Everyone wants ‘God’s blessing,’ pastor says

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2001

The Rev. Doug Wright approaches the issue pragmatically.

&uot;All of us want to be blessed by God; we want a life that is blessed,&uot; he said. &uot;We want God to smile on us

&uot;You read this book and realize God wants to bless us, too.&uot;

That is why Wright, pastor at the First Assembly of God in Natchez, is using &uot;The Prayer of Jabez&uot; in his Wednesday night teachings with his congregation. At the pace of a chapter a week, Wright says his congregation is about midway through the seven-chapter, best selling book by author Bruce Wilkinson. Their response has been positive, even &uot;excited.&uot;

&uot;I became aware of the prayer a number of years ago – another writer had preached the passage,&uot; Wright said. &uot;Now it’s taken the nation by storm.&uot;

Since its release in November 2000, Wilkinson’s book has sold more than 5 million copies and risen to the tops of the best sellers list. It draws from what some have described as a relatively obscure part of scripture, four verses in the midst of the genealogy of I Chronicles, that details a prayer by a man named Jabez. &uot;Oh, that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory. That your hand would be with me and keep me from evil.&uot;

According to the Bible, God grants Jabez’s prayer.

According to Wilkinson’s book, God wants to grant more prayers like Jabez’s. Wilkinson, who says he has prayed the Jabez prayer for more than 30 years, explains that God wants to bless each person with abundance; all a person must do is ask.

And for his part, Wright, too, believes that God’s blessings await those who ask and pray. &uot;What you’re asking is simply ‘bless me that I may be blessing for others,’&uot; he said.

But the nature of those blessings, and more important, what one does after receiving them, are a point of contention among theologians and critics of &uot;The Prayer of Jabez.

The Rev. Dennis Flach, pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church, said he approached &uot;The Prayer of Jabez&uot; as he does other things of popular nature, &uot;with a critical eye towards theology.&uot;

As the Rev. Alfred Camp, pastor of St. Mary Basilica said, &uot;Regular, consistent prayer is one of the underlying messages of (the book), and prayer is very important in life. Now, whether you get everything you ask for, well &uot;

Camp said Wilkinson’s book, which is laced with anecdotes that illustrates the effectiveness of the prayer, &uot;seems to offer too much.&uot;

&uot;The examples are so dynamic, one wonders if that is what is to be used for.&uot;

The notion that many readers may use the prayer with the intent of gaining material wealth or abundance is often cited by critics of Wilkinson’s writing.

&uot;God’s blessing may sometimes include that for somebody,&uot; Wright said, referring to material wealth or abundance. &uot;If that’s the way he blessed you, you should in turn use it to bless others.&uot;

&uot;It’s God-oriented; you are asking, ‘God, bless me with your blessing,’&uot; he said. &uot;It’s not about being selfish; it’s about wanting to glorify God.&uot;

In fact, Wright said, even the phenomenal success of Wilkinson’s book could be attributed to the Prayer of Jabez. &uot;It’s probably a part of God answering the prayer of Jabez in Bruce Wilkinson’s life,&uot; he said. &uot;He’s preached it for years; now it’s taken the church world and the nation by storm.&uot;