Thoughts to Ponder

Prayer of Jabez

Review of the book The Prayer of Jabez by Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson

All quotes in black are from The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce H. Wilkinson copyright Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Referred to hereafter as PoJ.

This book seems to be spreading like wild fire in the Christian community, which is why I decided to do a review of it. I have some real problems with this book and what it teaches, however, I wanted to state up front that there are some good ideas in it. In fact that is one problem with a book like this. If it were all off base it would be easy for people to discern and reject, but if it contains some good material then it is easy for people to either overlook the unbiblical parts or to think that they are unimportant.

I would like to give you my view of a book like this. To me it is a steak dinner with all the trimmings; steak, baked potato, corn and bread. All good nutritional food, the problem is that as a final touch the chef sprinkled just a little rat poison over the plate. Would you still eat it? It is 99% wholesome! If you answer no, then why would you feed your spirit something that was only 99% wholesome or even less than that?

This is probably a good place to quote the Bible text which the entire book is based on. It is short. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NIV) Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." {10} 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. That is it. That is all the Bible says about Jabez. Anything else that anyone tells you has to be conjecture, since that is the last time Jabez is mentioned.

Let me start with the Preface page of the book. I want to teach you to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. (PoJ Preface page) This one sentence could just about sum up my concerns about this entire book. The author appears to be saying that he has found the magic words which will get you what you want from God. Now on the one hand I believe that God always answers any prayer made by His children, although not always the way we want or in the time period we want. I don't believe that is what the author it trying to convince people of, it seems pretty straight forward that he is trying to say that he has found the prayer that God always answers and he wants to teach us to pray it. But lets look a little further before we pass judgment.

I picked up my Bible and read verse ten--the prayer of Jabez. Something in his prayer would explain the mystery. It had to. Pulling a chair up to the yellow counter, I bent over my Bible, and reading the prayer over and over, I searched with all my heart for the future God had for someone as ordinary as I.

The next morning, I prayed Jabez's prayer word for word.

And the next.

And the next.

Thirty years later, I haven't stopped.

If you were to ask me what sentence--other than my prayer for salvation--has revolutionized my life and ministry the most, I would tell you that it was the cry of a gimper named Jabez, who is still remembered not for what he did, but for what he prayed--and for what happened next. (PoJ page 11) Notice he claims to have prayed the prayer word for word for thirty years now. Here too it would appear he is saying that he has found the prayer.

Now lets jump to the very end of the book. In the last chapter of the book titled Making Jabez Mine the author challenges the reader to make the Jabez prayer for blessing a part of the daily fabric of their life. He gives several steps that he feels the person should follow for the next 30 days. I will only quote 3 of the 6 here:

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 the purpose.

2. Write out the prayer and tape it in your Bible, in your day-timer, on your bathroom mirror, or some other place where you'll 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. (PoJ pages 86-87) Notice that he is still speaking about this prayer, word for word. Also notice he does not encourage the reader to read their Bible just his book.

Just by looking at what is happening, I can assure you that God still answers those who have a loyal heart and pray the Jabez prayer. (PoJ page 90) Again he stresses that it is this particular prayer that God answers. So you see this in the first chapter and in the last chapter of the book.

You may wonder why I went from the front of the book to the back right at the start of this review. The reason is simple everything in between the front and the back must be viewed through the lenses of these two statements. The author opens with this idea and he closes with this idea, so everything in between should be consistent with those thoughts. The steak in the middle of the book has been sprinkled with this rat poison.

Let me make my last statement clear before I continue. I consider the idea that the author has found the prayer that God answers rat poison because it is no different than claiming you have found the magic words to get what you want from God. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, one of the things He told them was: (Matthew 6:7 NRSV) "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. The NIV says not to keep on babbling instead of heap up empty phrases. So what did Jesus mean by that? I think He meant don't pray like the pagans who just say the words, don't just repeat empty prayers. Isn't that what happens if a person picks a prayer out of the Bible and says it word for word, day after day? We are to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father. What kind of a relationship would you have with your spouse if you repeated the same phrase word for word, day after day with no thought or feels from the heart?

We Protestants are quick to accuse the Catholic church of violating this very command of the Lord by saying their canned prayers day after day, yet I watch in amazement as church after church embraces this book and this prayer in the same way the Catholic church embraces the rosary.

Speaking of the prayer Jabez prayed, the author goes on to state: How do I know that it will significantly impact you? Because of my experience and the testimony of hundreds of others around the world with whom I've shared these principles. Because, even more importantly, the Jabez prayer distills God's powerful will for your future. (PoJ pages 11-12) See how he treats the prayer as something special? It distills God's powerful will... And on what basis does he makes these claims? On the basis of subjective experiences.

I want to quote a couple short testimonials I have taken from the official Prayer of Jabez website at http://www.prayerofjabez.com/ On the website they have a forum for readers to post their personal experiences. Here are two:

I've watched as some friends who have being praying the Prayer of Jabez have, unfortunately, inflicted much pain on others as they've enlarged their border and increased their blessings at the expense of the feelings and concerns of those around them.

I am hoping that these ladies will pray ALL the prayer -- the part about not inflicting pain on others.

I am also reading the book myself and asking that if God chooses to increase my border and bless my life, I will never, ever, step on others in the process. Perhaps my blessing will be to bring healing to those hurt by people who are driven, rather than called, but think they are claiming God's blessing.

One who's been hurt

I don't want to link the author with this person's testimony too closely, however, in the book he himself states that this is the way he knows the prayer will make a significant impact on you. Since when will God answer one Christian's pray by hurting another Christian in the process?

God is good...all the time! I was given this book Friday afternoon from a friend and business associate. I mentioned it to my husband when he came home from work and told him that I would love to have him read it sometime, but with his head in the paper, I only received a small grunt of communication.

After dinner, I was anxious to read it, so I curled up on the sofa and started in. My husband sat nearby reading papers and magazines that he is interested in. Since it was getting late, I may have dozed a minute, but when I woke, he had gone to bed, so I stayed up and read the rest of the book and half again. Before going to bed, I prayed the prayer of Jabez, with my thoughts turning toward my husband. My heart yearned for him to read this book and to begin receiving God's blessings for his life.

As I slowly woke up Saturday morning, I sensed that my husband was not in bed. I didn't hear any clanging of dishes or any shower running...it was silent. My heart began to pound so that I could hardly stay in bed. Could he be reading? Whenever sitting still, he has some business journal or magazine in hand...but could I dare think that God would have answered my prayer already?

As I rounded the top of our stairs and saw a light on in the living room, my heart began to swell with joy. I couldn't contain the smile that was on my face as I came down the stairs and saw my husband stretched out on the sofa reading The Prayer of Jabez! I praise our God right now for the blessings He has already bestowed and for those I know will come! Amen!

Notice how this testimonial is all about the book. The blessing she received was that her husband was reading this book. Therein is my problem. The focus is on the book and this prayer, not on reading the Bible nor in praying more and getting a more intimate relationship with God. It goes back to these people thinking they have found the magic words which will bring blessings into their lives. Again I am not trying to link the author too closely with the testimonies, however, this is what the book promotes.

Am I wrong about the intent of this book? Well lets go back to the pages of the book and check. In the pages to come, I want to show you just how dramatically each of Jabez's requests can release something miraculous in your life. (PoJ page 15) How dramatically each of Jabez's requests... Not your own requests but Jabez's requests. This is not about learning to talk to your Father it is about saying the right words. I don't claim to know the author's heart, but plain reading of the text shows that this is the intent of the book or at least it is what would be thought to be the intent by anyone who reads it at face value.

One of the premises that the author expresses is that God has untold blessings waiting for us but we never get them because we never ask for them. The author goes out of his way to say that what he is preaching is not the same as the name it and claim it word of faith crowd, but it sure smells the same to me. God really does have unclaimed blessings waiting for you, my friend. (PoJ page 17) The word of faith movement goes further than that and claims that God has storehouses with unclaimed riches for His children because they don't ask, but the two seem pretty close to me.

The author asks this question: Is it possible that God wants you to be more "selfish" in your prayers? (PoJ page 19) He then goes on to explain how this prayer is not really selfish it is very spiritual. In doing this he does something interesting, he tells us about Jabez. Now remember I quoted the entire references to Jabez from the Bible above, or you can check it out yourself in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. The author talks about how maybe Jabez was born breech and that was the pain his mother felt, or maybe his father died or abandoned the family, or maybe the family had fallen into financial straits, etc.. All of this is just conjecture and for the most part is harmless, however, the author does not stop there. By the time he was an adult, Jabez believed and fervently hoped in the God of miracles and new beginnings. (PoJ page 22)

Now I ask you where did the author get this insight? It is not recorded in scripture. It does say that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, but it does not say that he had put his faith in God. My point is this; what if his brothers and his community were full blown baal worshipers and Jabez was not as bad as them and decided to call upon the God of his forefathers? Not because he had great faith in Him, but because he wanted to see what would happen? Couldn't God bless him just to show the community who He is, not because Jabez was such a hero of faith? I have no idea and that is the point, neither does the author. We know Jabez was more honorable than his brothers and that is all we know about his faith. To go further then that is to go outside of scripture for your own purposes.

When we seek God's blessing as the ultimate value in life, we are throwing ourselves entirely into the river of His will and power and purposes for us. (PoJ page 24) Do you see what the author is doing here? He is making a selfish prayer for our own blessings into an unselfish placing of ourselves in God's will. Notice too that he says when we make this our ultimate value in life! I thought pleasing God and bringing glory to Christ should be our ultimate goal in life. By the way, where is Christ in all of this? I praise God that when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane He did not pray like this but instead like this: (Matthew 26:39 NIV) Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." His Father's will was utmost in His mind and I believe should be in ours also.

Let me tell you a guaranteed by-product of sincerely seeking His blessing: Your life will become marked by miracles. (PoJ page 24) Again sounds a lot like the word of faith movements claims.

Through a simple, believing prayer, you can change your future. You can change what happens one minute from now. (PoJ page 29) I would agree with him if he had said through simple prayer you can... but notice again that is not what he is talking about, he is taking about a certain prayer.

From both the context and the results of Jabez's 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. (PoJ page 30 Italics in original) Where does the author get this information? How does he know that Jabez did not just want more real estate? He says from the context and the results. So what is the context? There are only two verses and it gives you very little context to go on. He was more honorable than his brothers and his mother gave birth to him in pain. How does that show what his intent was for praying what he prayed? The fact that God granted his requests speaks volumes about God but not much about Jabez. The author could be right, my problem is that he can't be sure. Why does God answer some prayers in the affirmative and others in the negative? Because He is sovereign and He decides how He will answer prayers, even prayers of non-believers on occasion, so we should not judge a person's spiritual life by whether God answers their prayer.

There are many more examples of this throughout the book, but I don't want to make this any longer then it has to be to get the point across. There is however, one more unbiblical statement in the book that I want to address. The author talks about asking God to keep us from evil and temptation. There is nothing wrong with that, in the prayer Jesus taught the disciples He also asked God to keep us from temptation, but while talking about this the author states: Without a temptation, we would not sin (PoJ page 67) That statement is totally unbiblical. It gives the impression that we only sin because of outside influences.

Maybe you think I am wrong, so lets look at what God says, since what I say and what the author says neither really matter. (Genesis 8:21 NIV) The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. Every inclination of the unregenerated heart is evil. (James 1:13-15 NIV) When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; {14} but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. {15} Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Our own evil desires are what tempt us. So to say that without temptation we would not sin is unbiblical.

Our Father is a loving God, who does want to bless us, but it is not our lack of asking that is the problem, it is the condition of our heart and our will that most often stands in the way of our blessings. If we will align our will with that of the Father's, we will allow Him to bless us.

So what about all the testimonials of people who have repeated these words over and over again and have received blessings? Well for one that is very subjective in nature. Second not all things that we consider blessings come from God. We are told that all good gifts come from God, but we don't always know what is a good gift and what is not.

Here is my point. Lets say that this entire Jabez prayer fad leads people away from a true relationship with God and aligning of their wills with His will. Now lets say that the devil sees this as a way to weaken Christians. Could it not stand to reason under those circumstances that the devil might give these people things they want to further pull them away from a true prayer relationship with God? I think it could. I am not saying that is what is going on, but I am saying that subjective testimonies about things like this should not be used as support for the spiritual accuracy of some teaching. The word of faith (name it and claim it) crowd can also list hundreds of testimonials, but it does not make their teaching biblical either.

Be a Berean, test everything you hear and read against God's word. Just because you hear something from the pulpit does not make it biblical. We should not be surprised God warned us about this in advance: (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV) For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

View responses to this review.

View responses to this review. (page 2)


Every Christian should read this book. Whether you have concerns about "The Prayer of Jabez" or embrace it, you should read this book to see how it holds up against Scripture.


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