Sep 11, 2020
A Game-Changing Prayer from an Obscure “Collector”
Toys in the Attic and God of the Universe
He had just turned 14 and had hitched a ride from his basketball coach after practice. In hand was a birthday present from a teammate, “Aerosmith’s 1975 classic, Toys in the Attic that has sold over 8 million copies. Unexpectedly his basketball coach, a Christian, started sharing the Gospel of Jesus with him. Annoyed at this blatant violation he politely said to his coach, “I was raised Catholic and already agree with what you are saying. When my parents got divorced my mom told me I would never have to go to church again. And I don’t plan on it.”
Then, in a sentence, this basketball coach changed his young players’ life without either of them knowing it, “Christianity is not about going to church. It’s about having a relationship with God.”
Years later that sentence would be the impetus that would motivate this man. That coach was the Men in the Arena Vice President, Gary McCusker, and that 14-year-old kid was me.
The epiphany that God wanted to know me personally rocked me to the core and has been the basis of my faith ever since. From that day on, I have never seen myself as a “religious” man although, yes, I attend church regularly and worked at one for more than two decades!
Prayer has and continues to change my life. Every good thing and idea has come from prayer and every time I spend time in prayer I come out with a note pad full of great things that I believe are from God.
This week’s Men in the Arena Podcast interview is with my friend, Jay Payleitner. Jay is the most prolific writer I have ever met. In a decade he’s authored more than 25 books including his latest, The Prayer of Agur.
This is the only time a prayer is mentioned in the entire book of Proverbs, which were mostly written by King Solomon (1-29) with King Lemuel writing Proverb 31. Agur, of course, wrote Proverb 30 but we never his name mentioned in Scripture before or after this point. We do, however, gain a bit of insight into obscure Agur by his name, which in Hebrew means, “The Collector.”
Jay writes, “What did Agur collect?” You might say Agur was a collector of ideas and questions, which ultimately he would share with the world.”
Two-Point Prayer of Agur
The prayer is found in verse 7-9. I encourage every man reading this to memorize it as your compass towards moderation in this life.
Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.
Nation of Excess
We live in a nation of excess were our biggest problem is how do I keep the weight off where obesity and Type II diabetes are at epidemic proportions. Our acquire-all-you-can attitude is ruing our lives and Christians are, sadly, not much better.
About Part One of Agur’s prayer Jay writes, “Agur prays, ‘Keep falsehoods and lies far from me.’ You can almost hear Agur’s thought process and expanded prayer, as if he’s saying, I know the world is filled with lies, and they trip me up way too often. Father, please protect my ears from hearing lies that might lead me down the wrong path. And keep my lips from lying so that I might not deceive others.”
If we have become a nation of excess, we have also become a nation of lies. With our information highway, knowledge is in excess, but the truth is tough to find. Agur would caution us not to focus our time and energy on politics, the news, and social media opinion; opting instead for God’s Word and prayer.
Somewhere in the Middle
Jay continues, “However Agur’s next request is a stunner. He dares to pray for a life of moderation. ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread.’ Moderation? That’s not on anyone’s checklist, especially in the twenty-first century. We are living in an age of extreme decadence. For most people, bigger will always be better. More house. More car. More closet space. More shelves for more trophies. More activities. More responsibility, so you can gain more of the above.”
I hope you heard this. Excess is not your friend. It is a great master but a horrible servant. For most of us, the sweet spot of life is found somewhere between extreme wealth and poverty.
Boots on the Ground
As men commissioned by God to lead our families we need to pray this, along with the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) to find the middle ground where our marriages and children can thrive. You may be reading this thinking, “Is this clown trying to convince me to be average?”
No, I’m trying to convince you to be smart and not ruin your life on worthless pursuits. Make your millions I do not care. Then give it away to show the world you care about more than you and that your life is more than temporal things that will not last. I have seen very few men who can handle wealth, fame, and power without it severely damaging them and those they love.
Jay concludes, “Agur’s short yet power prayer is especially applicable today. Too many individuals, families, churches, and communities are trapped in a cycle of self-destructive behavior. The twenty-first century life is way out of balance, careening between extremes. Agur is praying desperately to see the big picture and live in that sweet spot of knowing Jesus, knowing He is enough and knowing he’s got a plan for our lives.”
Memorize the Prayer of Agur. Brand it on your soul.