Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Thy will be done...."

Several years ago Bruce Wilkinson wrote and published, to great success, The Prayer of Jabez. This is the prayer, found in I Chronicles 4:10:
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. [KJV]
Many Christians have read the book, and it has many advocates and critics within the Christian community [one of the critical books was titled The Mantra of Jabez]. In the book's preface, Wilkinson says "I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers.... I believe it contains the key to a life of extraordinary favor with God." Unfortunately some have taken the petitions for blessing, and "enlarging my coast," and "keeping me from evil" as a prayer for health and wealth which God cannot refuse. Another take on the prayer was offered in a sermon by Spurgeon around 1870:
Is it certainly a blessing to get an answer to your prayer after your own mind? I always like to qualify my most earnest prayer with, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." Not only ought I to do it, but I would like to do it, because otherwise I might ask for something which it would be dangerous for me to receive. God might give it me in anger, and I might find little sweetness in the grant, but much soreness in the grief it caused me. You remember how Israel of old asked for flesh, and God gave them quails; but while the meat was yet in their mouths the wrath of God came upon them. Ask for the meat, if you like, but always put in this: "Lord, if this is not a real blessing, do not give it me." "Bless me indeed." .... Do not be quite so sure that what you think an answer to prayer is any proof of divine love. It may leave much room for thee to seek unto the Lord, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest blessed me indeed!" So sometimes great exhilaration of spirit, liveliness of heart, even though it be religious joy, may not always be a blessing. .... [the sermon]
Our Lord Himself prayed:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” [Matthew 26:39, ESV]
And taught His disciples [and us] to pray:
"Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." [Matthew 6:9-13, KJV]
If the prayer of Jabez was intended to be a model for us - as the Lord's Prayer undoubtedly was - then it cannot be understood as "a prayer God always answers," or, at least, answers in a way we might prefer.
By God's grace may we grow into Him, so that what we ask for will truly be what He wants for us. Amen
Pyromaniacs: The Prayer of Jabez, The Prayer of Jabez

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