Little-known biblical figure spawns bestseller
May 18 2001 by Yvonne Betowt , Religion News Service

Little-known biblical figure spawns bestseller | Friday, May 18, 2001

Friday, May 18, 2001

Little-known biblical figure spawns bestseller

By Yvonne Betowt Religion News Service The Prayer of Jabez: "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, 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, that I may not cause pain.' So God granted him what he requested." - 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 (New King James Version)

Mention the biblical name of Jabez, and you get one of two responses: an enthusiastic "Oh, yes, I know all about him," or a blank stare followed by "Never heard of him." Today, the numbers of people who know about Jabez are multiplying faster than a calculator.

Jabez, a Hebrew name meaning "pain," asked God to bless him, and God did, according 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the only passage in the Bible in which Jabez is mentioned. Huntsville, Ala., banker Greg Perkins calls the prayer "the pearl hidden in the oyster shell of the most boring part of the Bible."

But Jabez has become so popular that the first known book about him, "The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life," is the No. 1 best-selling nonfiction book on Publisher's Weekly, Amazon.com and USA Today lists. The 92-page book has sold more than 3 million copies since being published by Multnomah Publishers 15 months ago.

"It is definitely a phenomenon," said David Collins, manager of the LifeWay Christian bookstore in Huntsville. Collins gave his 40 employees the book as Christmas gifts. He said his store has sold 2,600 copies since November.

Sue Morgan, assistant manager of the LifeWay store, said many people who buy the book for themselves return to purchase it for others.

"We've had a number of churches which are doing it as a type of Bible study, or series," she said.

Morgan said other items featuring "The Prayer of Jabez," such as plaques and cups, are also big sellers.

The book averaged four out of five stars in reviews on Amazon.com, a popular book purchasing Web site. Some reviews criticize the doctrine emphasized in the book. Others praise its influence on their lives.

Claude A. Frazier, an Asheville doctor who has written Sunday School lessons for the Biblical Recorder, wrote a letter to the Recorder about the book.

Frazier said the main emphasis of the prayer of Jabez is "to bless me" and open opportunities to witness and help other people. Miracles happen when the prayer is prayed, he said.

"The author points out that if we fail to ask God's blessings, we forfeit those that come to us only when we ask," Frazier said.

Author Bruce Wilkinson, founder and president of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries in Atlanta, said he is "shocked" at the success of his book.

"We can't claim any credit or brilliance," Wilkinson told The Dallas Morning News in a recent article. "It's just God deciding Jabez prayed this prayer thousands of years ago, and maybe now it's time to get it answered."

Wilkinson said he started praying the Prayer of Jabez 30 years ago as a senior at Dallas Theological Seminary and has talked about it for years. But it wasn't until he published his ideas in a book that Jabez skyrocketed in popularity.

The publisher is planning other versions of the Jabez books geared to women, teens and children, along with a journal, Bible study and video series.

The book has already outsold individual books in the popular "Left Behind" series, according to Lewis Martin, manager of the Family Christian Bookstore in Huntsville.

"It is definitely one of the top-selling Christian books in the last 25 years," Martin said.

"The Prayer of Jabez" was the first book of the BreakThrough Series, which consists of The Prayer of Jabez Devotional, The Prayer of Jabez Bible Study and Wilkinson's newest book, Secrets of the Vine.

Murray Wilton, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Huntsville, said he has been praying the Prayer of Jabez for about three years after someone pointed out the obscure passage to him.

Wilton has had a one-minute radio message ministry. About three years ago, he said, he had become discouraged with his radio ministry.

"I was really questioning whether I was having any impact because I wasn't getting a lot of feedback," he said. "When I started praying the prayer of Jabez, I began hearing from people all over North Alabama and southern Tennessee. I believe with all my heart the Lord has used that radio spot to enlarge my territory."

Murray said while other books have been written on prayer, he's amazed at the interest Jabez has generated. "We have never seen people as keen about their prayer life," he said. "People are seeing that God really answers prayer."

LifeWay customer Sharon Shanlever, a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Scottsboro, Ala., said she first heard about Jabez on a Christian radio program a couple of months ago. She was purchasing two books - one as a gift to herself for Mother's Day, and the other to give to a friend.

"After I heard about it on the radio, I looked it up and it made me want to buy the book," she said.

For Perkins, a vice president at Compass Bank, the book has given his life new meaning.

"At first I thought it was a very selfish prayer, but as I read it, I realized that God wants to bless us more than we ever ask. It doesn't have to be monetary assets. It can be health, or peace of mind, or any number of things. This is a prayer God liked and if he liked it, we ought to be praying it."

But he cautions people about praying the prayer.

"If you aren't ready to trust God to hold your hand, you will fall flat on your face," he said. "Trust is the most important part of the prayer."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - The Biblical Recorder staff contributed to this story.)

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/18/2001 12:00:00 AM by Yvonne Betowt , Religion News Service | with 0 comments
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