The Miracle of Jabez, the Bestseller

An obscure Bible character named Jabez is duking it out with Tiger Woods at the top of bestseller book lists.

After coming out of nowhere a year and a half ago and monopolizing bestseller charts for most of 2001 ("A Phenomenon of Biblical Proportions," Aug. 14), Jabez is no longer invincible. Even so, the "Prayer of Jabez" fad is hardly over.

Based on a 48-word passage from the Old Testament, the pocket-sized book by Atlanta minister Bruce Wilkinson has sold 8.9 million copies, inspired numerous reports of miracles and produced a cottage industry of merchandise and spinoffs--including "Jabez for Teens," a Jabez journal and two Jabez devotionals. The latest sequel, "The Prayer of Jabez for Women," is due out Feb. 5.

Critics have responded with a publishing blitz of their own. In September, no fewer than three anti-Jabez books were released, but only one--Hank Hanegraaf's "Prayer of Jesus"--managed to crack bestseller lists.

Meanwhile, the Door, a Christian humor magazine, satirized Jabez's prayer for blessings and miracles with "The Prayer of Job," based on the story of a biblical character whose life was beset by tragedies.

"When our son totaled the car the other day ... we knew it was 'the prayer of Job' coming to pass," says the Door parody, which then cites a litany of disasters among Job followers. Testimonials about the power of Job's prayer come from Al Gore's campaign advisor, the Navy captain whose sub sank a Japanese freighter and Gary Condit, who "was given a copy just before his interview with Connie Chung."

The Door also spoofed the flood of Jabez merchandise with "a whole industry of Prayer of Job paraphernalia, including Prayer of Job sackcloth vests, plastic stick-on boils ... and 'Just Curse God and Die' multicolored bead bracelets."

But the spoofs and criticism have done little to blunt Jabez's appeal. On Nov. 11 the original Jabez book made it onto the Los Angeles Times bestseller list for the first time, and reappeared there Dec. 16. It's also back to No. 1 on the New York Times' hardcover advice list, after being displaced by Woods' "How I Play Golf."

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