Thursday, October 18, 2012

Strange prayer requests?

To 21st century ears and sensibilities the words of this ancient prayer pull us up short.  The expressed desires of the unknown author startle us with a radical, counter cultural value set.  Possibly we've never needed to hear words like these as badly as we need to hear them today.  

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 NIV)

The words of the prayer originate from Agur, the son of Jakeh, about either of whom we know nothing beyond these words. 

Fairly amazing words, don't you think, especially when laid alongside the values, goals and aspirations of most of us. 

Everything about our culture, economy, education system and passions lead us in a completely different direction, often in exactly the opposite direction. 

I mean think about it. 

Do we long only for truth?  Do I guard my heart, mind and life from falsehood of every sort?  Or, do I embrace the latest "lie of the day" that often streams at me from a variety of media with the intensity of an open fire hose?  In a world of wild, maddening abundance of information, do I pursue the truth with unrelenting dedication, no matter how demanding, confusing or tiring?  Most important, does my spiritual life train my heart on such a quest?  Or, do I settle for something short of truth, something more akin to lies and falsehood? 

More personally, am I open, even eager to face the truth about myself? 


Can I be satisfied with "only my daily bread"?  Are my prayers filled with desires for life's very basic, even simple places and experiences?  "Just my daily bread, Lord, just my daily bread!"

Do I understand the danger of wealth?  Am I honest enough to admit and know well in advance of shifting fortune, that wealth possess the power to swamp my spiritual life completely?  Do I accept the fact that wealth often fills me with a very false sense of self-assured arrogance.  If my net worth puts me in charge of life, what's the notion of God about anyway? 

Can I identify at all with real poverty?  What would I do if my finances turned down so that I took my place alongside my buddies who live out on the mean streets?  Would my hunger and general despair drive me to steal in order to survive?  I know myself well enough to confess that in such an extremity I'm sure I'd be capable of acts and decisions that clearly would be dishonorable. 

The prayer of Agur elevates the basic, the simple, the middle ground.  The prayer links truth in life with a refreshing simplicity of values. 

In a world dominated by materialism and consumption, Agur hands me a prayer I need to learn to pray.  


rcorum said...

Outstanding post, and of course so true. sfff

Chad said...

Larry - I was thinking of you today in teaching the gospel of Luke to my Deerfield class. I think I'll refer back to Proverbs now!