The prayer of Jabez, is this prayer for all Christians? by Jack Kettler
“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 ESV)
Is this prayer for Christians today to emulate?
This writer has been at sales conferences and has seen the passage regarding the prayer of Jabez used as what seems like a magical incantation for people to use. The prayer of Jabez is used in the “Prosperity Gospel,” “Name it and Claim it,” and “Word of Faith” movements. Jabez’s prayer in these circles is promoted in such a way that God is bound to answer it if the person has the right amount of faith.
Bruce Wilkinson, the author of this book on the prayer of Jabez, believes that ordinary Christians can live extraordinary lives by seeking God’s blessing. In his view, the prayer of Jabez becomes a model prayer to achieve wealth and prosperity.
Wilkinson declares that God always answers this prayer:
“God favors those who ask. He holds back nothing from those who want and earnestly long for what He wants.” (1)
God, according to this assertion, is seemingly bound to answer this prayer.
Wilkinson asserts that if one prays the prayer of Jabez:
“Word-for-word, every day for a month, then believers will see God’s power released in our lives.” (2)
The very title of Wilkinson’s book reveals his theology that blessings of material wealth will follow by praying this prayer. How is this so? Jabez’s prayer in Scripture provides no mandate for Christians down through the ages to repeat this prayer. While it is not sinful to repeat this prayer, it is presumptuous to think God is obligated to respond to this prayer as He did for Jabez. Why would God be bound to answer this prayer by believers other than Jabez?
Furthermore, nothing in the 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 text warrants anything other than seeing it as a historical account. Therefore, there is no textual warrant for ripping this prayer out of its historical context.
Wilkinson’s hermeneutics is flawed:
Hermeneutics: is the science of interpretation. From the Greek hermeneuo, “to explain, interpret.” Hermeneutics is known as the science of Biblical interpretation. The apostle Paul described the goal of all accurate hermeneutics in 2 Timothy 2:15 when he said, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The grammatical-historical hermeneutic is needed:
The goal of the historical-grammatical hermeneutic or method attempts to recognize what the writer intended and what the original hearers would have understood it to mean. Grammar and
syntax is used to determine the various parts of the thoughts in the text and how they are to be understood.
Exegesis, the interpretive norm:
Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι’ to lead out’) is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage, it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term “Biblical exegesis” is used for greater specificity. The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the text, which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance.
Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the author, the text, and the original audience. Other analysis includes the classification of the type of literary genres present in the text and an analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself.
Eisegesis, the interpretive danger:
Eisegesis (from Greek εἰς “into” and ending from exegesis from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one’s ideas, reading into the text. Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning of the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into the text. As a result, exegesis tends to be objective when employed, while eisegesis is regarded as highly subjective. An individual who practices eisegesis is known as an eisegete, and someone who practices exegesis is known as an exegete.
The assertion that saying this prayer every day word-for-word sounds like an incantation. In addition, Wilkinson’s assertion sounds a lot like Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and Grow Rich.” Moreover, Wilkinson’s approach to Scripture in his book on the Prayer of Jabez seems like how some approach the writing of Nostradamus by searching the writings looking for some secret truth or code that can be found.
Instead of praying every day for God to “enlarge my territory,” Believers should follow Jesus’s example when He asks for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:0).
Wilkinson’s approach to Scripture is flawed and commits the error of reading into the text (Eisegesis) ideas that are not the passage. If Wilkinson has had hermeneutical training, he has thrown it out the window in approach to the prayer of Jabez.
Jeffrey H. Mahan, professor of ministry, media, and culture at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, said:
“It fits with the narcissism of the age. Religious life is focused on me and my needs.” (3)
Before Wilkinson wrote his book, he should have consulted a number of classic commentaries that are easily assessable online.
A sober exegesis of the 1 Chronicles text from Matthew Poole’s Commentary:
“Jabez called on the God of Israel, when he was undertaking some great and dangerous service.
Oh, that thou wouldst bless me indeed. I trust not to my own or people’s valour, but only to thy blessing and help.
Enlarge my coast; drive out these wicked and cursed Canaanites, whom thou hast commanded us to root out, and therefore I justly beg and expect thy blessing in the execution of thy command.
That thine hand might be with me, to protect and strengthen me against my adversaries.
That thou wouldst keep me from evil, or work with (for so the Hebrew prefix mem is sometimes used, as Song of Solomon 1:2 3:9 Isaiah 5:7,8), i.e. so-restrain and govern it.
That it may not grieve me; that it may not oppress and overcome me, which will be very grievous to me. The consequent put for the antecedent; and more is understood than is expressed. He useth this expression in allusion to his name, which signifies grief: q.d. Lord, let me not have that grief which my name implies, and which my sin deserves.” (4)
One can be presumptuous, unseemly self-confident and make prideful predictions regarding their standing before God. However, being presumptuous is a type of arrogance that is inappropriate.
Instead, believers should be governed by humility seeking God’s will rather than demanding God’s favor.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, (Sisters, OR, Multnomah, 2000), p. 76.
2. Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life, (Sisters, OR, Multnomah, 2000), p. 86.
3. Jeffery H. Mahan, A Book Spreads the Word: Prayer for Prosperity Works, (New York Times, May 8, 2001).
4. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 1 Chronicles, Vol. 3, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 231.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. JackKettler .com