Get ready for the next Christian best-seller! The final Harry Potter book will have a serious challenger from this little powerhouse. Bruce Wilkinson has a new book out, a sequel to his best-selling Prayer of Jabez.
The Prayer of Jephthah focuses on one of Israel’s judges from around 1100 B.C. His story is found in the Book of Judges, chapters 10-12. In summary, Jephthah was a “mighty warrior,” the son of Gilead and a prostitute. He was commander over Israel’s army, and before making war against their enemy, the Ammonites, he prayed this prayer to God: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering” (11:30-31). Jephthah and the Israelites won the battle, and when he returned home, Jephthah was met by his daughter, “dancing to the sound of the tambourines.” This was his only child. Understandably, Jephthah was upset: “When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break!” (35). Jephthah let his daughter run wild in the hills for awhile, lamenting her inability to ever marry, and then he “did to her as he had vowed” (39). Most experts don’t think he killed her but simply set her apart for service to God, sort of like putting her in a monastery. Either way, the story is creepy.
By now, you might have guessed that Dr. Wilkinson never wrote this book. I made it up to demonstrate the dangers of picking and choosing random pieces of scripture to support our own agendas and philosophies.
I know that many of you probably have read his book, The Prayer of Jabez. I read it, and I admit that it made some good points. However, much of the book was devoted to the prosperity gospel, that dangerous mindset that heavily focuses on God’s ability to provide worldly goods for his people. People who adhere to this health and wealth doctrine see God as a means to an end, a way to get what they want out of life, whether it’s good health, financial assistance, friends, or other temporal benefits. My pastor, Mark Driscoll, humorously describes these kinds of people in this way: “For them, Jesus was a piñata, Christianity was a whacking stick, and their mission was to teach people how to get goodies to fall out of heaven” (Confessions of a Reformission Rev. 49).
Jabez is mentioned in only two lines of scripture: “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, ‘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 pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Wilkinson bases his entire book on this one prayer, which he urges believers to pray daily. He could have chosen one of the many thousand prayers in the bible, but he chose one that most closely fit his health, wealth, and prosperity philosophy.
If one wanted to pick a prayer with more scriptural backing, Jephthah would be a better choice. Instead of only 2 verses, Jephthah gets several chapters devoted to him. But, Wilkinson didn’t pick Jephthah’s prayer.
I wonder why?