Paul Berghaus wrote a good article critiquing The Prayer of Jabez, but if your goal is to reach out and be culturally relevant, someone needs to take a more positive approach in relating the book's success to what is missing in evangelical culture. Actually, if critiqued from that angle, The Prayer of Jabez can be seen as tapping into the dominion impulse of people who have been transformed by Christ: "O 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." As Wilkinson puts it, this "plea for more territory is where you ask God to enlarge your life so you can make a greater impact for Him ... [Jabez] wanted more influence, more responsibility, and more opportunity to make a mark for the God of Israel." If this isn't the goal of Chalcedon (properly understood) for Christians around the world, I don't know what is!
Now given the fact, as one reviewer noted, "only those with a tin ear can defend Wilkinson's way with words; his prose is the stuff of billboards," and that perhaps his theology isn't perfect, there is a fundamentally Christ-honoring, dominion-taking message here; and the tree should be fertilized, watered, looked over, and cared for at least for some time to see if it can bring forth good fruit (Luke 13:6-9).
Wilkinson has planted a seed among millions of evangelical Christians with his little book, The Prayer of Jabez, that should be pounced on by Chalcedon and their writers, not with lots of criticism, but with an eagerness to provide the context for "enlarging my territory" from a full, Biblical perspective. With Paul's insight, I'd like to see him take up the challenge to highlight the positive way to communicate through The Prayer of Jabez and point out how through honoring God's laws that prayer can and will be answered."
Rather than supposing an antinomian spirit from Wilkinson, he could have fleshed out a positive position with God's law in regard to honor and love. Again, what an opportunity! How many dots could be connected here! I might even call Wilkenson and congratulate him on picking up on a fundamental Christian idea and send him some material from Chalcedon. Would he not possibly be open to God's Plan for Victory? Perhaps not, but what if he was? How about Tithing & Dominion?
Anyway, a productive article entitled "In Defense of Jabez" was just published in, of all places, First Things, October 2001, by Philip Zaleski.
- Craig Dumont