No Two Alike

Every now and then, a Christian book will come out that will "rock the world." Several years ago, that book was Bruce Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez.  Once it hit the stores, people everywhere flocked to get a copy.  And once the news spread about the message contained in the book, those who didn't have a copy rushed out to obtain one.  In fact, during the first two years, over nine million copies of the book were sold.  I can't even imagine!

Through the book, people were introduced to a Bible passage that is often overlooked or skimmed over because of its placement in the Bible:  right smack dab in a book of genealogies. Yep, amidst the "begats" and "born ofs," you'll find the one short verse of Jabez's prayer.

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. - I Chronicles 4:10

Now, I have not personally read the book, so I can't comment on the author's doctrinal standpoint.  I can comment, however, on the blurb for his book which states, " Readers who commit to offering the same prayer on a regular basis will find themselves extravagantly blessed by God, and agents of His miraculous power, in everyday life."  Does that statement send up red flags to anyone else?  I may be misunderstanding the author's intent, but allow me to lay out the problem I see.

People purchase and read the book.  They read the account of Jabez, how he prayed for increase and power, and how God granted him his request.  Then they read where the author says that they can have the same results if they just pray to God as Jabez did.  Make your request and then wait for the blessings to start pouring in.  It's that simple.  So people do.  They pray and they pray and they pray. . . and nothing happens.  Or, worse yet, something bad happens in their lives.  Where does that leave them?  Discouraged.  Defeated.  Angry.  Confused.  Disillusioned.

I wish I could tell you that all you have to do to have the life of your dreams is pray a simple prayer.  I wish I could tell you that all of your prayers will be answered in the affirmative.  I wish I could tell you that, with enough faith, nothing is beyond your reach.  It sounds good, and for a while, it would make you feel good.  But I'm afraid it's just not true.  Ask Paul.  Didn't he ask for his thorn to be removed, yet God chose to answer him in the negative?  What about John the Baptist?  Don't you think he wanted to get out of that prison and avoid execution?  So why didn't God answer his prayer as he did for Jabez?

The truth of the matter is this:  God doesn't work the same way in every life.  He is a personal Savior, and He has a personal plan for each of us.  This is the God who doesn't make any two snowflakes alike nor any two fingerprints.  What makes us think He'll work in each life in the exact same way?  Sometimes He speaks to the storm, but other times He walks on the sea.  Sometimes He touches the sick while other times He commands them to obey.  Sometimes He frees the prisoner on this side of Heaven, but sometimes He frees them on the other.  It's all in accordance with His personal plan for each individual.  He knows our names.  He knows our talents.  He knows our temperaments.  And He knows our future.

I would love to think that I could pray the prayer of Jabez in steadfast faith and wake up tomorrow with a full bank account, the perfect body, no worries and all of my other dreams fulfilled, but unless that's God's perfect will for my life, it's not going to happen.  No matter how many times I pray.  No matter how much faith I have.  No matter how many books I read that tell me otherwise.

So does that mean I'm not blessed?  On the contrary, it means I'm blessed differently.  I may not be blessed with what I want, but I'm certainly blessed with what I need.  I'm blessed with strength to face each day and grace to stand tall in spite of troublesome circumstances.  I'm blessed with God's promise that He'll never leave me and that He has a plan for my good.  I'm blessed to know the truth.  It may not sound as pleasant or give the same warm, fuzzy feeling.  But the truth is what sets us free!

 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. - James 4:2-3