In light of this Fridays’ Prayer and Praise night on the topic of prayer, Lynnette has asked me to write up a short reflection on a prayer found in the Bible and I have decided to break down Proverbs 30:7-9 for us, as it closely relates to one of the prayers we will be examining on Friday and is one that we can imitate for those wanting to learn how to pray.
Let us read it first:
“Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.”
(Proverbs 30: 7-9 ESV)
In learning how to pray from scriptural texts, there are 2 things we can imitate. The first is the structure and content of prayer; the second is the emotive passion that exists in prayer. Why the first category you may ask? Doesn’t God already know what we need before we ask Him? Doesn’t God accept our prayers as they are no matter how disjointed or illogical they seem? We need to ask the question as to what purposes do such examples of prayer serve.
We read from Matthew 6 that not only does our Lord Jesus teaches his people not to pray “to be seen by others” but he also teaches them to not “heap up empty phrases”. Furthermore, he even teaches them how to pray through a prayer that he made for his disciples, a prayer well known as the Lord’s Prayer. While the prayer is short, it is succinct, it is structured and it shows a deep doctrinal understanding of the depravity of man and the glory and majesty of God.
It is to this end that we are to also learn from this prayer and it is my goal that we as a community can be increasingly prayerful and abundantly more grateful for what God has done for us and for each other.
In looking at the structure of this prayer, it is separated into 2 things that Agur requests of the Lord and they are as listed below. We see that every single item of petition also relates to a corresponding reason for petition. Every single item of prayer in our life actually reflects the orientation and desires of our heart. It might be beneficial to be a little self critical of ourselves in our prayer lives to see why we pray for the things that we pray for. We should ask ourselves: Who is this prayer for? To what end do I want to see this happen? Why do I want to see this happen? Who gets the glory?
Structure of petition:
Item of petition 1: V8a: “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches”
Reason for petition 1: v9a “Lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Item of petition 2: V8b: “feed me with the food that is needful for me”
Reason for petition 2: v9b “Lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
We note that the structure of this prayer was very simple. God doesn’t need our long eloquent words and understanding of scripture! God doesn’t even need us. It is never too late to start learning how to pray – all you need is due diligence of study and imitation of God’s word and from faithful leaders! To help us understand a little bit on how to pray this prayer, I have summarised the items and reasons of petitions and flipped them to the positives to help us understand the goal and reasoning of this prayer.
“Deny me not”, “Grant me” items of petition:
- That God will bring us to truth and materialistic “mediocrity” so we may not deny the Lord.
- That God will give us enough (materialistically) so that we not profane the name of the Lord.
We read from v8a that Agur petitions that God will remove far from him falsehood and lying (bring him to Truth) and provide him materialistic mediocrity, so that he may never find full fulfilment and assurance in his possessions and subsequently deny the Lord’s place as the ultimate source of satisfaction.
In our prayers, we can structure this both ways. We can pray both for the things that God will do and for things that God can help us in not doing. However we see that his major concern was that he would not deny the Lord. While you may argue that such a prayer could have stemmed from a person’s selfishness in wanting self-preservation from the wrath of a holy God, being driven by fear is not always inherently wrong. We read from Proverbs 1:7 that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”. Agur here shows us that human beings are really weak and is naturally gravitated to lies and falsehood, itching to hear what our hearts want us to hear. Therefore, it is actually a good and holy reason to ask God to hold us fast in His love, because it really is all His work that we are able to comprehend or see Him at all.
In the second part of petition I, the author petitions to the Lord for Him to deny him “fullness” or riches or materialistic abundance. What is so bad about being “full” you may ask? Isn’t everything God created good and can be used for a good purpose? Wouldn’t we be more generous in our giving and even spread the gospel further if we make it our ultimate pursuit to accumulate more wealth? Doesn’t God want us to be comfortable? The short answer is no. That really is a lie. We humans are incredibly forgetful, slothful and foolish and need every reminder we can get to push on in the Christian race. Being “full” really leads us to be “full” of ourselves, as we slowly believe that the person who has gotten us thus far is actually ourselves rather than God. By existing and living in a state of “materialistic mediocrity,” will we truly be able to appreciate the abundance that God has provided for us.
A challenge for us all today is to first draft an item of prayer that mirrors the structure of Agur, then we should seek to share this prayer with a friend, so that both of you may be encouraged and spurred on to live and engage with the world that we are sent to witness to.