“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9). This prayer resembles the prayer Jesus taught his disciples in its requests for daily bread and deliverance from evil. It also demonstrates the challenge of prayer: How hard is it for us to surrender our will and our desires to God? This prayers appears in a section of the biblical book of Proverbs identified as the “sayings of Agur son of Jakeh – an oracle” (Prov. 30:1). As Agur’s sayings proclaim the power, wisdom and creativity of God, he confesses in his prayer in contrast his own mortality and moral weakness. How does a (post)modern man reconcile this prayer with the prayer of Jabez, another biblical prayer that gained both popularity and notoriety in recent years. Should we pray only for what we need, or should we ask God to “enlarge our borders?” Should we be satisfied with what we have or “name it and claim it?” Or, to introduce still another biblical option, should we sell all that we have and give it to the poor?
We miss the point of Agur’s prayer. Agur prays that he will remain faithful to God. He knows himself well enough that he can envision himself as a wealthy man believing that he does not need God. On the other hand, he suspects that if poor, he might steal in desperation and dishonor God. Like Agur, we must reflect on God’s identity and our relationship with Him. Like Agur, we must inventory our dreams, our lusts, our fears and our hopes and determine how they may damage our relationship with God. We may pray the prayer of Jabez if we know that our desires align with God’s and that we have the moral strength to resist the temptations that will result from the granting of our requests. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). We serve a God of integrity. He invites us to be people of integrity. Let us pray with Agur that we will remain faithful.