The Prayer of Jabez
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life is a book Bruce Wilkinson published in 2000 by Multnomah Books as the first book in the "BreakThrough" book series. It is based on the Old Testament passage (1 Chronicles 4:9-10):
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one." And God granted his request. (NIV)
In the book, Wilkinson encourages Christians to invoke this prayer for themselves on a daily basis:
- 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, you'll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit.
The book became an international bestseller, topping the New York Times bestseller list and selling nine million copies. It received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book of the Year award in 2001.
The popularity of the original book has led its publisher, Multnomah Press, to extend the line to a number of derivative works targeted at niche audiences, as well as to offer the books in audio and video formats. They also authorized a wide array of official "Prayer of Jabez" merchandise including key chains, mugs, backpacks, Christmas ornaments, scented candles, mouse pads and a framed artist's conception of Jabez himself. A line of jewelry was introduced in 2002.
- Three versions rewritten for children, one each targeted at preschoolers, 8-12 year olds and teens
- The Prayer of Jabez Journal
- The Prayer of Jabez Devotional (one edition for children, one for adults)
- The Prayer of Jabez Bible Study
- The Prayer of Jabez for Women written by Wilkinson's wife, Darlene
- a musical companion, The Prayer of Jabez Music ... A Worship Experience (ForeFront Records)
- The Healing of Jabez by John W. Mauck ('Credo House Publishers, ISBN 978-1-935391-29-6) was published in 2009.
The prayer of Jabez became very popular within sections of the fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian movement. Followers were drawn to the prayer in cult-like devotion, using it in a repetitive manner as a mantra. It was particularly evident in those churches associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, Kingdom Now theology, Dominion theology, Five-fold ministry thinking and other more extreme or fringe elements within the spirit-filled Christianity movement. Some within the movement used the prayer in an almost superstitious way, believing it to be a harbinger of prosperity, good fortune, wealth, health and happiness. It was overtly promoted by some leaders within these churches, who benefited personally and/or corporately through their religious organizations by on-selling the vast range of commercial merchandise associated with the prayer. Such leaders convinced some followers that these items of merchandise carried with them special powers attributed to the anointing of the holy spirit, and were said to be even more effective when combined with repetitive chanting of the prayer. This attracted strong criticism from some conservative Christian leaders on the grounds it encouraged a shallow, self-centred spiritual mindset, while other critics claimed that used in this way it was more reminiscent of mysticism and demonic influence.
Jabez has been compared to the "prosperity gospel" and has received the reproaches often addressed toward that doctrine, e.g. that the Jabez prayer suggests that God ought to do what man wants, instead of man following God's will. Some have taken issue with the form of the prayer, citing Jesus' admonition against "vain repetitions" in Matthew 6:7-9. The commercialization of Jabez has also attracted criticism.
The Cult of Jabez... and the falling away of the church in America, a book alleging an un-biblical premise of Wilkinson's book, reached as high as #77 on amazon.com's top 100 books list in 2002.
The Jabez you Never Knew: Hebraic Keys to Answered Prayers, by Norm Franz, was written to give a historic perspective on the account of Jabez, and to criticize the original work for its emphasis on rote prayer.
The recording artist Derek Webb has said that his controversial song "Wedding Dress" was written after he saw Wilkinson speak about The Prayer of Jabez. Similarly, the Ceili Rain satirical song "Gold God" takes issue with this concept (if not the book) as well, noting the God who "expanded my territory" is "like a Visa card".
- New York Times Best Seller List
- 'Jabez' Enlarges Multnomah's 'Territory' at Publishers Weekly
- What's in a name? Jabez Jewelz at St. Louis Business Journal.
- Franz, Norm (2002). The Jabez You Never Knew: Hebraic Keys to Answered Prayers. Ascension Publishing. ISBN 9780971086319.
- In Defense of 'Jabez,' First Things, October 2001.
- Critical reviews of Jabez
- A theological critique of Jabez
- Review of the theological implications of the book by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
- Van Biema, David, "A Prayer with Wings", Time magazine