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April 14, 2001
Column #1024

"THE PRAYER OF JABEZ"

     For too many Christians, the Easter story is simply history. They've never experienced the supernatural power of God in their own lives.

     However, since last Easter, millions of Americans have felt the exhilaration of sensing God empowering them in an new and profound way. They've learned how by reading a remarkable little book, "The Prayer of Jabez," by Bruce Wilkinson. 

     In just 11 months, 4 million copies have been sold! As readers test the author's thesis, they experience its power and buy it for friends. My wife and I were given a copy as a gift by Tom and Liz Dressel, when they graciously hosted us in their Oregon home last fall.

     The book sat unread until a week ago. In our morning devotions, I began reading it to my wife. Immediately, we began to sense God's presence in a new way.

     Wilkinson notes that Jabez is an obscure Biblical hero, whose story is told in just two verses tucked in the middle of an tedious section of the least read chapter of the Bible, I Chronicles 4:9-10.

"Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 
`Oh, that You would bless me indeed 
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me, 
and that You would keep me from evil.' 
And God granted his request."

     Wilkinson discovered the prayer decades ago and says it "radically changed what I expect from God and what I experience every day by His power." He breaks it down into four parts:

1. "Bless me indeed." That may sound like a selfish prayer, but it is "radical trust in God's good intentions toward us," that "we are throwing ourselves entirely into the river of His will and power and purposes for us," Wilkinson writes.

He adds that there is a "guaranteed by-product of sincerely seeking His blessing. Your life will become marked by miracles." Jesus said "Ask, and it will be given to you." However, if you do not ask for his blessing, you will not receive it. "God's bounty is limited only by us, not by His resources, power, or willingness to give help."

2. "Enlarge my territory." In a time when everyone seems overworked, it is highly unusual for people to pray for more ministry. But if you pray this prayer, "amazing things occur," the author writes. "As your opportunities expand, your ability and resources supernaturally increase too." 

Wilkinson leads "Walk Through the Bible," a ministry teaching how to read the Bible in a year that began with 25 conferences a year. His territory has expanded to 2,500 conferences a year which he says is "shocking evidence of what God's grace and Jabez praying can do." He recently launched "WorldTeach," a 15 year vision to establish the largest Bible-teaching faculty in the world, 120,000 teachers. In just two years, WorldTeach is training 2,500 teachers in 23 nations such as Russia, Ukraine, India and South Africa..

3. "Your hand would be with me." When God began to enlarge Wilkinson's territory, he suddenly felt out of control and weak -- nothing like what a leader is supposed to feel. He met with a trusted older man, John Mitchell, and shared his sense of crisis. Mitchell replied, "That feeling you are running from is called dependence. It means you are walking with the Lord Jesus."

Wilkinson stammered, "The feeling I can't do it is what I supposed to be feeling?" Yes, which is why if we attempt something large for God, we must pray His hand will be with us.

4. "Keep me from evil." Success in ministry increases the opportunity for failure. Many Christian leaders have fallen into sin. Jesus taught we are to pray, "Lead us not into temptation." 

Without a temptation we would not sin. Yet how many really ask God to keep us from evil? 

     This Easter, why not decide to test Bruce Wilkinson's thesis? Take his advice to make an "unwavering plan" to pray the Jabez prayer every morning for 30 days. Read his slender book, which you can do in an hour, once a week for the month, "asking God to show you important insights you may have missed."

     Tell one other person of your prayer commitment and ask him or her to check up on you. "Begin to keep a record of changes in your life...and new opportunities you can relate to the Jabez prayer." 

     Above all, act on those opportunities, though you will feel a sense of fear.. 

     Finally, I invite anyone who tries this plan to write me afterwards, in care of this newspaper, to report if you have had a divine appointment.

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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