Proverbs 30:7-9 - A Prayer That We All Should Say
“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
This morning I read an article about a homeless man in our community. It is a sad story. Apparently, this man has burned every bridge in our community so that now he has no good options for help. No shelters will take him in. No stores trust him because he has been caught stealing. No hotels want to rent to him because of the damage that has been caused in the past.
Yet, this man has no desire to stop drinking. He says that he cannot imagine his life without alcohol. Any money that he gets he immediately goes out to purchase alcohol. He has no desire to stop drinking and spending every dime that he receives on it even though winter is approaching here in Wisconsin.
What can be done for a man who is in this condition? What can be done when this man does not have any desire to be sober or to stop drinking? There are many things that he cannot do. He cannot get all dressed up and go look for a job. He cannot go out and purchase a place to stay for the winter.
Perhaps the place to start is with saying a prayer. We have all had to start there even when our hearts are fighting us in doing so. In the midst of our sin we have begun with a prayer to God. We have had to do this even when we knew that our heart was not fully behind the words that we knew had to be said. And even in that condition, somehow our prayers were heard and God acted.
Consider the prayer in Proverbs 30:7-9. I cannot think of a more appropriate prayer than this one for any of us who need to pray a prayer like this. He begins by saying, “Two things I ask of you…”.
He asks for two things from the LORD. Oh, how much pity there ought to be for someone who never prays such a prayer. We ought to mourn for a person who never thinks to pray to God for Him to be gracious to them in their great need. And yet, we ought to pity the man who never thinks to ask for more than just one thing. Many boast, “I know the gospel!”, or “I have prayed the prayer”, or “I have been baptized”, or “I go to church”; and yet, they don’t ask for anything more from God. They have prayed one prayer and never again felt the need to pray again.
But this man prays and asks for two things. There is something in this man that knows that God is a gracious God. And there is something in this man that makes him know that he is totally dependent upon God to keep him. He knows that he is too quickly led astray by both plenty and by his need. He is on the same road that the apostle Paul traveled which led him to say, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13-13)
At first glance, Paul’s testimony and this man’s prayer in Proverbs 30 seem to be miles apart. The apostle Paul says that he has learned the secret to be content in plenty and in need. The man in Proverbs 30 prays that God will keep him from having too little or too much. He knows the temptation that lies in both of these things. But really, these two people are saying similar things. They are both looking to the LORD for their sufficiency. Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The man in Proverbs 30 is praying as Jesus taught us, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)
This man in Proverbs 30 who asks for two things is like Achsah in Joshua 16, She is the daughter of Caleb and she had been given to Othniel in marriage because of his victory in battle. She urged her new husband to ask her father for another blessing - a field. This man was content to have Achsah in marriage but she convinces him that Caleb is gracious and that he will give them even more. Indeed he was, Caleb gave them the land of the Negeb and also gave to her the upper and lower springs as well.
We do indeed pray to a gracious Lord. He is always responding in a gracious manner towards you and I. Consider the man who was lowered through the roof by his friends. They only sought one thing from the Lord. They wanted Jesus to heal his body but Jesus did so much more. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’ (Matthew 9:2) After the man had been forgiven of his sins Jesus also graciously healed his body.
One might say that God is gracious because He did two things there. He forgave his sins and he healed him; but we must not overlook the fact that it says that the man was forgiven of his sins (plural). Jesus goes on to say, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’” (Matthew 9:5)
God is far more gracious than we realize. He did not forgive this man of just one sin; He forgave his many sins. Not only is God gracious in the degree that He forgives our sins; but He is gracious in the way He forgives our sins – by faith without our merit. And He is gracious in the inheritance He provides for us after we have been forgiven.
In Proverbs 30:7 the man continues to pray by saying, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die…”
We began by talking about a homeless man who did not want to stop his drinking even though it may cost him his life. This man, however, prays that the Lord would answer his requests before he would die. In one since this speaks of the urgency of this situation. This man does not want to dishonor God in any way, nor does he want to deny the Lord at any time. These are two things that no person should want to be found guilty of at the day of their death just prior to the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, this man does not hesitate to make this request and to seek the Lord’s grace in these areas.
But this also speaks to this man’s total dependence upon the LORD to answer this prayer. This man cannot do anything, to other than to pray, to accomplish this request. He will continue to pray to the LORD because it is the LORD that must do the work. And it is the LORD that must continue the work. It is a daily work that this man seeks to see happen in his life.
This homeless man needs to know that he truly is powerless to overcome the desire for alcohol and his addiction to it. The only thing that he can do is to pray for God who can change his heart and his affections. And then as God begins the work this man will need to pray this prayer more and more as we all have to do. As God does this work in a sinners heart he will pray for what is needful and not what is excess.
Ecclesiastes 10:17 also speaks of this when we read, “Happy are you...when your princes feast at the proper time, for strength, and not for drunkenness.” I have recently begun to memorize this verse to help me to resist gluttony and excess in my own life. I will be happier, not when I have what my flesh wants, but when I have enough for strength. Our excesses don’t lead us to strength, but to a body that is unhealthy and sluggish. Therefore the man in Proverbs 30 prays, “Feed me with the food that is needful for me…”. God will not with hold from his children what they need. If they ask for bread He will not give to them a scorpion. Again, He is gracious so the LORD will give us more than bread, He will give us the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:12-13)
There is a probably a good order to this man’s request. He prays, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches.”
I began by saying that this is good prayer to pray even when we do not want to turn from our sin. One thing that is necessary for us to always pray for is that we would be willing for God to remove far from us falsehood and lying. This especially needs to be done in our hearts. Sin, above all other things, loves to deceive us. It loves to trick us. It seeks to fool us. Therefore, we must be willing to pray that God would remove far from me falsehood and lying. He must do this for us. He must open our eyes to see the glory of God. He must allow us to see these things that have exalted themselves against the knowledge of Christ.
Having prayed for the removal of falsehood and lying, this man now prays that he would not be given either poverty and riches. Out of a prayer that began with the desire to have falsehood and lying removed from him comes this amazing request. He sounds like Solomon, who was given the chance to seek anything he wanted from the Lord and he asked for wisdom. Therefore, because he did not ask for long life or riches, God gave him all of those things and more wisdom than any other man.
We need to pray that God would remove from us falsehood and lying; but God again, will do so much more. He removes these things and in their place he gives to us wisdom. And godly wisdom never seeks for anything that will replace the hearts dependence upon the LORD. This man wants to be daily dependent upon the LORD for provision. He knows that with too much he will deny the LORD. He knows that with too little, he will steal and profane Him. Therefore, this man cries out to the LORD for his daily needs. And a heart that will cry out daily for these things will also be a heart that will be full of thanksgiving.