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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Pray like Jesus, not Jabez

Two new books turn the publishing phenomenon, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Multnomah, 2000) on its ear. Both are serious critiques; one, a parody.

Bruce Wilkinson, founder and president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, wrote The Prayer of Jabez. He took a 32-word prayer of an obscure Old Testament figure in 1 Chronicles (Jabez) and published a slim volume that struck a nerve and has sold 8 million copies.

But critics suggest that nerve is directly connected with Americans' lust for comfort and material satisfaction. "American idolatry," some call it, suggesting Wilkinson offers a prosperity theology that promises miracles but bypasses the call to pick up the cross and follow Jesus into a needy world.

One critic, American Baptist theologian Robert Mulholland, wrote Praying Like Jesus: The Lord's Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001). "In a materialistic, self-centered society, such a prayer will always be attractive," Mulholland says. "The point of prayer is not to tell God what you want, but to hear what you need."

Douglas M. Jones, a fellow of philosophy at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho, exercises a lighter but no less critical touch in The Mantra of Jabez: A Christian Parody (Canon Press, 2001). Jones' ruthless — but not cynical — humor points to a vision of Christianity's riches of truth and beauty that he believes the original Jabez trivializes


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