Friday, May 31, 2019

"Formula Prayers Don't Work"

1st Chronicles 4.9a, 10
The Amplified Bible

Jabez was honorable above his brothers...

Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me!’

“And God granted his request.”

God approved the simple request of an honorable and passionate man. The prayer of Jabez is not a magical incantation guaranteeing prosperity and life without pain to those who memorize and often repeat the verse. Jesus warned against that mentality…

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant.
Theyre full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques
for getting what you want from God. Dont fall for that nonsense.”
Matthew 6.7-8 “The Message”

There’s something more here than religious prayer. Listen to Dan Allender’s take…

“ ‘Let’s pray.’ When you hear these words, do they invite you or irritate you? Praying is the right thing to do before preaching, teaching, or eating, but how about during lovemaking, playing poker, or shopping at Wal-Mart? We are impoverished if we consider prayer to be a religious activity.”[1]

There are two things we know about Jabez from the text: “Jabez was honorable” and “Jabez cried.” He had integrity and he had passion. I suspect life was not always easy for Jabez. That’s probably why he went to God in the first place. He treated God with respect by telling the truth. Jabez refused to gloss over his needs. He wept before the Lord from a soul filled with the anguish. Jabez struggled in prayer. God honored that.

More from Dan Allender…

“…we must enter prayer as a struggle. We do not merely utter a string of sweet words according to a prescribed sequence, such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Of course, prayer can be orderly and organized. But the prayer that pleads for exposure and engagement throws our desperation at God’s feet and wrestles naked with him for the blessing of a new name.”[2]

We cannot expect Jesus to answer our prayers just because we ‘put in our time’ and followed a clever ACTS acrostic.[3] Jabez did not pray that way. Nor should we. God is very big and very secure. He can handle your perception and version of the truth. Give it to Him straight in all its uncensored and raw un-glory. He can take it. Cry out to God. He may even bless you for it.


[1] To Be Told – God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future, Dan B. Allender, PhD, Waterbook Press, 2005, pp. 167-168.

[2] Ibid., p. 170. 

[3] The ACTS prayer formula: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.


Kurt Willems said...

This is a great post! Prayer should not be some incantation or a formula that gets us what we want. It is a language of communion between us and God. With that in mind, i think we ought to add this critique with how we have converts "pray the prayer." That too is a bit formulaic i think...

Good thoughts here. I have the book you refer to and have never read it. Maybe i will eventually pick it up.

Dave Scriven said...

Excellent comment, Kurt. Thanks. I couldn't agree more.

I'm not totally against "The Prayer of Jabez". I'm just never was on the bandwagon. This book was a commercial success in part due to the uniques size and price point. It was an easy and highly personal gift item boon for Christian bookstores. My concern was that the content could become formulaic for may readers and lose the original intent of the author.

God Bless.

JT said...

I do not have this book. I have heard a lot of talk about it in our Bible Study Class at Church. I am a firm believer in prayer. I have a set time for prayer at night before I close my eyes to sleep. I could probably use a few tips about praying in public - but - my prayers are between God and me.