Saturday, January 15, 2011

Prayer of the Wise: Don't Give Me Too Much

How much is too much when it comes to wealth? Even though most of us have more than what we need to sustain a basic lifestyle, we are typically clamoring for better than what we have right now. It's unthinkable that we would pray to God to limit his blessing to us but it's exactly what we discover in Proverbs 30:7-9. Two things are asked for. The first is the protection from falsehoods but it's the second part of the request that I find most intriguing - "give me neither poverty or riches".

“Two things I ask of you, 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"

This is presented to us as the prayer of a wise man, yet I would venture that most (if not all) of us have never even considered praying such a prayer - "give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread". We would never consider to ask God to only give us what we need for today and no more - no "rainy day" fund, no nest egg for retirement, no set-aside for dream vacation, etc... Popular preacher Francis Chan elaborates on Proverbs 30:7-9 in this short, provocative video.

Is this a blueprint for how we ought to pray and live? How does this mesh with the conventional wisdom of saving and planning? Would you have the courage to pray this prayer and how would you respond if God actually answered?

It's easy to get lost in the myriad of questions that arise but don't lose sight of the God-centered motivation of this prayer request. It's all about God - not having too little so as to avoid the temptations that come with being impoverished - yet, not having too much such that God is no longer desired and possibly forgotten. This passage is about treasuring God and the worth of His name and not letting anything get in its way. Perhaps that's the kind of motivation we might be wise to incorporate into our prayers.


Halfmom said...

daily life, and its demands, gets in the way of real life, of thoughtfulness and worship. There's always a deadline and more to do than I can see how to get done. I wonder if along with this "daily bread" provision comes a simpler, less demanding daily life.

Megan said...

Funny...I've TRIED praying this prayer, but still haven't had the nerve. Says a lot.

Sam Van Eman said...

This is a passage I memorized years ago, ESI, because it does pose a challenge to my desire for comfort. Thanks for putting it back on my radar.

St. Ignatius may have been pondering this verse when he wrote:

"Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created."

Every Square Inch said...

Halfmom - you may have a point. Living day to day, trusting in God's provision may free us from the cares and weights of a materially wealthier existence

Megan - I know what you mean - it's the kind of prayer that you're a little afraid God will actually answer

Sam - thanks for adding the St Ignatius quote to the discussion. Faith reminds us that illnesses, poverty and hardship are holy instruments to draw us closer to God and to conform to the image of his Son.