Pray Agur’s Prayer

Blind Faith (No. 30, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for July 27, 2017
Pray Agur’s Prayer

You probably don’t remember a Bible character named Agur. This wisdom-writer
appears only in Proverbs 30. His father is named Jakeh, and that is
everything we know about Agur. He is a minor character in the Bible – even
within the book of Proverbs – but he certainly possesses keen, true
insights. The centerpiece of his sole chapter of scripture is: “Every word
of God proves true. He defends all who come to him for protection.”
(Proverbs 30:5 NLT) Reading all of Proverbs 30 whets my appetite to know
more about Agur, but his history remains a mystery. Learning to pray his
prayer for God’s guidance for his life can be highly instructive, however.

We don’t know Agur’s age when he wrote down his prayer, but it is a prayer
any of us would do well to pray at any age:

I ask two things from you, LORD. Don’t refuse me before I die. {8} Keep me
from lying and being dishonest. And don’t make me either rich or poor; just
give me enough food for each day. {9} If I have too much, I might reject you
and say, “I don’t know the LORD.” If I am poor, I might steal and disgrace
the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NCV)

Agur zeros in on actions that creep too easily into our lives but are
crucial to avoid if we are to remain faithful to God as long as we live. His
concern in asking God to help him to achieve these goals in life was to keep
from dishonoring or spoiling his relationship with God. Both other
contributors to the book of Proverbs and writers of Christian scripture
concur that his plea hit squarely on two central issues that derail many
people from vibrant relationship with God and other people.

Lying and being dishonest in any sense are eschewed in Proverbs
as being contrary to God’s way of living. Both the literal telling of lies
and falsehoods and the more expansive sense of being deceitful in any
activity are harmful to other people, ourselves, and our relationship with
God. Wise words in Proverbs note: “The LORD detests lying lips, but he
delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22 NIV) Lying violates the
10 Commandments. Another wise admonition from Proverbs shows how
deceitfulness shades into Agur’s other petition: “Wealth that comes from
telling lies vanishes like a mist and leads to death.” (Proverbs 21:6 NCV)
Both telling falsehoods and dealing falsely in business do damage to the
community of faith in God. Paul supports this idea: “You were taught to be
made new in your hearts, {24} to become a new person. That new person is
made to be like God–made to be truly good and holy. {25} So you must stop
telling lies. Tell each other the truth, because we all belong to each other
in the same body.” (Ephesians 4:23-25 NCV) Anything but truth in our
communication or business dealings with one another is an affront to God.
Agur was right to do everything he could do with God’s help to keep
falsehood out of his life.

Asking to have neither poverty nor riches – and asking for the
right reasons – was Agur’s second request of God. Material security is a
major motivator for our attitudes and actions in life, far too easily
interfering with our relationships with God and with others. Fretting over
amassing material wealth or believing that getting more will demonstrate
that we have more value as persons is another form of giving in to falsehood
and deceit. The book of Proverbs declares: “Those who trust in riches will
be ruined, but a good person will be healthy like a green leaf.” (Proverbs
11:28 NCV) Jesus observed how material wealth often becomes a wedge issue
driving people apart from God: “it is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
(Matthew 19:24 NRSV) The problem is not riches, themselves, but the easy lie
that having an abundance of material goods must mean that we have all our
spirits need as well. Jesus pointed out this deception as he explained the
parable of the farmer sowing seeds. The seeds – by which Jesus means the
word of God – fall on thorny ground when delivered to people obsessed with
wealth accumulation: “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth
and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it
unfruitful. (Mark 4:19 NIV) Jesus also warns of the false security riches
can give, such that a person might find no need for relationship with God or
anyone else. The parable of the rich man who tore down his barns in order to
build bigger ones to store his abundance, but who died before he could enjoy
it illustrates the deceitfulness of materialism (see Luke 12:15-21).
Adoration of one’s material wealth leaves little room for genuine worship of
God. As Paul explains the problem, a “.greedy person–such a man is an
idolater.” (Ephesians 5:5 NIV) While reveling in material prosperity can
lead us to think that we have no need for God, clamoring for possessions by
stealing breaks the 10 Commandments, thereby separating us from God and the
community from whom we have stolen. Remember, too, that Jesus expands the
condemnation of stealing from outright larceny to thefts that occur in our
hearts through lust and covetousness. Agur hit another primary cause of
spiritual isolation and desolation right on target.

I think Agur had the right idea. If we are to fully enjoy living
out our days we simply need to avoid things that interfere with our
relationship with God – lying and greed being two chief offenders. After
all, God is the giver of all that is good for us to enjoy in the lifetime he
grants us. Remaining in faithful relationship with God and others is a
crucial key for attaining and enjoying the fulfillment of our goals in life.

Get to know Agur and his prayer. Make his prayer your own. Keep
your behavior clear of anything that separates you from God and others – and
fill your days with whatever God graciously leads you to enjoy.

J. Edward Culpepper

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