'Don't Bring a Teaspoon to the Ocean'

David Kopp, Beliefnet columnist and co-writer of the bestselling 'Prayer of Jabez,' shares lessons he's learned from the prayer.

BY: David Kopp


The first time Bruce Wilkinson and a collaborator tried to write about the prayer of Jabez, their efforts grew into a fat manuscript of Bible teaching, catchy anecdotes, and personal exhortations...and stayed in a drawer for 20 years. The book didn't work, he decided. He didn't even want to show it to a publisher.

The Prayer of Jabez

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, '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, that I may not cause pain!' So God granted him what he requested" (1 Chron. 4:9-10).

But Wilkinson didn't stop there. In a way, he couldn't. Since his seminary days, he had been preaching about Jabez, an obscure man in the Old Testament who had prayed a simple prayer that got remarkable results. Furthermore, Wilkinson had made Jabez' four-line prayer his life's plea, praying it every day for decades with remarkable results of his own. So eventually, he tried again.

As Bruce's writing partner on his second attempt, I have been asked why a small book by a previously unsuccessful author about a little-known Bible character is breaking records. In the year since its publication, Jabez has become the fastest-selling hardback in the world.

Just what is the promised benefit "that can be yours for $9.99," as infomercials might put it? To get a bigger picture, let's back up a minute and look at the biblical text and how Bruce applies it. Everything we know about Jabez is found in just two verses buried in the seemingly endless genealogies of 1 Chronicles. Marked by a name that means pain, Jabez decided to ask for plenty. In a bold but brief prayer, he reached for favor and significance, believing that the God of Israel was both generous and strong. Apparently, by wanting what God wanted for his life and asking for it with all his heart, Jabez not only saw his prayers answered but was commended in scripture as "more honorable than his brothers."

Building on this kernel of a story, Wilkinson draws on his own experiences and other biblical support to propose that Christians change the way they think in some key areas:

  • God has a much larger and more spiritually empowered life for you than you have dared to think possible, much less ask for.

  • Ask for God's supernatural favor every day, and you'll receive God's extravagant best for you.

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