In this chapter, we’ll learn about a man named Agur through his prayer recorded in Proverbs 30:7–9, which begins, “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.”
Agur is mentioned only once in the Bible (Proverbs 30:1). Speculation is that Agur is a pseudonym under which Solomon, the author of most of the proverbs, wrote. But we cannot know for sure. Who was Agur? All we can know comes from the contents of Proverbs 30. Yet there is much we can learn about this obscure personality from his wise sayings. And the most important things about Agur are revealed in the wise prayer of this weak man. Agur’s intercession teaches us several important lessons about prayer, before we ever get to the main petitions of the prayer.
LESSON 1: PRAY WITH HUMBLE SUBMISSION
“Two things I ask of you,” Agur begins, adding, “deny them not to me before I die” (Proverbs 30:7). Consider how Agur made his requests to the Lord. Agur asked God for two things. This is an important detail. He did not tell the Lord what to do. He did not claim any promises. He did not use the force of faith. He did not write his own ticket with God. He did not try to manipulate God to produce his desired reality.
Without a doubt, Agur’s prayer is earnest and urgent. Yet Agur simply asked God for what he wanted—like a servant addressing a master, like a child talking to his father, like a sinful man addressing a holy God. This is how we should approach God in prayer, with humble submission, not arrogant presumption.
LESSON 2: PRAY WITH SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES
Agur did not pray for foolish, trivial, or superficial things. Rather, his prayer carried the weight of eternity: “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die” (emphasis added). Think about that. As Agur prayed about his life he was thinking about his death. Moses prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). By this standard, we can conclude that Agur was a wise-hearted man. He numbered his days. He was in touch with his mortality. He lived in light of eternity. He did not lay up treasure on earth (see Matthew 6:19). He recognized it is appointed for every person to die and stand before God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So Agur prayed with a life-and-death focus.
Our prayers should also bear the weight of our inevitable date with eternity. “In praying,” wrote Matthew Henry, “we should think of dying, and pray accordingly.” This is great advice. Worldly prayer does not reach heaven. When you pray, remember that God is sovereign. Life is short. Death is sure. Hell is real. Eternity is long. Don’t major on minor things in prayer. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” instructs Jesus, “and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
H. B. Charles Jr., It Happens after Prayer: Biblical Motivation for Believing Prayer (Chicago, IL: Lift Every Voice, 2013).
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