People prefer to be rich rather than poor. It’s therefore striking that the Bible gives us a record of this prayer in Prov. 30:8:
…give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me.
Agur, the person expressing this, isn’t asking for much: just an allotment of bread, a fixed portion. He leaves it up to the LORD God to establish that portion.
A humble petition
This Old Testament prayer is echoed in the petition that Jesus taught his disciples: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Does this idea, especially seen against its more explicit setting in the Old Testament, make you feel uncomfortable? Do you find it difficult or easy to pray like this? Or don’t you pray about your daily needs at all?
What’s the further biblical context of this request? Although the LORD may give us earthly riches, he teaches us to focus not on them, but on his Kingdom. God is our Father, the King of his people. He lovingly directs our lives and calls us to respond to him by relying on him to provide for us while serving him gladly (Ps 100:2).
Pray confidently to our all-powerful and merciful Father for daily food! By praying in this way, you oppose the spirit of the world. You reject the idea that people are self-sufficient. People often think they can take care of themselves. They cherish the illusion that they are in full control of events. But God gives sunshine and rain. Without his blessings, crops will fail and ultimately all endeavours will amount to nothing that has eternal value.
It’s a human inclination to want an abundance of good things. However, understanding our calling to live for God leads to a reorientation of our lives. Through Jesus Christ, God gives the means we need to live for him. We learn to pray for what we need to live for him in a fruitful way.
A bold petition
This is also the thrust of the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chr 4:9-10, a petition of a man whose name is linked to the pain of his mother at childbirth. Although Scripture describes such pain as one of the consequences of sin, this doesn’t exclude the possibility of blessings. Jabez prayed to “the God of Israel,” asking for the blessing of enlarged borders, meaning more territory.
Was this a greedy petition? No, it was in harmony with the LORD’s promise of land for his people to provide for their needs. Jabez asked for more territory within the context of fellowship with the LORD, praying “that your hand might be with me.” He also prayed, “keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain.” This is at root not unlike the petition “deliver us from evil” (Mt 6:13) in the Lord’s Prayer.
So, we pray for and look for opportunities to serve our God fruitfully with what he provides. The important thing is to leave it up to him how he will honour such petitions as we seek to use the gifts he gives us to glorify him.
A liberating petition
The LORD determines the potential and the limits of our abilities. Knowing and acknowledging this can be a liberating experience. Don’t take on too many responsibilities, trying to do more than you can actually oversee. Whatever you do, keep in mind what your motives are. Are you doing this to serve God, or just to get even further ahead financially?
There is more to life than economic gains. Do you have a family? You have more than just financial responsibilities toward them. We live in a world that is affected by man’s fall into sin. That means there are spiritual challenges which we will have to face. Lay your motives and goals before the LORD God in prayer. That makes a big difference. It will lead to peace. The condition is, however, to trust in God and ask him for our daily bread. As long as he has a task for us in this life, he will provide us with what we need.
Dr. Pol is a retired minister of the Carman West Canadian Reformed Church in Manitoba.