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Saturday, March 4

2006 March 4
by Mike

Here is the picture that was supposed to go out with a Christmas letter. It’s from our trip to Estes Park last summer. So “Merry Christmas from the Copes” (either very belatedly or very early).

I’ve been working with a lot of old pictures, getting a presentation ready for a family gig. Here is my beloved’s high school graduation picture (posted withOUT permission):

And here she is a couple weeks ago in Kauai. (Time has been very kind to her.)

– – – –

Someone told me they heard people discussing my blog on an Abilene radio station earlier this week–people speculating as to why I pulled last Saturday’s post. I’ll drop it back on later. But I wanted OUT of that discussion. At least I didn’t want some Abilene residents’ first exposure to my blog to be over that discussion that began in the comments section (while I was out of town doing a very difficult graveside service).

– – – –

Tomorrow I’m preaching from Matthew 6 on the Lord’s Prayer, which we have prayed almost every Sunday since 1995.

The buzz over “The Prayer of Jabez” has died down, it seems. But right in the midst of that Buzz, James Mulholland wrote a book which begins by contrasting the prayer of Jabez with the Lord’s Prayer.

Here’s what Eugene Peterson said about Mulholland’s Praying Like Jesus: The Lord’s Prayer in a Culture of Prosperity: “An astonishing number of Americans these days are being taught a prayer that is little more than being selfish on their knees. When they stand up and go about their work, they are more selfish than ever. James Mulholland will have none of it. With urgency and clarity he sends us straight to the Prayer of Jesus, the prayer that clears the air of all illusions so that we can breathe pure Spirit.”

Here is some of what Mulholland wrote:

“Across America, hundreds of pastors are being pulled aside by excited church members who are saying, ‘You have to pray this prayer. It’s changed my life.’ Such a testimony is hard to dispute, especially when it is a prayer that includes the requests ‘bless me, enlarge my territory, keep your hand on me, and keep me from pain.’ In a materialistic, self-centered culture, such a prayer will always be attractive.Many pastors will embrace this prayer wholeheartedly. They will incorporate it into worship and preach a sermon series on each phrase. They will give copies of The Prayer of Jabez to their entire congregation. They will ignore the warnings of the author that his book was not intended to justify selfishness. They will encourage their church members to begin every morning with this prayer.

Unfortunately, they won’t reflect on the dangers of teaching self-centered people to begin each day with the chant, ‘Bless me!’ They won’t worry about the compromises inherent in a marriage of prayer and prosperity. They won’t consider the consequences of making prayer into a device for getting what we want. In the midst of this frenzy of egotism, they will overlook the obvious–the Prayer of Jabez isn’t the prayer Jesus taught us to pray.

Indeed, in significant ways the Prayer of Jabez is counter to the heart of the gospel and the priorities of Jesus. It represents the advancement of self and the resistance to self-denial Jesus confronted in his day and God continues to challenge within Christianity. And, although Mr. Wilkinson has tried to redeem the words of Jabez, he has only succeeded in fanning into flame the embers of a prosperity theology many had hoped was finally dying. He forgot the reason Jesus didn’t teach his disciples the Prayer of Jabez.

Jabez got it wrong.

In fairness to Jabez and to the Bible, neither suggest his prayer should be the model for others. This honor is reserved for another short prayer located in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray. We call this prayer ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ though I prefer to call it the Prayer of Jesus.”

Well, I won’t be picking on Jabez tomorrow. But I will be trying to help us imagine that counter-cultural world of this prayer–a world where the dominion of God has broken through, where his reign comes crashing through into our lives.

– – – –

[Added at noon] – There is an AP article all over the internet today about the work my brother and my sister-in-law are doing to help bring an extremely sick orphan to the States from Vietnam. You can read about it here, for example.

26 Responses leave one →
  1. March 4, 2006

    She really is very beautiful in more ways than one, I might add.

  2. March 4, 2006

    I have seen a great t-shirt that Matt Elliot posted the order form on his blog a few months back. It read, “I Prayed The Prayer of Jabez For 30 Days and all I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!” Wonderful post, Mike!

  3. March 4, 2006

    You have such a beautiful family! I have been blessed by all of them in so many ways! In my opinion Dinane is more beautiful now than she was then:) The Kuai picture is great of both of you. I LOVE pictures. Be blessed today

  4. March 4, 2006

    Mike, you have a beautiful family. Thanks for the pictures!

    Thanks for the comments on the Prayer fo Jabez too. When that was first out I took the position that it was materialistic and self-centered (not to mention potentially racist) and I got taken to task by one of my elders. He loved it…until he lost his job a few months after praying it every day. It rocked his world. He quieted down after that but he still disagreed with me. I am called to carry a cross not a lottery prize. For those with rich material blessing, great! Use them well! My financial status is not the true indicator of blessings or spirituality.

    I look forward to seeing the new book on the Lord’s prayer.

  5. March 4, 2006

    Mike,
    You have to check out Clint Logue’s blog. The address is clintlogue.blogspot.com. He has some great pictures with corresponding scripture that are VERY powerful.

  6. March 4, 2006

    Mike,
    You have to check out Clint Logue’s blog. The address is clintlogue.blogspot.com. He has some great pictures with corresponding scripture that are VERY powerful.

  7. March 4, 2006

    What beautiful people and pictures! Like Lauren, I especially enjoy the Hawaii pix. Again, as Lauren said, Diane truly is more beautiful today in so many ways.

    About the prayer of Jabez; my former pastor has a very ‘in your face’ style of preaching. His statement about this prayer is simply, “it doesn’t carry any promise for us, it wasn’t written for us, for any future generation, it stopped with Jabez.”

    My own opinion? If we concentrate in prayer on only one goal for 30 days, no matter what the goal is, God might well honor that prayer, including a reward given now that might better be delayed for the richer blessing in the Heavenly Kingdom and eternity.

    So I’ll just try to hang onto the prayers of Jesus, letting them guide me to His Throne of Grace, Love and Mercy.

    Looking forward to tomorrow, Mike [but then, I always look forward to Sunday morning. PTL!!]

  8. March 4, 2006

    In the midst of God’s reign crashing into my life, I can’t wait to hear your comments tomorrow. Thank you.

  9. March 4, 2006

    Mike,
    Great post. In our culture that is becoming more and more wrapped up in “stuff”, it causes the Lord’s Prayer to be even more powerful.
    I can’t wait to hear your lesson online.
    ps-If you and your family ever need a rest stop on your way to Estes Park, my wife and I live 40 min. away and are frequent visitors of that small part of God’s creation.

  10. March 4, 2006

    You must have prayed the “Prayer of Jabez” for Diane. God definitely enlarged your territory!:)

  11. March 4, 2006

    I can remember reading the prayer of Jabez book when I had 3 children under the age of 3 years old. I had quit serving at church because it was all I could do to take care of my homelife. But I yearned for some sort of service at church also. Mentally I tend to do better when I am looking outward and not so “my life” focused. So when I read this book it met a need. I wanted my service borders expanded. I wanted to be able to serve in a ministry again. I prayed for God to show me where he could use me with my limited time and energy, and He did. So I look on that prayer fondly not because of any materialistic reasons. I just had been so focused on my family that the thought had never occured to me to ask God to show me the ministry that would work for my life as a mother of small kids. I loved that He did. Did I have to pray the prayer of Jabez for that? No way. My words would have been just fine. The book helped me see that God will use us in His plan if we only seek it. I guess the key here is His plan.
    I love reading the Lord’s Prayer. The day Jack was diagnosed with his brain tumor I found no words to make my own prayers. I must have prayed the Lord’s prayer a hundred times that first day. After that it became even more special.

  12. March 4, 2006

    Everytime I see a picture of your boys I think Chris is Matt and the other guy…well who is he? Matt may be forever 14 in my mind and Chris is stuck somewhere around 3 or 4! Great pictures! I really don’t think you and Diane have aged since 1998! 🙂

  13. March 4, 2006

    Having spent 49 years associated with Churches of Christ I have had a low view liturgy. Since disassociating myself with the Church of Christ I have learned why the ancient Church adopted liturgical forms of worship. Especially when that liturgy is centered on something like the Lord’s Prayer there is great power in it. Like the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Prayer calls us back to focus on the right thing–“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That is what it is all about!

  14. March 4, 2006

    You have a beautiful family. You have been blessed.

    Where is your high school graduation picture..??

    Whats good for the goose…

  15. March 4, 2006

    As models for prayers go, this prayer of Jesus contains so many layers. I am probably not saying this well, and over-simplifying, but do you find it interesting how Jesus frequently uses the terminology and references of ‘reward’ as He does:
    * no reward in heaven for showy acts of righteousness;
    * hypocrites receiving their rewards ‘in full’;
    * rewards for giving in secret.

    Then, as His prayer follows, we ask God to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (where do we get the words ‘sin’ and ‘trespass’ in some of the versions of this prayer?). This four-letter word — debt — in today’s society where we’re programmed to feel like we are owed everything, or that what we are owed is our inherent right, is not any more popular than it was in Jesus’ time. (My Greek is non-existent, but is there a textual difference between ‘reward in heaven’ and v19’s ‘treasures in heaven’?)

    We never seem to know what kind of wages Jesus received for His carpentry work, but He seemed to understand how basic and important the human need for wages, interest-earning, and material rewards were to the people He spoke to. As well also how the human soul could tumble when any of these assets are abused.

    Thanks! Sure wish I could hear your homily tomorrow!

    (PS: Looks like Time has been kind to both you and Diane!)

  16. March 4, 2006

    Mike, loved the pictures! You are safe when you post those pictures because I know that Diane is not awake yet.
    I love that Highland says the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. A couple of weeks ago our little friend, Jaxon, was sitting behind us while we said the Lord’s Prayer and he knows most of it…he is 4 years old and it was precious hearing it with his adorable 4 year old voice. And….I was reading the Sermon on the Mount to the sixth grade girls recently and got to the Lord’s Prayer and they spontaneously joined me as I read. Such a powerful moment and so full of meaning on so many levels. I am so thankful that these kids have owned that prayer and it will always be a part of them.

  17. March 4, 2006

    Your post made me think of these challenging lyrics from the late Keith Green’s “Asleep in the Light,” a prophetic musical message written to lethargic Christians back in back in 1978:

    “Oh, bless me Lord, bless me Lord” —
    You know it’s all I ever hear
    No one aches, no one hurts
    No one even sheds one tear

    But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
    And He cares for your needs
    And you just lay back
    And keep soaking it in.

    Those lyrics still challenge me.

    And you can order the Jabez t-shirt Ed mentioned by clicking here! 🙂

  18. March 4, 2006

    MUST READ! A new book by Larry Crabb just published about one week ago: “The PAPA Prayer.” It is a short book that describes the path to relational prayer; i.e., the cultivation of a relationship with the Trinity that must grow before other prayers of petition, praise, etc. (The publisher is Integrity here in Brentwood, but I don’t receive any royalties.)

  19. March 4, 2006

    Diane is prettier now than when she was at Harding, and you are way uglier! Explain that one. 🙂

    DU

  20. March 5, 2006

    I think you’ve both aged well…if you can even call it aging. Basically you both stink. Sheesh. Look at least a year older next year, ok? Diane–what a babe!

    As for the Jabez thing…AMEN! Ugh.

    This morning we have our first big service in the sanctuary. Pray for us. ZOE is singing–actually ZOE+. The “pluses” call themselves “Faux-y” HA!!! That cracks me up.

  21. March 5, 2006

    An earlier comment suggested that you hadn’t changed since 1998. I can’t see any change since 1982 at HGSR!

  22. March 5, 2006

    Very sweet pictures…I love your family, and like many others have said, they have been a huge blessing in my life. Also, I just saw the pictures of Kerri and the girls serving communion today. May I please ask when this blog is going to stop making me cry??? No, really, I so love being part of the Highland family that I am embracing this wonderful mix of grieving and rejoicing because I know that I am experiencing true community as God meant it to be. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to grow and struggle in my faith alongside such amazing sisters like Kerri Lane!

  23. March 6, 2006

    There’s another small obscure OT figure called Job. His prayer is quite interesting as well. If you could sum up the prayer of Jabez as “things can always get better, you could sum up the prayer of Job as “things could always b worse.”

    😉

  24. March 6, 2006

    I may have missed this whole discussion or I may be causing mmyself to look ignorant, but here is my take. I may be way out of line-but here goes. Let me start by saying I can see the potential for the Prayer of Jabez to be harmful in self-seeking Christians. I haven’t read the book so I will not argue that it is scriptual/unscriptual or helpful/unhelpful. I want to defend the prayer itself and not the book. I do want to say that in a time of weakness or need this is the type of prayer that many prayer and I believe should pray. Lot’s of people in the bible asked for strength and to be free from pain. And I pray that the Lord blesses all of us Christians and for His hand to be with us. Jabez also prays for more land (which in that day meant wealth). But in a time of need these request I believe would be ok. There are Christians who can’t pay an electric bill or who don’t have a big enough house for their family. That prayer is very relevant for many people. In the end, when it comes to any type of prayer whether it be the Lord’s prayer or Jabez’s prayer if the heart of the person praying is right God will bless that faithful Christian in some way. If it is true that the book teaches to pray for one’s self to prosper for selfish reasons then this does not follow Jesus’ living example of a Christian. Any Christian should know that being a Christian is not about ourselves, but for others. But to say that one never needs to pray a similiar prayer to Jabez’s is not correct either. I think most agree with this statement, but I just don’t want someone to think the pray of Jabez is wrong in the right context.

  25. March 6, 2006

    I have found the prayer Jesus gave his disciples to be the one of the greatest blessings in my life, especially when it is wrapped in the other teachings Jesus gave concerning prayer. A few days ago I was so discouraged that when I got up to pray I simply had no words to speak, so I sat in silence. After a while the words of that prayer entered my heart and served as a guide into His presence. To pray that prayer and mean it is the essence of discipleship for me.

  26. January 16, 2007

    Google is the best search engine

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