License To Thrill

Jesus wants you to be much happier than you are.

Jesus wants you to be much happier than you are. Really.

So argue three extraordinarily popular recent books, one on prayer by a preacher who thinks we pray too little blessing for ourselves, another by a workplace motivator who sees Jesus as the ideal entrepreneurial guru, and a third by a prophet for a new kind of men’s movement.

Nothing is new about their ideas - this sort of prosperity gospel has been part of the American religious scene for some time. What is striking is the number of books they’re selling and the best-selling lists they’re gracing. Alongside the better-documented publishing successes of the Left Behind series, The Da Vinci Code, and The Purpose-Driven Life are these promises of unbridled happiness for those who follow Jesus in the way these authors describe. The market for religious publishing is apparently not exhausted; it is only just beginning to be tapped.

Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez is the simplest of the three. 1 Chronicles 4:10 records the prayer of this Jabez and God’s response: "‘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." Wilkinson discovered this prayer 30 years ago and still prays it every day. He sees in it the promise of an extraordinary exchange: "Your want for God’s plenty." He tantalizingly asks, "When was the last time you saw miracles happen on a regular basis in your life?" If the answer is "seldom," he has a recipe: Pray this prayer and that can change, immediately. And if you don’t believe it, just look at Wilkinson’s own life: "I’m living proof," he writes.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2004
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