You have to read it! Really, it’ll change your prayer life, she said. Maybe it’s the rebel in me, but anytime someone says I have to do something, I want to do the opposite. I know, I know, I’m a female James Dean. But since it was a dear friend whom I trusted, I took her word and bought the newest Christian phenom of a book, The Prayer of Jabez. The book is based off an obscure prayer found in the middle of a long section of genealogies in 1 Chronicles 4: “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.”
Here’s the book in one sentence: If we truly pray for God to bless us and be used for His kingdom, good things would happen—God would bless and enlarge our territory and we would serve Him in a deeper and expanded way.
Nothing is wrong with this assertion, but many people read this book like a get-rich-quick manual. Like God is a celestial Bob Barker waiting to pull back a colorful door to reveal A new boat! A new dining room set and china cabinet! A set of jet skis! and other signs of wealth. All we need to do is spin the prayer wheel and ask for the illusive $1.00 spot.
I don’t know if this was the author’s intention, but to me, it was a palatable prosperity gospel* in mini-book form. It didn’t bode over well as I sat back and looked at my mother who was dying of cancer, I was a stellar college grad who was jobless, and my heart was broken for choosing God’s will over mine. I rested the book on my chest, placed my hand on my chemo-ridden mother and thought of Paul the Apostle. According the 2 Corinthians, Paul had frequently been in prison, flogged severely, exposed to death many times, whipped 39 lashes five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, shipwrecked, and endured dehydration and starvation. But his territory expanded. In fact, he authored more than half the New Testament, was thee early church father, and was a legit theologian who has changed lives even today.
The Prayer of Jabez is a poetic request from God, and yes, God blesses the lives of those who serve Him. But the Prayer of Juarez would include, Thy will be done, not my will. Come cancer, death, success, and health, blessed be your name. You give and take away, but my heart will surely say, blessed be your name.
*Prosperity gospel: the belief that God rewards faithful and sincere Christians with success! Good health! And material prosperity!