I have to confess to being pre-biased against the character study of Jabez. When we were tossing out names for character studies, I had sarcastically mentioned Jabez. I don't know if our pastor detected my contempt or not, but I was surprised when he said, "I'd love to do a study on Jabez. I think that would be interesting." After some consideration, I concluded that my problem with Jabez was completely missplaced. My real problem was with the book The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkerson.
I became a Christian at the end of 1998. I spent the next year or so learning about Jesus and the Gospel and what various denominations believed; how they differed, what they agreed on, and how other religions and various Christian cults spun their versions of God's Word. I wasn't attending any church at this time, but I had many Christian friends (and Christian enemies) that were willing to talk God with me.
In the summer of 2000, Dr. Bruce Wilkerson released The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life; a book that was in everybody's stocking that Christmas, including mine. I didn't know what a prosperity gospel was yet, but I was about to learn. In his book, Wilkerson asserted that the key to material prosperity lay in a two-verse blurb in First Chronicles by some guy named Jabez. Wilkerson wanted to teach his readers about a prayer that God always answers; kind of a name it and it's yours mantra that you speak out loud to get the good stuff! I found the whole book to be offensive and put it in the Goodwill box.
When our pastor said he thought a Jabez study would be interesting, I realized I had put Jabez in the Goodwill box too, but the actual Prayer of Jabez is a good example of how to approach God. Everything in the bible about Jabes is in verse nine and ten in 1Chronicles:
1Chronicles 4:9-10 9. Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." 10. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, "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." And God granted his request.
I'm not implying Jabez was not asking for material wealth, he probably was; we all needs to get paid. But since this prayer request was granted, it is clear that Jabez approached God with his heart in the right place.
Consider the Lord's Prayer Mat 6:9-13 9. "This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10. your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11. Give us today our daily bread. 12. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. '
It might be tempting to look at the "Prayer of Jabez" in Chronicles and take it as a means to get your way with God: "You have not because you ask not." becomes "You don't have a pair of Kawasaki Jet Skis because you didn't ask God for any." This is clearly a popular interpretation. Bruce Wilkerson's book sold over 2 million copies. It would be a grave mistake however, to think this approach would benefit your spiritual life.
Jabez prayer works because of Jabez's attitude; his recognition of God's greatness and his acknowledgement of God's sovereignty along with Jabez's faith that God alone defines our individual blessings and delights in giving them to us. God is truly great!.