Music,  Theology/Bible

How the Prayer of Jabez Killed Caedmon’s Call

I just finished listening to a fascinating interview with Derek Webb in which he gives some of the reasons for the break-up of Caedmon’s Call (listen below). Believe it or not, Derek says that Bruce Wilkinson and The Prayer of Jabez were in part to blame for the band’s demise!

Derek explains that his first solo album was inspired by an encounter that Caedmon’s Call had with Bruce Wilkinson at a trade event. At this event, Wilkinson was supposed to speak for about 20-30 minutes, and then Caedmon’s was to perform a few songs when he finished. Wilkinson held forth for about an hour and a half telling the crowd that if they would pray the prayer of Jabez, then God would bless them. According to Derek, Wilkinson never once mentioned Christ or the gospel. Derek was so outraged, that he wanted to speak out against the gospel-free message of Bruce Wilkinson. When the rest of the band demurred, Derek struck out on his own.

Maybe this story is common knowledge, but I had never heard it before. But don’t take my word for it. Go listen to Derek tell the story himself in this interview with the RUF director at Belmont University: Derek Webb episode 12 (from the Derek Webb podcast).

Update/Clarifications (6/4/07): In light of some reader’s comments, I thought I’d try to clarify some things that may not have been clear in the original post.

First, the band did not literally break-up. I guess I assumed people would understand what I wrote in light of the immediately preceding post, in which I wrote the following: “I think Caedmon’s Call lost big time when Derek Webb left the band in 2003. Even though the band went on without him, for many fans, it was as if the band had broken up. Caedmon’s Call 1.0 gave way to Caedmon’s call 2.0, and it marked the end of an era of great music.” So they didn’t literally break up, but the band was nevertheless very different post-Derek. Sorry for the confusion on that point.

Second, my understanding is that the entire band was fairly outraged by Wilkinson’s gospel-free presentation. They all agreed in their estimation of Wilkinson’s teaching. If I understand Derek correctly, the disagreement had more to do with his desire to go on a crusade about it. I did not mean to give the impression that the band was pro-Jabez and that Derek was the only one who was anti-Jabez. That’s not what Derek said, and that’s not what I intended to convey. They were all anti-Jabez. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on that point as well.

Third, I said that The Prayer of Jabez was in part to blame for the band’s demise.” I’m assuming that there is more to the story of why Derek left the band and that we would learn a lot if the rest of the band were to share their perspectives (Proverbs 18:17). Nevertheless, Derek presents this event as a watershed moment in coming to his decision to go out on his own. So take it for what it’s worth–his perspective.


  • Faimon

    I once heard Bruce Wilkinson speak and had a similar reaction. I was in the minority, though, because at the end of his (overlong) talk, men were streaming forward, crying and praying. I don’t remember if he hyped his book the whole time, but it was definitely a part of it.

  • Nielsen

    I think it shows an irony in that people are so desperate for God. Even if you show a tiny flash a light it draws men. On the flip side, when you give meat and substance there seems to be a smaller amount of people repenting. Reminds me that narrow is the gate and few find it… which also scares me. Their is a gate that is wide and many many people find that gate.

  • Leo

    Sorry it’s a bit off topic, but we can also take this moment to reflect upon our Christ-less Christian music songs. The lyrics of the (Christian) songs may be full of “setting me free”, “fulfill my life”, “love and joy I have in you”, “I want you”, “you healed the wounds in my heart”, “satisfied my soul”, etc. Many times you can’t find one mentioning of “Christ”, “Jesus”, “Lord” or even “God” in them, and at best only “He”, “the one”, “my love”. True, they are to express our love for/in Christ, but what’s the difference from non-Christian music (or speech) if you can’t find Christ in it?

  • David

    I had not heard that either. I would guess that the other members of Caedmon’s would not have disagreed with Derek about Wilkinson — they just wouldn’t have wanted to devote the better part of a whole record to address Wilkinson’s gospel-light message the way Derek himself wanted to (and did on his superb She Must and Shall Go Free).

  • Ben C.

    Does the fact that you’re a Christian musician mean all your songs have to be about Christ? I think a lot of people think that and I think they’re wrong. If a Christian writes a song and it happens to not be about God should they hide it away in a box?

  • Gaines

    For what it’s worth, Caedmon’s never actually broke up after Derek went solo. And just last week, the band announced that Derek is rejoining them for their next album (out this summer), which should be great.

    So the rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated!

  • dennyrburk

    Dear Gaines (in #10),

    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t mean to give the impression that they literally broke up. I guess I assumed people would understand what I wrote in light of the immediately preceding post, in which I wrote the following:

    “I think Caedmon’s Call lost big time when Derek Webb left the band in 2003. Even though the band went on without him, for many fans, it was as if the band had broken up. Caedmon’s Call 1.0 gave way to Caedmon’s call 2.0, and it marked the end of an era of great music.”

    So you are correct. They didn’t literally break up, but the band was nevertheless very different post-Derek.

    Denny Burk

  • Rose

    Maybe Wilkinson needs to change the name of his book to “The Jabez-Driven Life.” I hadn’t heard this story either, thanks for sharing!

  • Yira Taylor

    Ben C. Says:
    In reply to the
    May 30th, 2007 posted by Leo:
    “Does the fact that you’re a Christian musician mean all your songs have to be about Christ? I think a lot of people think that and I think they’re wrong. If a Christian writes a song and it happens to not be about God should they hide it away in a box?”
    Reply: If your theme or lyrics do not come back to God or Jesus Christ, what is the purpose of being a “christian” musician and what distinguishes you from a secular musician, after all you both can sing about love, hate, etc. Further, If your song does not revolve around God, Jesus Christ, our Lord, King, Savior, Redeemer, etc. ultimately, who is getting the glory & praise in your songs? For all I know it could be Buddha, Mohammed, Allah, you. Ephesians 5:19-20 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

  • David M.

    Indeed, especially given the declaration in 1 Cor. 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

    Given that we are “not our own” and that we have been “bought witha price”, I do not get the reasoning, or the motivation, that aspires to anything less than 100% devotion to Christ.

  • Chris

    I haven’t agreed with everything Wilkinson has said or done, but his book ‘The Seven Laws of the Learner’ is one of my all-time favorites. And I haven’t agreed with everything Derek Webb has written either (especially some of his pedantic progressive politics on ‘Mockingbird’), but he is my favorite creative element within Caedmon’s Call.

    I hope we all believe the best (1 Cor. 13:7) about men like Wilkinson and Warren until we have solid, substantive reason to do otherwise.

  • Steve Hayes


    Man, this post is very disapointing. I heard about this whole thing when it happened, and Todd (Caedmon’s drummer) told me that the rest of the band was just as disgusted as Derek over the whole thing. See, when you post that this was the reason why Caedmon’s Call was “killed”, you fail to report the other side of things. That’s a bit irresponsible, don’t you think?

    I know this story, and I know that it’s not what “killed” Caedmon’s Call. Believe it or not, there is more to the story. I’m not saying that Derek is lying, but I’m also not saying that his side of this story is the only side there is. So, while I’m sure you meant well by the title of your post, what you’ve really done is report something that is very one-sided and misleading. I expect as much from the “liberal media”, but not from you.

    On a different note, I went to DeRidder this weekend. Yep, I spent some time on Sugartown Highway at the Hayes family ranch. Good times. I thought about you and Barry when I drove past FBC DeRidder.

  • GL

    I have to second what Steve wrote. Cliff called me from backstage at the Christian Booksellers Association annual meeting, where this incident with Wilkinson took place. He and other band members were outraged at what they were hearing and debating whether they should respond, and, if so, in what form. Cliff was concerned for the Gospel message that he thought was obscured and distorted by Wilkerson’s presentation, but he and other band members were also concerned about being people full of grace and truth.

    Derek was rightly upset, as was the rest of the band, because they all love the Gospel. From what I’ve been hearing, the Gospel has been working in specific, strong ways in all of their lives, and we’ll be hearing the fruits of that work soon as they realize their new album. That Derek has worked together with Caedmons on this new project says a lot about the Lord’s transforming of all their lives. There are so many good things to notice in these friends joining forces again, with Christ at the center of it all, that it seems the focus should be on those things.

  • dennyrburk


    Thanks for the comments. I posted a clarification (see above) on the points he brought up. Sorry I wasn’t clear in my initial post.

    Thanks again,

  • Ben C.

    To #15 Yira:

    I think there is a balance. Christians need to show the secular world their “human” side also. We get angry at God. Maybe we don’t want to praise him. We SHOULD (I totally agree with you), but we don’t really want to. What if I just want to write a song about how awesome the vacation I just had was, or how I had a really bad day on the freeway on my drive home? You know God is with you, people should know you’re a Christian, but does God need to be specifically mentioned in every song? I don’t know. Maybe He does. I just don’t think we should not listen to another Christian’s song, or tell them they’re not a Christian musician just becuase 1 or 2 songs didn’t happen to mention Christ.

    A Christian musician John Fischer once said, “We don’t need more Christian musicians, we need more Christians in the music business.” The only way to get it all to change and to get the music to the secular world might be by having a few songs that don’t specifically talk about Christ. If someone listens to those, decides they like your sound and what you’re saying and listen to the rest of the CD where you talk about the awesomeness of God then isn’t it all worth it? Even if 1 person is reached?

    I also think that if all your songs are about the same thing it seems disingenuous and people will think you’re just doing it because you’re a Christian musician and you don’t want to upset anyone. If you’ve happened to reach the secular world with 1 CD, you’ll lose them on the 2nd because it will all be the same stuff.

    Jesus said it himself when he ate with the tax collectors and sinners. He’s not here to save the righteous. We should be reaching out to the unrighteous with our music and we’re not going to do that if every song is about the same thing. The secular world will not understand and they’ll get bored of it and move on to something else.

    I hope I’m making some sense…

  • Paul

    Well, and there’s also the problem that far too few of the musicians in the Christian pop realm are actually any good. But that’s what happens when kids grow up listening to awful music: they turn around and play more awful music.

    or, in an attempt to be relevant, some of these bands just ape what the secular world is doing. The end result is that there are plenty of Christian Foreigners and REO Speedwagons, and there are virtually no Christian Grateful Deads or Velvet Undergrounds.

    And that’s a shame. Because that means that for the most part, not only are these bands not reaching the secular market that needs to hear the message, but they’re not even giving themselves the chance to be spiritually edifying to those who could use a little of that too.

  • Steve Hayes


    I think you’re beating the old “Christian music sucks” drum a little too hard. There have always been great Christian musicians. As much as it pains me to say this, some of that old Petra music was really good music (The Greg Voltz stuff). There have been some killer Christian bands like Burlap to Cashmere and PFR. Caedmon’s Call, Jars of Clay (the old school stuff and some of the newer stuff), Sixpence None the Richer, Plumb (the early stuff), and others threw out some amazing stuff that wasn’t copy cat stuff but original and stand alone. Mat Kearney and Robbie Seay are putting out a lot of good music these days, as are others.

    The only difference is that many of these artists signed with exclusively Christian labels, and secular stations stayed away from them. They didn’t get the air play or exposure because of their label, not their music. So, while I agree with you that there is a ton of very horrible Christian music, I disagree that there are very few good Christian musicians. The funny thing is that most popular musicians got their start in church.

    Ultimately, Christian music is like secular music. There are so many terrible secular acts that I can’t even begin to name them all. There are people who get tons of secular air play who have little to no talent. Perhaps there are too few talented secular musicians as well?

    BTW – I hate the Christian/secular distinction. You can be a Christian who plays music, but I’m not sure about there being “Christian” music. If a song speaks about the depravity of man, can’t it also glorify the justice of God? Isn’t that a Christian concept? Isn’t it really about your worldview more than about a label you put on your music? I think so.

    Did you write about Foreigner and REO Speedwagon or was I dreaming when I read that? Very relevant examples, Paul!

  • Paul


    I wish that I didn’t have to beat the “Christian Rock Sucks” drum so loudly. However, with the exception of some Caedmon’s Call (the female vocalist really needs to sell insurance instead) and some Burlap to Cashmere. Virtually everything else I’ve heard sold in a Christian bookstore is terrible. Making things worse are the following problems:

    1) Fear of being edgy: sure Caedmon’s Call and Burlap to Cashmere have their moments, but I can name plenty of artists that sound like either of them. Yes, it’s nice to hear chick rock with God-centered lyrics, but when am I going to hear a Christian band do something fresh? U2 came the closest, and Boy came out what, 30 years ago? And they’re not exactly in the same camp as a CC in the first place. In other words, where’s the Christian Tool, Radiohead or My Bloody Valentine?

    2) I swear that Christian musicians are scared of getting too good. It would explain so, so, so, so, so much. It would explain why I’ve never heard great harmonic sense from any of these bands. It would explain why you never hear these bands work in odd rhythms. It would explain why these bands rarely, if ever play multi-part compositions, and it would explain why I’ve never heard one that can improvise. And I’ve really never heard one that can kick back and groove.

    In other words, no matter how great the message is, if it’s unlistenable, it’s pointless. And most of the CCM stuff that’s out there is just that. Pointless. And even right here, on this little site, I’ve asked if there’s any great Christian music that I’m missing, nobody’s ever said anything. And if the very people who listen to the stuff can’t recommend it, then, sir, you have no right to talk about relevance.

  • Steve Hayes

    Hey, at least I’m not using bands that are 30 years old as examples of “relevant” music.

    Try this… Go online and listen to Water Deep. Then go online and listen to Trip Wamsley. Then go online and listen to The Myriad. Then go online and listen to Woven Hand. Pedro the Lion, Sufjan Stevens, David Wilcox, U2, The Fray, Mat Kearney, PFR, etc, are fantastic bands and solo artists with amazing musical and lyrical content.

    Look, I’m not your typical CCM fan. As a matter of fact, my ipod doesn’t have any Stephen Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Mercy Me or Third Day on it. I think that stuff is junk too. All I’m saying is that you can’t throw all of it out as horrible. There are some real “Christian” treasures out there. They’re no Foreigner of Grateful Dead, but they are good stuff (ahh, sarcasm).

    You should really like some of that Water Deep stuff. If you want to hear “odd rhythms” and “multi-part compositions”, this is a really cool band. Trip Wamsley will blow your mind. He’s a solo bass artist, and he’s in the same league as a Michael Manring. Seriously, this guy is one of the best in the world. Yep, he’s a Christian, and he talks openly about it at his shows. He’s also crazy… seriously, this dude is nuts.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll give some of these a shot. They’re not your typical CCM junk. Enjoy!

  • Paul


    I think you missed my point in mentioning foreigner or REO Speedwagon. They were absolutely awful and contrived bands that seemed like they were crafted by consensus as opposed to musical thought.

    You know, like the exact same thing that you hear when you listen to Third Day, Petra or Stryper.

    I’ve heard about Water Deep before. I downloaded a couple of shows off of, and was not at all impressed. Again, I heard contrived band trying to sound like such and such sound to reach the hippies.

    Want to hear what that stuff is supposed to sound like? Check out Anthem of the Sun by the Grateful Dead. If the Grateful Dead and sarcasm ever show up in the same paragraph again, it’s because you’ve got screws loose.

    As for Trip Wamsley, if he sounds like Michael Manring, I’m in. And I will definitely check out those other bands. Because I would rather be listening to more Christian music.

  • Steve Hayes

    OK, so I get that you like “The Dead.” It’s funny to me that your example of relevant, good music is a trippy fringe band. Not saying I don’t like some of their stuff, but they usually aren’t mentioned because of their incredible talent, but more for their cult following and drug induced shows. Arguing with a “Dead Head” is fruitless. It’s kind of like arguing with a die hard Bush supporter. No matter what you say, they disagree.

    Anyway, here’s what’s on my current playlist. This should give you an idea of where I fall on the musical spectrum:

    The Police
    Big Bang
    Kings of Leon
    The Khrusty Brothers
    The Raconteurs
    Jeff Buckley

    And, if you think Water Deep is a contrived band you’re crazy. I could go and download some live Dead concert and not “get it”. Downloads of live shows are not good indicators of what actually happens at a live show. You’re smart enough to know that.

    Paul, this post goes hand in glove with your tendancy to overstate your point and be a contrarian. I’ve given you tons of examples of Christian artists who have talent and display it regularly. You’ve responded with “Well, they’re not as good as The Greatful Dead.” OK, ya got me there.

    Not sure how to continue with this thread. We disagree on a very subjective issue that you have made into a very black and white issue. There are some Christian artists I like. Sue me.

    Let me summarize your points: Nobody else on this blog knows what good music is except Paul. The Greatful Dead are the greatest band ever. If a band is influenced by other musicians, they are copy cats. God couldn’t possibly create a Christian musician with some talent.

    Does that about sum it up?

  • Paul


    (going backwards here)

    not even close. Barry and I have had at least one interesting conversation about some VERY good (and obscure) guitarists. I never said anything about copycats. What I DID say is that much of the CCM world tries to glom onto a secular craze and put a Christian spin on it, as opposed to trying to create something musically fresh. Everyone is going to be influenced by something. The key is to have ears that are big enough to encompass as much as possible. And that’s not a Christian problem, that’s a problem with unschooled musicians period, and there are far too many of them. And God created all of us musician types. Some just choose to blaspheme by using His name in some really awful music.

    Music isn’t subjective. It’s very OBJECTIVE. It’s just that our sound-bite culture has wasted away the attention span of the average American. No words? People don’t get it. A solo section longer than 8 bars? The musicians are either showing off or noodling. Harmonic sophistication? Must be a Steely Dan or Radiohead knockoff. Songs about something other than boy/girl relationships? The band is weird. etc, etc, etc. And that’s just in the secular world.

    I’m hardly contrarian. I just feel the need to voice a concern that I have. And it’s a concern that I wish I didn’t have. I really wish that I could walk into the local “Family Bookstore” and pick up something that sounds spectacular. However, with very few exceptions, I can’t do that. Insofar as the “not as good as the Grateful Dead” comment goes, all I’m saying is that the Dead set the bar for what an improvising unit CAN sound like. It’s up to bands that come after them to expand on that sound. Water Deep didn’t. At least not to my ears. Tell me what to check out, and I’ll go take a listen to it.

    And while a download of a live show doesn’t give one the COMPLETE idea of what was going on, it gives the most important part. I can download practically any Charlie Hunter or Fareed Haque show and be seriously blown away by what I just heard. Even without all of the distractions that a live show provides.

    As for how and why people think of the Dead, their legacy has been tarnished by ignorant public opinion just as much as Frank Zappa’s has. Both were artistic monsters who are remembered for peripheral stuff. The Dead for their fans (both the good and bad of them), and Zappa for silly lyrics. Which is sad, because both of them deserve so much better in the halls of public opinion.

    All of which leads me to my point: give me a Christian band that somebody can get into a heated discussion about. If that’s one of the bands previously mentioned, then rock on, I’m sure I’ll be asking you for more in that vein soon.

    Thanks for the spirited conversation,


  • Paul Hager

    This whole discussion about Caedmon’s Call and the Book “Prayer of Jabez,” does bring up the whole Christian/Worship music discussion. I attend a church that purposely uses contempory music but all of it has a Christ/gospel centred message. If there is ever a song that doesn’t meet that criteria you can see it in the way people worship. Any songs that are narrow or me centred don’t have the same impact as those that centre on Christ and His message. I think a valid point about the argument about the Christian/worship dichotomy is that there is realistic expression of feelings in songs of both genres. The problem is when they are confused or mixed together in one album or concert. Some people go to see Caedmon’s Call fro different reasons. Some people listen to Hillsongs for different reasons.
    If the industry would like my input, I believe part of the solution is the way music is marketed. If the music is a general interest then maybe it needs to be marketed that way. If I was trying to reach a market I would make sure that I did what the market was asking for. Worship music is a different genre than Christian music. One has a worship focus/ the other has an emotional/spiritual focus. If I attended a church that did not have worship- true worship, as a focus, I would run out the door.
    The way I measure the difference is the number of times and focus of the worship songs. If Christ and the gospel is missing, it is not worship. If the music is all about me, then I know it’s not true worship music.

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.