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Material Prosperity and the Prayer of Jabez

“And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (I Chron. 4:10)

In 2000, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book entitled “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life”.  This small book has become one of the driving forces behind the “prosperity gospel” message that is currently being preached in many Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. 

Dr. Wilkinson’s book and others like it teach that God wants to bless his people with material prosperity.  Those that are currently not receiving these blessings either are not living right or have not learned how to ask for them yet.  As God’s privileged children all we need to do is merely “name it and claim it”.

This book has become tremendously popular due in part to the fact that Christians today are ignorant of the Word of God and what it teaches.  Too many people are simply seeking God’s blessings and not the one that blesses.  They readily believe that God wants us to be blessed materially because he loves us.  They eagerly accept the teaching that since Christ suffered we shouldn’t have to. 

For 3,000 years, nobody even knew who Jabez was.  Now his prayer is recited daily by millions of Christian believers with the false hope that those words will bring material blessings upon their lives as well.  Now it is true that God has promised blessings to his people, but he has also promised suffering.  Below are several points that highlight the fallacies of this book and the “prosperity gospel” it has spawned: 

  • Christ did not teach his disciples the prayer of Jabez!  When his disciples came to him and asked him to teach them how to pray, he didn’t refer them back to the prayer of Jabez.  In fact, Jesus continually taught against the dangers of wealth and how difficult it was for a rich man to be saved.  (Matt. 19:24)
  • Not only did Christ not pray the prayer of Jabez, but there is no recorded evidence of anyone else using that prayer either.  We have numerous prayers recorded in the Bible by great men and women like Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Esther, etc.  However, none of them prayed the prayer of Jabez.  It is also interesting to note that Dr. Wilkinson doesn’t use Biblical examples as evidence that the prayer of Jabez works for everyone.  He wrote, “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.” The Prayer of Jabez, page 11.
  • The message of prosperity appeals to an individual’s covetous nature.  This of course explains the tremendous popularity of this book and others similar to it.  Everybody wants to have something for nothing.  Advocates of this “gospel” are fond of Job 42:10 where Job prayed and God gave him twice what he had before.  It’s easy to focus on that single verse and skip over the chapters and chapters of suffering that came before it. 
  • Men that were called to be ministers of the gospel are now focusing on a prosperity ministry.  They write books entitled “You Need More Money” and “Godly Materialism”.  This message is continually proclaimed across pulpits, because it is what people want to hear.  The church of the 21st century is focused on marketing itself to a specific demographic.  They are trying to attract the individuals that grew up in the materialistic craze of the 80’s, then played the stock market in the 90’s and in this decade are living in mansions and driving luxury cars.  This is the demographic that pastors need in order to build the big, mega-churches.  Naturally, these are the same individuals that are attracted to the message that Christians should be financially prosperous.
  • This book promises things that the Bible does not.  Dr. Wilkinson remarks in his opening preface, “I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers…I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God….”  Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the Bible that if you say the right prayer that God will always answer you by giving you everything you ask for.  It is also incorrect to infer that just because God answered Jabez’s prayer a certain way that he will answer you if you just use that same words that Jabez did.  Sometimes when you pray a prayer the answer is simply “No”.
  • Dr. Wilkinson in this book encourages individuals to read his book, not the Bible.  “…make the Jabez prayer for blessing part of the daily fabric of your life.  To do that, I encourage you to follow unwaveringly the plan outlined here for the next thirty days.  By the end of that time, you’ll be noticing significant changes in your life…. Read the prayer of Jabez every morning…. Reread this little book once each week during the next month….” The Prayer of Jabez, page 86.  However, David said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and I light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105).  If we want God’s blessings, we need to be reading his Word.
  • The Lord doesn’t want us to say a repetitious prayer every day.  “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do….” (Matt. 6:7). There is no magical power in saying specific words in a specific order that moves God to answer your prayer.  There is no special mantra that you can chant that will convince the Lord to grant your request.  “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3).
  • Many Christians today aren’t doing the things they need to do to be in a position to receive God’s blessings.  It takes a lot more than just repeating a few words each day.  According to Barna Research the proportion of households that tithe their income to their church – that is, give at least ten percent of their income to that ministry – was just 3% of adults during 2002.  If you’re not obeying God’s word in the little things that are required of you, then it won’t matter how often you pray the prayer of Jabez asking for God to bless you.  It probably isn’t going to happen!
  • If God isn’t prospering you then something must be wrong.  Either you are not yet aware of his blessings or you have not learned the right prayer yet.  The prophet Jeremiah must not have known about the prayer of Jabez when he asked, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” (Jeremiah 12:1).  This would indicate that it is often the non-elect that are prospering, not the children of God. 
  • Advocates of prosperity teaching often proclaim that Jesus suffered for us so we don’t have to.  Therefore, they claim that Christians are not required to suffer sickness, poverty, or deprivation.  Of course Heb. 11:35-38 depicts a different story, “…being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy.”

God does offering blessings to His people.  However, these blessings do not always come in the form of financial prosperity.  “…a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”  (Luke 12:15).  The Lord certainly doesn’t want us to be constantly asking for material blessings.  Any material blessings we can ask for in this life fall far short of the wonderful blessings that he has in store for us.

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One Response to “Material Prosperity and the Prayer of Jabez”

  1. ralf
    September 13, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    I think the bottom line in all of this is the fact that people today are seeking more and more material blessing and would use any means to achieve it.the bible is one such avenue and so you see evangelists preachers,pastors all tailoring sermons,books,etc around the subject of prosperity and carving out bible passages to suit the needs of the indiviual because people will go for anything that works quicker and faster…