I noticed in one of your recent answers you criticized the book The Prayer of Jabez. I felt that this book contains inaccuracies about how to become a Christian, yet the prayer does help remind us to focus on the mission of evangelizing the world. Can you please explain further why you don't think the prayer is spiritual? -- S.Q.M.

Christianity seems to me to be obsessed with prosperity, receiving God's blessings, and avoiding suffering. Christian bookstores stock many works which, intentionally or not, undermine the call to sacrifice. Most people, it seems, would prefer a "crossless" Christianity.

This popular volume (over 10 million sold to date) begins, Dear Reader, I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers. It is brief -- only one sentence with four parts -- and tucked away in the Bible, but I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God....  But let's focus on the prayer of Jabez itself (1 Chronicles 4:10):

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 -- or not cause (preferred translation) --pain." And God granted his request.

Whether God granted Jabez's request or not, what warrant do we have to assume that he will grant the same prayer on our lips?

Suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life (Luke 9:23, Matthew 11:30, 2 Timothy 3:12, etc). It is definitely a stretch to interpret "enlarging my territory" in an evangelistic sense, though the point is a good one. It is always best to use scriptures which do teach your point rather than those which don't, or are too vague to draw a definite conclusion from them!

To sum up, pain is part of life, Jesus does offer relief from much of our suffering, and yet the request for a pain-free Christian walk is unspiritual. It encourages faith in the power of prayer more than faith in the power of God. The "name it and claim it" movement (or "Word-faith," based on a misinterpretation of Mark 11:24) is powerful, especially in the neo-pentecostal revival and the born-again movement at large.

(Interestingly, surveys consistently show that the majority of "born-again believers" in the United States do not even consider the Bible to be the absolute authority in their lives. For example, most do not accept a literal Satan, and believe in relative truth ["situation ethics"].)

I am afraid this book, though not without some value, appeals most to those unwilling to shoulder the cross of Christ. Remember, it is to preach the cross that we are commissioned in the first place (1 Corinthians 1).  The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life sounds too good to be true. That's because it is.

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