Jabez or Jabes is a Biblical male given name from the Old Testament. In 1 Chronicles, Jabez is a well-respected man (hinted to be an ancestor in the lineage of the kings’ tribe of Judah, though none of his family is mentioned) whose prayer to God for blessing was answered (see 1 Chronicles 4:9-11). The name is Hebrew (yabetz = יַעְבֵּץ) for “he makes sorrowful”; his mother stated “I gave birth to him in pain”. Jabez was labelled with “sorrow” at birth, but his prayer against contracting sorrow nullified the label. His life contradicted his name. Jabez‘s name is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:55, possibly as a place named after him. Jabez possibly could have been a Jewish scribe in his later years. He might have been influential and well respected as a scribe because the city named after him was where the families of scribes lived.
I Chronicles 4:9-10
9 And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.
10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
The Prayer of Jabez
The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life is a book by Bruce Wilkinson published in 2000 by Multnomah Books as the first book in the “BreakThrough” book series. It is based on the Old Testament passage 1 Chronicles 4:9–10:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one.” And God granted his request. (NIV)
In the book, Wilkinson encourages Christians to invoke this prayer for themselves on a daily basis:
- I challenge you to make the Jabez prayer for blessing part of the daily fabric of your life. To do that, I encourage you to follow unwaveringly the plan outlined here for the next thirty days. By the end of that time, you’ll be noticing significant changes in your life, and the prayer will be on its way to becoming a treasured, lifelong habit.
The book became an international bestseller, topping the New York Times bestseller list and selling nine million copies. It received the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book of the Year award in 2001.
Derivative works and merchandise
The popularity of the original book has led its publisher, Multnomah Press, to extend the line to a number of derivative works targeted at niche audiences, as well as to offer the books in audio and video formats. They also authorized a wide array of official “Prayer of Jabez” merchandise including key chains, mugs, backpacks, Christmas ornaments, scented candles, mouse pads and a framed artist’s conception of Jabez himself. A line of jewelry was introduced in 2002.
- Three versions rewritten for children, one each targeted at preschoolers, 8-12 year olds and teens
- The Prayer of Jabez Journal
- The Prayer of Jabez Devotional (one edition for children, one for adults)
- The Prayer of Jabez Bible Study
- The Prayer of Jabez for Women written by Wilkinson’s wife, Darlene
- a musical companion, The Prayer of Jabez Music … A Worship Experience (ForeFront Records)
- The Healing of Jabez by John W. Mauck (‘Credo House Publishers, ISBN 978-1-935391-29-6) was published in 2009.
Jabez has been compared to the “prosperity gospel” and has received the reproaches often addressed toward that doctrine, e.g. that the Jabez prayer suggests that God ought to do what people want rather than them following God’s will. Some have taken issue with the form of the prayer, citing Jesus’ admonition against “vain repetitions” in Matthew 6:7-9. The commercialization of Jabez has also attracted criticism. At the same time, adherents have responded by saying that to decry the prayer of Jabez is to call into question the efficacy of prayer in general.
The prayer of Jabez became very popular within sections of the fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian movement. Some followers were drawn to the prayer in cult-like devotion, using it in a repetitive manner as a mantra. It was particularly evident in those churches associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, Kingdom Now theology, Dominion theology, Five-fold ministry thinking and other fringe-like elements within the Spirit-filled Christianity movement. Some within the movement took it to excess, using the prayer in an almost superstitious way, believing it to be a harbinger of prosperity, good fortune, wealth, health and happiness. At the same time, it was, at times, promoted by some leaders who benefited personally and/or corporately through their religious organizations by on-selling the vast range of commercial merchandise associated with the prayer. Some leaders even sought to convince followers that these items of merchandise carried with them special powers attributed to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This attracted criticism from more conservative, non-Pentecostal Christian leaders on the grounds it encouraged a shallow, self-centered spiritual mindset.
The Mantra of Jabez: A Christian Parody by Douglas M. Jones (Canon Press, ISBN 1-885767-88-9) was published in 2001.
The Cult of Jabez… and the falling away of the church in America, a book alleging an un-biblical premise of Wilkinson’s book, reached as high as #77 on amazon.com’s top 100 books list in 2002.
The Jabez you Never Knew: Hebraic Keys to Answered Prayers, by Norm Franz, was written to give a historic perspective on the account of Jabez, and to criticize the original work for its emphasis on rote prayer.
The recording artist Derek Webb has said that his controversial song “Wedding Dress” was written after he saw Wilkinson speak about The Prayer of Jabez. Similarly, the Ceili Rain satirical song “Gold God” takes issue with this concept (if not the book) as well, noting the God who “expanded my territory” is “like a Visa card”.