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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:Agur Teaches Us to Pray Like Christ
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 6
Psalm 65:1,3,5,6
Psalm 34:1-4
Hymn 1
Psalm 79:5

Reading:  Matthew 6:25-34
Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 50 + Proverbs 30:7-9

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

Alexander the Great lived from 356 to 323 before Christ.  He’s remembered in history as king of Macedonia and a world conqueror.  The story is told of Alexander having conquered his last enemy and afterwards he was found weeping in his tent.  He was weeping, it’s said, because there were no more peoples to conquer.  He had it all, but yet he remained dissatisfied.  He lived for getting more and now there was no more to get.  Dissatisfied to be king only of Macedonia and now dissatisfied to be king of everything.  Never happy. 

I don’t know if that story is true, but whether it is or not it illustrates a common human condition.  It portrays us in our discontent.  As sinners outside of Christ, people are often not happy with the ways thing are in their lives.  Even as Christians, we can find ourselves at that place where we’re wishing things were different, wishing we had more, wishing we had whatever it is that would finally make us happy. 

The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is a response to this sinful human condition.  Our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray for God to provide us with what we need.  He teaches us to pray for contentment with God’s provision.  He teaches us to pray that we’d learn to trust in God alone for everything in our lives.  That extends to not only our spiritual well-being, but also our physical.

That’s why our Saviour speaks of daily bread.  Bread is a word that covers everything we need for the sustenance of our bodies.  Jesus wasn’t only speaking about bread as in the food made out of flour, but whatever we need for our physical existence.  Bread is a catch-all word.  As the Catechism puts it, it refers to “all our bodily needs.”

Now it’s worth noting that our Lord Jesus didn’t really create the fourth petition out of thin air.  It seems he was working with what had been given in God’s Word many years earlier.  Agur prayed it already in Proverbs 30:8, “...give me only my daily bread.”  Our Lord Jesus took those words and expanded on them slightly in his prayer.  Now this afternoon as we consider the fourth petition, I want to do that through the lens of Proverbs 30:7-9.  Let’s read that together right now.  We’re going to look closely at this passage and see how Agur teaches us to pray the same as Christ:  “Give us today our daily bread.”  We’ll consider:

  1. The two things he prays for
  2. Why he prays for them
  3. Why God will hear such a prayer. 

This passage occurs in a chapter of Proverbs that contains “the sayings of Agur son of Jakeh.”  No one knows who Agur was.  From the fact that he uses God’s covenant name Yahweh, we could surmise that he was an Israelite.  Yet we never read about him anywhere else in Scripture.  We do know that the words he wrote are the inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God.  That’s enough for us to go on. 

Here Agur asks Yahweh (the LORD) to give him two things before he leaves this world.  The first thing is in the first part of verse 8, “Remove far from me falsehood and lying.”  That means Agur wants to live in God’s light, walking in his truth.  He doesn’t want to have anything to do with the work of Satan, the one Jesus calls “the father of lies.”  Whenever we lie, we’re walking in the ways of Satan, in the ways of the world, and in the ways of sinful flesh.  God desires that his people love the truth all the time.  He is the God of truth.  And you remember what Jesus calls himself in John 14:6, don’t you?  He says, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.”  If God is truth, then his people should also love the truth.  If Christ is the truth, then those who are united to him should also be characterized by truthfulness.  We should make Agur’s prayer our prayer too.  We should pray to God that he would keep lies and falsehood far from us.  After all, we want to please him, love him, and thank him for what he’s done for us through Christ.

Now you might be asking yourself, what does the first part of Agur’s prayer have to do with the fourth petition?  That’s a good question.  At first glance, it might appear that there’s no connection.  But look closer.  Look closer through the words our Lord Jesus said in Mark 4:19 where he spoke about the deceitfulness of wealth.  Wealth, money, material possessions and so on can and do lie to us.  More properly, Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh tell us lies about these things.  The most common lie is that these things will make you happy and give you rest, joy, and peace.  Think of the lottery commercials.  Think of how happy you would be if you won several million dollars.  No.  It’s a lie.   As Augustine famously said, our hearts are restless until they rest in God.  That’s the truth.  So pray that God would keep the lies far from you.  Pray that God would open your eyes to see the lies for what they are so that we can withdraw our trust from everything else and place our trust only in him.

Now the second thing Agur asks for is in the second part of verse 8, “...give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.”  He’s simply asking that God make him neither poor nor rich.  Just like Christ many years later, he just asks for his daily provision.  “Don’t give me poverty” he prays.  And that’s something we might all pray quite easily.  No one wants to be poor.  Poor people have it hard and they suffer.  But how many people would pray the next part:  “Please God, don’t make me rich.”  To pray that, you need God’s grace in your life.  You have to want to be close to God.  You have to trust him that he’ll provide what you truly need.  That’s the spirit in which Agur is praying.  He leaves it in God’s hands to decide how much is enough.  And whatever God decides, Agur will be content with that.  He’ll be content because serving God is the most important thing in his life, not his wealth.  He doesn’t care about riches – he just wants to serve God and have enough to live and do that.  Loved ones, this has to be our attitude and the manner of our prayers as well.  We should find our contentment in heavenly things, above all in God himself, and from there ask him to give us what he thinks we need to live from day to day.  When we do that, we show to God that we trust him.

At the root of this prayer of Agur and at the roots of the fourth petition is a clear distinction between needs and wants.  The three-headed monster of the devil, the world and our own flesh constantly confuses those two things.  It’s part of the lies and falsehoods.  Turning our wants into needs.  So, as we pray along the lines our Saviour taught us, we should pray that God would help us with his Spirit and Word to distinguish these things properly.  What is truly a need in our lives?  What do we really need?  What is the daily bread and what is the gravy, the extras, the wants?  It takes spiritual discernment and growing maturity to answer those questions.  Those things don’t come naturally to us and that’s why we need to pray.  And as we pray about these things and listen for God’s answer through his Word, we’ll find our lives being transformed by the Spirit.  When we pray, there will be change in our lives and we will grow in being able to tell what we really need.

In verse 9 of Proverbs 30, Agur shows us the reasons why he is praying to God for merely his daily bread.  If Agur were to become rich, he might think he has no need for God.  He might say, “Who is Yahweh anyway?  What do I need him for?  I’ve become rich, I have everything I need, I have a lot of what I want too.  I don’t need God in my life.”  It’s no secret that the gospel often has a difficult time amongst the wealthy and elite of society.  Typically missionaries find that their efforts are more rewarded in areas where people are poor.  The down and out seem to be more responsive to the gospel message.  Both groups need the gospel and the gospel needs to go out to both groups, but one is usually more open than the other to the good news of Christ.  Our Lord Jesus spoke of this fact too when he said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  It is exceedingly difficult.  From a human perspective, it’s impossible.  But our Lord went on to say that what is impossible with men is possible with God.  Nevertheless, the truth remains that it is challenging to be wealthy and to be a faithful, committed Christian.  Wealth brings with it many temptations and obstacles.  That’s why Agur prays the way he does.  He prays that God would give him moderation in earthly stuff.  He wants to live close to God and might have a hard time doing that if he were to become wealthy. 

When we pray along the lines of “Give us this day our daily bread,” we should be praying in the same fashion as Agur.  Not wanting wealth because we recognize that wealth brings all kinds of problems.  But just praying for moderation, praying for enough, praying that God would supply all our needs so that we continue trusting in him and don’t fall into the lies and idolatry of materialism.  By praying like this, we show too that our desire is to live our lives close to God. 

Now if the rich might be challenged in doing that, the same thing can also be true for those who are poor.  There is a flip side to what Agur says.  He prays for merely his daily bread, “lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”  Poor people have it tough, too.  They get hungry and they might get desperate.  They watch the neighbours.  They see them leave for work in the morning and perhaps they left the door unlocked.  They go in and help themselves to the neighbours steaks or what have you.  Then the neighbour returns and he suspects that it was the so-called God-fearing person next door.  What does that do to the neighbour’s understanding of who God is?  “Oh, that guy’s a thief!  He says he believes in God.  But what kind of God does he believe in?  Obviously, this God is a joke.”  His poverty led him to steal and his stealing led to God’s name being dragged through the mud.  That’s a real possibility and it’s happened more than once in reality.  Because Agur cares about God’s reputation, his prayer is that he’d be kept from the poverty which might lead one in this direction.  Agur loves God and he wants to please him.  Agur doesn’t want God’s name to be sullied either in the church or in the world.  He wants just enough food and the necessities of life so that he can live and bring honour to God.

Loved ones, our prayers should be in the same spirit, moving in the same direction.  Not riches, but not poverty either.  “Father, please just give us enough.  Please just give us what we need.  We care about your honour and we never want to be the cause of anyone blaspheming your Name.”  We want ourselves and all people to recognize God’s greatness.  We want ourselves and all people to see him as the overflowing fountain of all good.  And again, these things don’t come naturally to sinners.  In this age, it’s not second nature for us to just be content and give God the glory and be instruments for God’s glory on the lips and in the lives of others.  And that’s why Agur teaches us to pray this way.  That’s why our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray this way, “Give us today our daily bread.” 

Now we come to the question of why God should hear Agur’s prayer.  Why should God hear us and listen to us when we pray in this fashion?  It all has to do with our Saviour.  Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray in his name.  We can pray to him in his name.  He said that in John 14:14, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  We can and should pray to the Father in his name.  He said that in John 16:23, “...whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”  This is why we end our prayers typically by saying, “In Jesus’ Name” or something along those lines. 

God wants us to have it clear in our minds that none of our prayers get heard by God because we’re such good people.  Because we’re not good people.  We’re sinners and we’re only worthy of being heard by God as we look to Christ.  He’ll hear us because we appeal to him on the basis of what Christ has done for us.  He’ll hear us because Christ is good.  He’ll hear us because Christ is his obedient Son who lived a perfect and holy life on this earth in our place.  Basically, he’ll hear us because of the gospel, the good news of how our Saviour reconciled us to the holy God.  Our Saviour opened the way for God to hear our prayers.

Now someone might say, “Well, that’s true for us, but Agur lived before Christ.  Why should God have heard Agur’s prayer if Agur knew nothing of Christ and Christ hadn’t come and done his work yet?”  Brothers and sisters, there aren’t two ways of salvation in the Bible.  There isn’t a way of salvation for Old Testament believers before Christ, and then a different way of salvation for New Testament believers after Christ.  In the Scriptures, there’s only one way of salvation, there’s only one way to be right with the holy God.  Agur could only be right with God and therefore have his prayer heard by God in the same way that we are right with God and have our prayers heard by him.  That’s by faith in Jesus Christ.  Now for Old Testament believers like Abraham and Agur, they didn’t know about the work of Christ as something that had already been done.  But they had the promises and their faith in the promises of God is the same as our faith in the fulfillment of those promises in Christ.  Paul explains that in Galatians 3.  He says that God announced the gospel to Abraham in promise form.  Abraham believed the gospel in that form and through that faith he was justified.  The way of salvation for Abraham is the same as the way of salvation for us:  through faith in God’s promises.  The difference is that for us, we know the fulfillment of those promises in Christ.  And so Agur could be confident of being heard by God because of the promises, and so can we. 

Therefore we have to continue the practice of praying not only for our daily bread, but for all things, in the name of Christ.  It’s also important that we teach our children (and our grandchildren, where we have the opportunities) to pray in that way too.  Just like us, they have to know that God will hear them only because of Christ Jesus, not because we’re so good, or at least that we think we are so good.  Our prayers are only ever meaningful because of the gospel, because of Christ’s once-for-all work on our behalf.

Brothers and sisters, when you understand that, you’ll also be reminded of how important the Bible is in all this.  In Scripture, God teaches us how to pray.  He does it through the Lord’s Prayer.  He does it in the Psalms, and he also does it in other places, like here in Proverbs 30.  He teaches us how to pray, what we need to pray for, and then also why we can be sure that our prayers will be heard and answered.  He teaches us to pray that our bodily needs will be met, so we can learn to content ourselves with his provision and grow as his children, for his glory.  He teaches us to pray realizing that for the sake of Christ of Saviour, on account of what he has done, we’ll always be well-taken care of.  AMEN.               


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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