Summary: Why not, everyone else is doing it.
It¡¦s not very big, it¡¦s just a little book, only 92 pages long, and they¡¦re not very big pages either, but then again it¡¦s based on a very small portion of scripture. The Prayer of Jabez hit the book stands last year and became the surprise best seller of the year. I¡¦m sure that when Bruce Wilkinson wrote his book, which is subtitled ¡§Breaking Through to the Blessed Life.¡¨ He had no idea that it would take off like the way it did. The original printing only numbered 20,000 copies. When they sold out, his publisher Multnomah took a step of faith and ordered an additional 70,000 copies printed. At last count over 4.1 million books had been sold, keeping ¡§The Prayer of Jabez¡¨ on the New York best sellers list for most of last year. You can now buy the prayer of Jabez on just about everything including your coffee cup and it inspired the song that you heard just a few moments ago.
Not everyone was impressed by Wilkinson¡¦s theology though, the New York Times had this to say: "The Prayer of Jabez" offers a new view of the prosperity gospel. It preaches that it is perfectly fine to ask God for personal success, as long as that success has a godly purpose.¡¨ And 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.¡¨
When I first heard about the book I would have probably agreed with the critics but after reading the book my views are more in line with Mark Galli the managing editor of Christianity Today who wrote: ¡§Nevertheless, Wilkinson has accomplished much, especially in Jabez, for which we can be thankful. He’s managed to get millions of Christians to realize afresh their divine significance, reminding them of the ministries God has for them, encouraging them to think big when it comes to helping others. It’s not the whole counsel of God, but neither is it a bad start for those who had forgotten, or never knew, that the living God is as near as a prayer.¡¨
This morning we are going to take a look at ¡§The Prayer of Jabez¡¨ not the book, but the prayer in The Book, and see what we can learn from it, what message it has for God¡¦s people on November 4th 2001.
So who was Jabez? Well he has probably been mentioned more in the past year then in the previous 2,500 years combined. All we know about him comes from two verses in the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles. The book itself was written about 500 years before Christ was born and although we don¡¦t have any concrete evidence tradition tells us that it was written by the prophet Ezra. The first nine chapters Chronicle, thus the name of the book, the people of Israel back to Adam, and it is in this section that we find the words that Bonnie read this morning.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 There was a man named Jabez who was more distinguished than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, ¡§Oh, that you would bless me and extend my lands! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!¡¨ And God granted him his request.
And that my friends is all he wrote. That is the sum total of everything we know for sure about Jabez. One preacher commented that when he had heard all the commotion about Wilkinson¡¦s book that he went to 1 Chronicles and read the account of Jabez and his first thought was ¡§Book must have a lot of pictures.¡¨
So what do we know? 1) There was a man named Jabez who was more distinguished than any of his brothers. We don¡¦t know what set Jabez apart from his siblings, but there was something that made him a memorable figure. There are over 500 names mentioned in the first nine chapters of the 1 Chronicles, 44 people are mentioned in the first eight verses of chapter 4, all without commentary and then for whatever reason the author interjects, and says that one man was more distinguished than any of his brothers. And then after writing a mere 71 words he continues with listing people without comment or commentary. It¡¦s as if in mid recollection the author says ¡§Whoa, there¡¦s something about this guy you gotta hear. He¡¦s special.¡¨ But what was it that was so special? Wilkinson sums it up this way
„« Things started badly for a person no one had ever heard of.