Prayer of Jabez
by Ron Kurtus (revised 24 Februrary 2012)
An obscure prayer made by a man named Jabez in the Old Testament of the Bible has been popularized as a powerful way to pray for blessings. Although using the prayer has its followers, there are also critics of its validity.
Questions you may have include:
- Who was Jabez and where did this prayer come from?
- What is the meaning of the prayer?
- What is the criticism of the prayer?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Note: This is an educational website. We are not promoting any one religion.
The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament Bible list the genealogy of the Hebrew tribes, beginning with Adam and ending with Israel's ancient return from captivity. In chapter 4, there is mention of a man named Jabez.
Interrupting the long list of descendents from Adam is a short commentary about a man named Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. It starts by saying that he was more honorable than his brothers. It went on to say that Jabez called on God, saying,
"Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil,
that I may not cause pain!"
So God granted him what he requested. Then the listing of the descendents continued as before.
This story seems to stick out like a sore thumb, such that it may have more meaning than it seems. The best-selling book "The Prayer of Jabez - Breaking Through to the Blessed Life" by Bruce Wilkinson elaborates on this story, claiming that using such a prayer can result in a better life.
Wilkinson makes it clear from the outset that he is not advocating a formula prayer to somehow coerce God into granting His blessing, rather it takes clearly into account the heart-set and motivations of the person praying and his or her relationship with God.
Analysis of the prayer
The prayer said by Jabez can be broken into several parts. Each part has implications and can be interpreted to have greater meanings. After looking at the parts, you can re-word the prayer into something that fits your needs.
Parts of the prayer
Implications of each of the parts of the prayer are, as stated in Wilkinson's book, as follows:
Oh, that You would bless me indeed
Jabez is asking God to bless him greatly, exceedingly, or abundantly. God can provide beyond all that you can ask or imagine. He is leaving it up to God as the to the means of the blessings. This blessing is similar to "Thy Will be done" in the Lord's Prayer.
Enlarge my territory
Jabez is asking that God would give him more influence and opportunity to bring glory to God. This is a specific goal. He is making a bold request and asking God to give him big things. He may have also wanted to enlarge his wisdom, understanding, humility, patience, and love and joy. Perhaps he was asking to have good health, to enlarge his physical strength, and improve his character.
The idea here is that God wants people to have large goals. He wants people to reach and stretch, instead of cowering or accepting what they have. This viewpoint is contrary to what many traditional Christian religions believe and is a source of criticism from them.
That Your hand would be with me
Jabez asked that God's hand would be with him to lead him, protect him, strengthen him, and to work all His works in him. Since he had asked for so much, he also wanted to have God's help in handling his new responsibilities. He surrenders his success to God.
That You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain
Jabez prayed that in receiving God's blessings that he would not fall into the temptation that happens to many successful people, and that also evil people may not try to harm him.
This also relates to the phrase in the Lord's Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." It is a similar request.
But also, temptation and evil can lead a person to harm others, as well as themselves. This part of the prayer asks to prevent doing harm or causing pain.
God granted that which he requested
The Bible does not say what Jabez received for his prayer, except that God granted what he had requested. Since it is mentioned as something special in this section of the Bible, perhaps its significance is greater than it seems. Certainly Jabez did not become a renown leader that has a place in history, but he did get what he had asked for.
The philosophy of using this type of prayer is that others may also get what they want, provided it is for the glory of God.
Re-wording of prayer
Different versions of the Bible have different translations of Jabez's prayer. Also, people can re-word it to fit their own circumstances and preferences.
One possible re-wording of the prayer of Jabez is:
I pray that you will shower me with blessings.
I pray that you will allow me to reach new heights, (so I can influence more people to your Glory).
I pray that you will help me achieve my goals.
I pray that you will keep me from doing wrong to others.
Another version is:
Oh, that you would wonderfully bless me and help me in my work.
Please be with me in all that I do,
and keep me from all evil and disaster.
A very compact version is:
Enlarge my borders,
Keep Your hand upon me, and
Keep me from evil
Criticism of using the prayer
As with any religious idea, there are people with opposing views.
A major criticism of the prayer of Jabez is in using the prayer as a formula or a mantra to be chanted. Some claim to repeat the prayer several times a day, and that type of repetitive praying may seem mindless to critics.
Although, to counter that criticism, it is pointed out that many Christians do repeat the Lord's Prayer and Catholics often repeat the Hail Mary and Our Father, while counting their rosary beads.
Another criticism of using this prayer is that is promotes selfishness. Instead of being humble, the person prayer is asking for more. Religious critics say that the book promotes the "Prosperity Gospel" message that many new-age thinkers want to hear.
Critics and advocates of the concept of using the prayer of Jabez to increase your blessings, as stated in Wilkinson's book show the difference of viewpoint in the core beliefs or philosophy of various religions.
In the prayer of Jabez, a person asks to be blessed and to have his or her domain enlarged. Critics feel it promotes repetitive formula praying and selfishness. Different religious philosophies will either accept or reject use of this prayer.
Ask and you shall receive
Resources and references
The Prayer of Jabez site - Testimonies on the success of the prayer.
Problems with the "Prayer of Jabez" by Berit Kjos - Critical analysis of the book.
Praying Like Jabez? from the Let Us Reason Ministries - Book review and critical analysis of the concepts.
You can purchase these books in your bookstore or online through Amazon.com.
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life by Bruce H. Wilkinson; Multnomah Publishers, 2000 ($5.99) - A short, best-selling book that explains the concept of the prayer and gives examples of its success, according to Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, founder of the Walk Thru the Bible Ministries. The book is short, simple and to the point.
Oracion De Jabez Para Jovenes by Bruce H. Wilkinson; Spanish House, 2002 ($7.99) - Spanish version of "The Prayer of Jabez."
I Just Wanted More Land - Jabez: A Careful Analysis of Bruce Wilkinson's the Prayer of Jabez by Gary E. Gilley, 2001 ($9.99) - This book carefully examines what the true meaning of Jabez's brief prayer is all about. It supplies readers with tools to help the reader study the Scriptures for themselves and in context.
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