In the first place, it can be treated as a history book.
Although in more recent investigation of the book the Chroniclers
contribution as a historian has sometimes been understood more in terms of
the provision of an over all framework of interpretation rather than in compiling
an objective record of events, categorizing Chronicles as a work of history
is still a frequent approach.
The long, long lists and genealogiesespecially in
1 Chroniclesmark out Chronicles as distinct from Samuel-Kings and are
inappropriate in a primarily historical work. More detailed comparison with
what is called the Deuteronomic History (a common pinhead name
for Deuteronomy to 2 Kings) confirms this view, for it is clear that the
Chroniclers concerns are more narrowly focused. In place of a
history of Israels monarchies, the Chronicler concentrates on the southern
kingdom and on individual kings such as David, Solomon, or Hezekiah, though
he also appears to adopt a more favourable attitude towards the north than
the author of kings. His preoccupation with specialist matters such as the
temple, prayer, worship, and the Levites also indicates that his real interest
lies outside the purely historical sphere.
I give you all this stuff to make a point.
If the Chroniclers historical features are secondary rather than primary
greater attention ought to be paid to his theological emphases. This was
overlooked in Wilkinsons book, but is essential for understanding the
over all message of Chronicles. The late professor of Old Testament at
Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA summed up the work as
through and through a theological essay. Others have described
the Chronicler as the first Old Testament theologian. Still others have deduced
that the person and dynasty of David are the heartbeat of all
the Chroniclers theology.
Since one of our topics is prayer,
Id like to talk for a few moments about the place of prayer in Chronicles
without specifically concentrating on Jabez prayer, which well
come to in due time. Its not too strongly put to say that the prayers
in Chronicles have an equal place with the prophecies in the structure of
the work. The accounts of David and Solomon, for example, often include important
and lengthy prayers. The various speeches, prophecies, and prayers, therefore,
summarize and explain essential elements of Chronicles main themes.
These are structural elements and concentrate on Gods covenant
with David and the temple, as a central motif. These serve to underline their
priority in Gods purposes and in Israels national
One final point has to be made and I halfway apologize
for making it. Its a kind of technical thing that doesnt interest
common folk like you and me, but its important so I beg your indulgence.
The Chronicler is fond of using a Hebrew literary device known as the chiasmus
or chiastic pattern. Now dont you feel enlightened? Ill just
bet youre ready to rush out and buttonhole the first poor unsuspecting
lost sinner and whip out your known about the Chronicler and his use of the
chiasmus. Yippee! This is better than the four spiritual laws. Actually,
it is. Anyway, let me put this concept in terms you and I can understand.
Chiasmus is a literary structure commonly found in the Hebrew language where
form and meaning are repeated with variation.
We conclude then that the Chronicler is much more than
a scribe or popular re-writer of ancient texts. He spends a lot of time in
theological exegesis, undertaken according to the principle of
allowing Scripture itself to interpret Scripture. At the heart of this
enterprise is a conviction that the word of our God stands forever
(Is. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). The Word of God is both the subject which the author
addresses and the method by which he addresses it. With all this as
background lets now proceed and look at some of the main elements of
the Chroniclers message.
Wilkinson does not mention the covenant relationship between
God and His people in his book. Thats really unfortunate because he
fails to connect the dots of Gods covenant of grace and the life of
Gods people. According to Chronicles, the Davidic covenant is
that element which most clearly expresses the meaning of Israels continuing
life as the people of God. This is a grave omission on Wilkinsons
part. He eliminates the covenant character of the prayers given to us in
Scripture and therefore must end on the plane of the individual, which is
precisely what he does. One of the glaring omissions in this little book
by Wilkinson is the omission of covenant prayer or the covenant.
If Wilkinson had been more attuned to this key biblical
concept he would have pointed out how frequently the covenant is associated
with Gods promises to David. The primary feature of Chronicles/
presentation of the Davidic covenant is that its very existence depends on
Gods promise. Everything hangs on what God purposes, says and does.
A disclaimer is needed here. When we talk about Gods promise
or Gods promises were not talking about Him giving
us expanded territories or divine appointments. The emphasis in Scripture
is on Gods faithfulness and trustworthiness to bring about the promised
salvation through Christ.
If our theology is off or skewed at one point, it will be off or skewed at
other points as well. Since Wilkinson does not paint a picture of Gods
covenant relationship with His people, we should expect that hed have
little or nothing to say about what it means to live in a covenant community.
Wilkinson does not disappoint us. He mentions nothing about it. Im
not surprised because Wilkinsons particular brand of theology does
not spend much time on Gods covenant with His people and His peoples
lifestyle within the covenant.
As a consequence, were left on the level of the individual. What were
the practical implications of being bound to God in a covenant relationship?
For the Chronicler it was a kind of theological optomism that brought fresh
hope to Gods people who were alive after the Exile. It was the reminder
of the truth that God is always faithful and trustworthy regarding His word.
It was the truth that Gods covenant community has its values and morals
shaped and molded by the community and not that they embrace individualism.
Truly the covenant community was comprised of individuals, but their morals
were community based. This is pretty much the complete opposite
of modern Christianity.
Interestingly, when you do take the time to read through the various
genealogiesand thats no mean featyou do discover some very
fascinating insights from the Chronicler. For example, if you read 1 Chronicles
2:1-9:1 youll find out that the author was not only concerned with
the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Chronicler goes out
of his way to stress that the old divisions of north and south were really
a consequence of a temporary judgment on Solomons excesses, but that
every opportunity should be taken to rebuild the whole community.
Of equal importance is the notion taught in Chronicles that the Israelites
should seek God. This is one of the most crucial aspects of their covenant
relationship with the Lord. Let me just give you a handful of illustrations
of what I mean. There are a couple of occasions prior to Davids death
that come to mind. The first is found in 1 Chronicles 22:19. He says, Now
devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the
sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant
of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that
will be built for the Name of the LORD. (NIVEmphasis mine.) Even
though this is not a prayer, it is certainly sound biblical advice that we
ought to heed.
Another example is located in 1 Chronicles 28:8-9. Again David says, So
now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD,
and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the
LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an
inheritance to your descendants forever. nd you, my son Solomon,
acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion
and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands
every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you;
but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.
(NIVEmphasis mine.) The last sentence in particular is powerful covenant
language. Gods covenant with man contains both blessings and curses.
There are promises and there are also obligations.
The theme of seeking God is found in the contrasting accounts of kings such
as Rehoboam and Asa (2 Chr. 11:16; 12:14; 14:4, 7; 20:4; 34:3). To fail to
seek God was to become liable to His wrath (1 Chr. 10:13-14; 15:13; 22 Chr.
12:14; 25:15, 20). On the other hand, however, seeking Gods face was
part of the process of restoration (2 Chr. 7:14.) This last text seems to
point more in the direction of the primary emphases of the Chronicler than
does the prayer of Jabez.
One of the reasons I say that is because it is clear from Chronicles that
Those who made it their custom to seek God as a way of life could expect
Gods blessing in various wayseven in unfavorable circumstances.
Martin Selman offers this explanation in his commentary.
The benefits might include God being with his people (1 Ch. 22:11,
16, 2 Ch. 15:2, 9; 17:3-4; 20:17), Gods help or support
(1 Ch. 15:26; 2 Ch. 14:11; 26:7, 15), prosperity (1 Ch. 22:13; 2 Ch. 26:5),
healing, that is, spiritual and physical wholeness (2 Ch. 7:14;
30:20; cf. 2 Ch. 36:16), a large family (1 Ch. 26:5; 2 Ch. 13:21; 24:1-3),
peace and rest (2 Ch. 14:7; 20:29-30; 23:21), and a recognition by foreigners
of the reality of Gods power (1 Ch. 17:17; 2 Ch. 20:29-30; 32:23).
On the other hand, the fact that godly kings suffered serious trouble on
several occasions (2 Ch. 14:9-11; 20-13; 32:1) indicates that faithfulness
to God was no automatic assurance of success.
Id like to make a couple of points here. In the
first place, nowhere in the above list does the prayer of Jabez occur.
Apparently, Selman did not find it appropriate to list it among the various
blessings that accrue to believers for seeking God. Moreover, an important
truth is conveyed to us that is missing in Wilkinsons book in the words
I placed in italics. In our modern striving to avoid pain and suffering at
all costs, the Chronicler imparts an essential message to us. We may seek
God and ask for His blessing and yet suffer serious trouble on several occasions.
Gods blessing might include the exact opposite of what we expect,
especially in our stock portfolio!
Two particular covenant blessings stand out in the book
of Chronicles. The first is Israels presence in the Promised Land.
I dont have the time to go into a detailed explanation of the concept
of the Land in Old Testament theology, but suffice it to say that (1) it
pointed to the heavenly realities and (2) that possession of the land had
to be obtained through Gods help. This second point is aptly shown
in Jabez prayer. The second covenant blessing is Gods presence
with His people. All the blessings in the world are to no avail if God is
not with His people. Moses account of the glory of the Lord in Exodus
33:12-16 is instructive. Moses said to the LORD, You have been
telling me, Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom
you will send with me. You have said, I know you by name and you have
found favor with me. If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways
so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this
nation is your people. The LORD replied, My Presence will go
with you, and I will give you rest. Then Moses said to him, If
your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will
anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you
go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other
people on the face of the earth?
This is the essence of the matter and one of the prominent
features of the Christian life. There is substantially more to be said for
seeking Gods Presence and His spiritual blessings than there is in
the mere recitation of a prayer or the expanding of a business.
MessageThe Covenant as Basis for
For those like Wilkinson who have little or no eye for
the truth of the covenant of grace as God reveals it in Scripture, this notion
of restoration based on the covenant makes little sense. Yet, it is important
for us to note that Israels unfaithfulness to God is one of the most
repetitive themes of Chronicles and one of the main reasons for highlighting
Gods covenant with David. Wilkinson would have done us a great service
by pointing this out in his book.
Israels failure is particularly expressed
through two related Hebrew words m_´al and ma´al, meaning to
act unfaithfully and unfaithfulness respectively.
What we should not deduce here is that the Exile occurred because of the
unfaithfulness of one or two individuals. Remember, the covenant community
is a community. Martin Selman makes an interesting point regarding Israels
unfaithfulness in the following quotation. It is somewhat lengthy, but certainly
worthy of our consideration.
Unfaithfulness is clearly a key term in Chronicles. An
attempt has been made to deduce its precise meaning from the Pentateuchal
law concerning the guilt or reparation offering (Lv. 5:14-6:7) where it has
the sense of depriving God of that which is his due. Its use in Chronicles,
however, seems to correspond more closely with Leviticus 26:40 and to a lesser
extent the book of Ezekiel, where the guilt is that of a whole community
rather than that of an individual. The passage in Leviticus 26:40-45 is
particularly significant in view of its influence in key passages in Chronicles
such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 and 36:21. M_´al is also not restricted in
Leviticus 26 to specific forms of sin, but refers more generally to acting
sinfully against God. This is consistent with the Chroniclers use of
it as a virtual synonym for the frequent expression to forsake (God)
(Heb. ´_zab). Personal rejection of God is more important in Chronicles
than simply failing to meet his requirements, and this emphasis is confirmed
by the use of m_´al in the context of marital infidelity (Nu. 5:12,
The Chronicler has a kind of unique approach to Israels
life. When you take the time carefully to read and study his books you find
that a strong link exists between obedience and blessing and between disobedience
and judgment in the lifetime of individuals. I mention this because it is
so crucial for modern Christianity. Christians today long for Gods
blessings but are often not willing to follow the path of obedience that
leads to those blessings.
Some neglect the worship services for a wide variety of
reasons and excuses, but the bottom line is that to neglect them is against
the Word of God. (Cf. Heb. 10:25.) Christians somehow seem to think that
they can engage in extra-marital (cyber) sex and that God will continue to
bless them. Young people (and older ones as well) apparently believe that
living together (shacking up) will not be an impediment to Gods blessings
in their lives. Christian businessmen sometimes operate their businesses
according to the ethics of raw pagans but expect Gods blessings simply
because they are Christians. Unfortunately, this is often what the phrase
Christian businessman means.
There is a great deal of talk in Wilkinsons book about Gods blessing
and thats a good thing. There are sentences, paragraphs, and chapters
that explain how we can come to expect Gods blessings when we pray
this prayer of Jabez. Whats missing is the correlation between obedience
and blessing that is such a strong theme with the Chronicler. Does God bless
His children? Absolutely. Does He bless His children richly and often? Yes
He does. Does He also expect obedience to Him and His Word? You bet He does!
Its a simple spiritual lesson. Obedience is part of Christian character
that is not attended by fireworks and the spectacular according
to the thought processes of man. It is that part of the Christian life that
is often attended by struggle and failure. Obedience does not attract crowds
or motivate many. If you think Im wrong watch TBN for a while (not
too long!) and listen to how many sermons youll hear on
gospel obedience. Dont hold your breath.
Nevertheless, the combination of obedience and blessing
runs like a golden thread through the fabric of the Chroniclers books.
When Wilkinson suggests that Christian businessmen can and should pray for
the Lord to expand their stock portfolios and their businesses he would have
done better to have added the concomitant aspect of obedience to the Word
of God while youre praying and waiting God to bless you.
MessageDavid and Solomon
The Chronicler has been described as a person
interacting with texts, or in other words he has produced a work of
interpretation or exegesis. Though its true that the books of
Samuel and Kings provide the framework for the main historical
section of the Chroniclers books (1 Chr. 10-2 Chr. 36), the author
ranges much more widely over what we now call the Old Testament. The beginning
and end of the work provide a good example of this. Chronicles starts with
Adam, mentioned in the first book of the Old Testament (1 Ch. 1:1; cf. Gn.
2:20; 5:1) and ends with the edict of Cyrus in Ezra-Nehemiah, a book dating
approximately to the Chroniclers own time (2 Ch. 36:22-23; cf. Ezr.
This being the case, we should pay particular attention
to those texts or people that occupy prominent positions in the
Chroniclers books. When we do this, two figures loom large in the
Chroniclers mind: David and Solomon. Recent Old Testament studies have
concluded that David and Solomon are presented to us as a single unit. Selman
is not overstating the case when he says, Indeed, it is precisely in
the combined account of David and Solomon that the main thrust of the entire
work is to be found.
Central to the Chroniclers purposes is Gods covenant
with David. (See 1 Chr. 7:3-14.) This is a key concept for it is an essential
factor in Gods covenant of grace and is bound to the Abrahamic and
Mosaic administrations of the covenant. In the Davidic administration God
promised that he would build an eternal house or dynasty for David and that
one of Davids offspring would build a house or temple for
This leads us to understand why Solomon and David are to be taken together
in the Chroniclers mind. We are reminded of Gods word to Solomon
in response to his prayer at the dedication of the temple. (See 2 Chr. 7:11-22.)
What are we to take from this single unit approach? In terms
of the remnant of Jews returning from exile these two figures point to the
nature of Gods faithful and trustworthy promise, namely that He is
always ready to forgive and restore His people.
What is more, the centrality of Gods covenant with
David finds its finest expression in our Lord Jesus Christ who descended
from David. The Prayer of Jabez is totally void of these crucial and necessary
concepts for the Christian life. Like obedience, the centrality of the covenant
administration to the returning exiles is omitted from Wilkinsons book.
Thats a serious omission! In fact, its not going too far to say
that omitting this in lieu of the rote repetition of Jabez obscure
prayer undermines the Chroniclers intentions. Admittedly, its
very difficult to give a precise context to Jabez prayer because of
its obscurity, but to have omitted the notion of the covenant from the book
greatly takes away from its impact.
Surprisingly, however, the book has had an enormous impact. There are various
reasons for that and well look at a few in the last section. Without
being overly pessimistic Im going to suggest that the very reason for
its success is that it omits so many key biblical doctrines. Ours is a time
when the word doctrine is anathema. Christians today dont want to hear
about doctrine and sound teaching even though the Bible refers to its importance
regularly. Ours is an age of easy believism and cheap grace.
Ours is a Christian society that prides itself of knowing little or nothing
other than John 3:16.
Im reminded of the words of the Lutheran martyr
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship.
Apart from being an interesting Christian, Bonhoeffer has some provocative
things in this book. This is going to be a fairly lengthy quote, but its
worth your time and attention.
Let the Christian rest content with
his worldliness and with this renunciation of any higher standard than the
world. He is doing for he sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace.
Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this gracefor
grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian
enjoy the consolations of his grace! That is what we mean by cheap grace,
the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification
of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sins departs.
Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the
toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring
repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession,
absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without
discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for
the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl
of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the
kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which
causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple
leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift
which must the asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and
it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because
it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only
true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies
the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:
ye were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot
be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son
too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly
grace is the Incarnation of God.
Our modern day Christianity has
come to expect popular books to be pabulum. Popular is synonymous
with easy, requiring nothing (especially, God forbid, thinking!),
anti-intellectual, consummately entertaining, and avoiding all types of
controversial concepts. My mentor, R.C. Sproul, writes popular books all
the time. And yet when I read one of Sproulies books I come away with
a greater understanding of and appreciation for God. Sprouls books
will stretch you, but youll be better for it. His is the kind of popular
book I never hesitate to recommend. I know that what is wants for all Christians
is not expanded portfolios but a deeper knowledge of our Sovereign God and
His Word of truth.
Comments and Criticisms
I think the best way to handle this part is by means of
a series of questions and answers. Ill base what I say on interaction
Ive had with various Christians that have both benefited from the book
and from those who had raised questions about it. The early Church community
used questions and answers as a good form of instruction, so Ill take
a page out of history and try their method.
May I pray this prayer? Well, of course you may. Its
a prayer found in Scripture and its valid for Christians to pray it.
We may pray the prayers that are recorded in Scripture.
But Im not commanded to pray this prayer? This is
true. We are commanded to prayer the Lords Prayer, but not this one.
But that shouldnt be a hindrance. There are many prayers in the Bible
that we are not commanded to pray that we pray frequently. Were not
commanded to pray the Psalms, but Christians throughout the centuries have
found great comfort in reading and praying them. Were not commanded
to pray the prayer of Daniel in Daniel 9, but its a most beautiful
prayer and worthy of our reading and praying. In short, whatever is biblical
we may pray.
Do you think this book is a name
it and claim it piece? Even though the author reminds us that that
is not his intention, the idea does seem to come across fairly frequently.
I certainly found myself asking that question over and over again. From time
to time I also felt that Wilkinson was leaning in the direction of the
gospel of health and wealth.
When he encouraged businessmen to pray that their stock
portfolio might be enlarged, I got more than a little antsy. Maybe thats
just my problem, but I have foundas a general principlethat
high-rolling businessmen are not as ethical as they should be.
And Im talking now about Christian businessmen. All too often they
cross the line and engage in business transactions and deals
that are at best shady and at worst felonies. What keeps them out of jail
is that dont get caught.
As a pastor I firmly believe that
the book would have been on more solid footing if the author had suggested
that those businessmen spend more time reading and applying Gods Word
in their lives and in those of their families. Theres just something
about sinful-though-redeemed human nature that does not lend itself to asking
for more. Theres this sin called greed thats always
crouching at the door.
What about the suggestion to repeat
this prayer every day? I take great exception to that suggestion. What I
found is that the prayer becomes some kind of magical mantra or incantation.
It smacks of forcing Gods hand through the mere recitation of this
prayer. I cannot think of any prayer that God tells us to recite every day.
Obviously, it is to our spiritual benefit to pray and to pray often and to
pray with fervency. But when someone attempts to impose an extra-biblical
requirement on us, thats cause for concern. Ive already voiced
my displeasure with Wilkinsons point that we re-read his book weekly
for a month. I believe that its audacious to suggest that andin
my opinionthe book is not worthy of one re-read.
You see, one of the problems is the very fact that we
like praying for blessing and success. And theres nothing inherently
wrong with asking God to bless us spiritually. In fact, we should probably
do that a lot more. We need to be very careful, however, that we rightly
understand when it is that Gods truly blessing us. For example, what
if we pray for Gods blessing and He sends some hardship our way. Should
we see that as His blessing? I would argue that a very good spiritual case
can be made for viewing trying times a great spiritual blessings from God.
That idea is not presented in the book however.
In addition, times of great success and wealth can be times when
were in Pilgrims Regress. When you stop and think about the so-called
Golden Age of Israel, that was the time prior to the Exile. It
was a time when Israel was rife with idolatry and when the Israelites chased
after foreign gods. They went through the externals of Judaism
but forgot that true worship of the Lord was from the heart. They had lots
of money in the bank, they were having lots of fun, and life was good. At
least they thought it was. They were Gods chosen people! What could
happen to them? They didnt reckon on living biblically holy lives and
as a consequence they eventuallyboth the northern and southern
kingdomswere carried away into exile in Assyria and Babylonia
We must be very careful when we ask God to bless us. Certainly
he can bless us without adding to our stock portfolio or giving us a better
job. He can bless us by not giving us more business or allowing us to engage
in all types of expansion deals that will substantially increase our revenues.
He can bless us by taking all that stuff away from us. This is
an essential spiritual insight that is not explained in the book. The Lord
can give us divine appointments without allowing us to see anyone
come to faith. We can hold Vacation Bible Schools and have less than 100,
50, 25, or 10 pupils and still be successful. God does not measure
success by numbers, but by obedience and faithfulness to Him and His
Would you recommend this book to others? Definitely not.
Its not because there are no truths in the book. There are, but you
have to search for them. There are many other books I would recommend for
Christians before I would even think of considering this book. I find the
book poorly researched as I have already said above. Im certain that
Christians have read this book and have received a lot of help from it. Im
glad for that. Im always pleased when Gods people receive spiritual
help and insight from a servant of the Lord, and I truly believe Bruce Wilkinson
is such a person.
In terms of the standard rules of interpretation, however, I believe Wilkinson
has made some quantum leaps and, at times, has somewhat forced
the text to say and mean what he wants it to say and mean. To have taken
such an obscure prayer and developed a whole theology around it would have,
I think, required a lot more explanation regarding the
grammatico-historical context of the prayer itself. Since it
is totally lacking, it appears that Wilkinsonlike so many other
scholarsdoesnt know why this pray was inserted where it was or
simply doesnt think its important to know. There is too much
in the book that is just slip shod work.
Isnt the fact that the book is so popular a sign that its good?
Well, that might be the case for others, but it certainly is not the case
for me. The popularity of any given book, movie, TV program, or music group
is no sign of be good. Its merely a sign of being popular. Moreover,
Christians and Christianity is so lacking in biblical discernment that it
doesnt surprise me that modern Christians think the book is great.
Were living in a day and age of almost unprecedented ignorance of the
Word of God. Christians no longer know the basics about the Bible and biblical
interpretation. Our age is one where Christians look at each other and say,
Well, thats your interpretation. What they mean by
thatas often as notis this: You have your interpretation and
I have mine and we can both be right. This is insinuated even when
the two interpretations are blatantly contradictory.
One of the reasons this happens is that Christians are
ignorant of the Word of God. Another reason is that Christians are ignorant
of solid principles of interpretation. When you combine those two, you have
a recipe for the Dark Ages. Think about this for a moment. If Gods
people have only a casual or cursory acquaintance with Gods Word, then
you can tell them practically anything you want. Thats precisely what
happened during the Middle Ages and precipitated the Reformation.
Hal Lindsey wrote
several popular books about the end times. The books contain almost as many
errors as words, but those books sold millions of copies and Christians
swear by them still today. This is a sign of our
Would you say that Bruce Wilkinson is a heretic? Absolutely not! Ive
already stated that I believe Bruce Wilkinson is a brother in the Lord. I
make distinctions among people with doubts, people who are in error, and
people who are heretics. A heretic teaches doctrines condemned by the Bible
and by the Church of Jesus Christ. Theres nothing in Wilkinsons
book thats heretical at all. I merely believe that he did injustice
to the text and then elevated this relatively obscure text to a place of
prominence it should not have.
I believe he made egregious errors in suggesting his 6-step
program to reciting this pray. In short, he grossly overdid it and
Ron Gleason is the pastor of Grace Presbtyerian Church in Yorba Linda,
California. He's married, with six children. Ron currently holds Ph.D.
(Systematic Theology) from Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
He has studied at the Free University of Amsterdam, and then at the Theological
Seminary of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, where he earned a Drs.
(doctorandus) degree, with honors. He has also studied at Gordon-Conwell
Theological Seminary, where he earned an M.Div. and graduated magna cum laude
(or as he likes to say, Lawdy! Lawdy! Lawdy!). His B.S. degree in Economics
was earned at The Citadel.
Ron is the publisher of Ethos, an online magazine,
where this article originally appeared.
©2001 Ron Gleason /
To The Grace Library]
[Return to His By Grace Home]