In 2000, “The Prayer of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkinson became one of the fastest selling books of all time, with more than 9 million sold. The premise of the book is that if you pray “the prayer of Jabez” (1 Chr. 4:10), you can change your life for the better.
Certainly, prayer is a very good thing and can have a very positive impact on our lives. The problem is that it made Jabez’s prayer a kind of “magic word” formula to receive blessings from God on demand. It was as if the prayer was the currency for a blessings vending machine.
Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the biblical principles involved in the prayer of faith.
While we might learn from the way people in the Bible prayed, there is no prayer of the Bible that is to be taken and repeated as just a rote formula that obligates God to respond the way we want Him to. Nowhere in the Bible are we ever told that Jabez’s prayer is an example of how we are to pray. Rather, it is an example of someone who obviously had trusting faith in God’s ability and willingness to bless him and he entreats God for those blessings.
The closest we could come to finding a “formula” for prayer in the Bible is the prayer Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 6:9-13). Many take this prayer and just repeat it verbatim with no real understanding of what is being prayed. But Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to “repeat after me.”
In Luke 11:2, Jesus says “When you pray, say,” in Matthew 6:9, He says, “In this manner, therefore, pray.” So, even when He says “say,” this prayer, He doesn’t mean to just repeat it in the same words He uses. No, Jesus taught a “manner” for prayer.
The Greek word translated “say,” in Luke 11:2, means “to put word to word in speaking, join words together” (Thayer’s). So, Jesus was telling His disciples that when they pray they were to put words together “like this,” i.e. “in this manner.” The prayer that the Lord taught to His disciples teaches the principles involved in the prayer of faith, not a “magic word” formula to just repeat by rote at God.
In the very context of this example payer, Jesus said “when you pray, do not use vain repetitions.” Vain repetitions would be the very thing people do with the prayer Jesus taught in the following verses; i.e. just repeating the words verbatim without any true understanding of those words or any true expression of heartfelt faith.
Principles for The Prayer of Faith:
When Jesus said, “in this manner” pray, He was giving us some principles to follow in offering up our heartfelt expression of faith to God in prayer. He started out with the Divine Person to whom our prayers are addressed, “Our Father in heaven.”
Do you know that Jesus never, not once, ever instructed anyone to pray to Him? Every time Jesus prayed, and every time His disciples prayed, those prayers were addressed to the Heavenly Father (John 17:1, 11, 25; Colossians 1:3).
Jesus taught that when the Heavenly Father is addressed in prayer, He is to be addressed with reverence, “Hallowed by Your name.” The word translated “hallowed” means “to render or acknowledge to be venerable, to hallow” (Thayer’s). It means that God is to be addressed with “great respect.”
When we pray to our Father in heaven we honor and glorify Him with great respect and reverence.
Jesus taught that when we pray we are to pray for the kingdom of God, “Your kingdom come.” We know that when Jesus taught this prayer the kingdom of God had not yet come. Jesus and the disciples were preaching that the kingdom of God was “at hand,” i.e. coming soon (Matthew 4:17; 10:7; et al).
So, here is an example of where the exact words of this prayer cannot even be scripturally repeated because the kingdom of God has already come. Rather, we follow the principle of the prayer to pray for the kingdom.
Not that it will come, because it already has (Matthew 16:18, 19; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 41, 47), but that it will continue to grow and prosper (cf. Colossians 1:9-14; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 13:20, 21; et al).
To Be Continued…
We’ll look at more of the principles for the prayer of faith that Jesus taught His disciples in future articles. If you have questions or would like to study the Bible with me, I am available to you. Or, if you would like to receive a free Bible Correspondence Course by mail please contact me.
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]