Your browser does not support JavaScript. Please enable JavaScipt to view our website.

How to: pray about money

Proverbs 30:7-9

     Virtues and virtues:  Last week, I was in Washington, DC and had the privilege of meeting and hearing David Brooks, the op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Yale professor, and author of the best seller, The Road to Character.

     Brooks opened his talk by speaking of the difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtuesResume virtues are those skills you possess that you believe will contribute to success, the ones you list on your application to college or on your professional resume, i.e., that you work hard, that you have a 6.5 grade point average on a 4 point system, that you were head cheerleader and captain of the football team….  I’ve seen hundreds of resumes – and these virtues are unquestionably important. 

     But Brooks also spoke of eulogy virtues, which are deeper.  They are the ones that are at the core of your being – that you hope will be remembered. These eulogy virtues are the things that get talked about at a funeral, i.e., whether you are kind, brave, honest and faithful.

     With that difference between resume virtues and eulogy virtues in your mind, we come to the book of Proverbs to see what God says about our use of money.  Most talks and books in our day that address topics like money or career success speak only of the resume virtues:  How you can earn money, invest it, and use it to be successful.  And, the Book of Proverbs speaks a great deal about what we might call resume virtues.  For example, Proverbs tells you that:

  • You’ll probably acquire more money if you work hard (6:6-11);
  • Get rich schemes rarely work (13:11);
  • A disciplined and strategic life is more likely to lead to success than an unplanned one (21:17,20);
  • Caring for all your resources well (people and otherwise) will be beneficial (27:23-27).

     Those are all important things for us all to learn and put into practice.

     But today, I want to think about the final word found in Proverbs about money.  In my view, all the other teaching about money in Proverbs points to what is found in Proverbs 30:7-9. These verses point us to what Brooks calls eulogy virtues, the most important things that should be developing in the heart of all godly people with regard to money.  Note this! This is the only prayer in Proverbs, prayed by a man named Agur:

Lord, I ask you for two things.
      Don’t refuse me as long as I live.
      Keep falsehood far away from me:

Don’t make me either poor or rich,
      but give me only the bread I need each day.
If you don’t, I might have too much.
    Then I might say I don’t know you.
    I might say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I might become poor and steal.
    Then I would bring dishonor to the name of my God.

     Let me ask you:  Do you ever pray like that? I have heard many prayers prayed in church and among fellow Christians and I’ve never heard one like it.  But, I’ve come to believe that this prayer found boils down the teaching about money in Proverbs that relates to “eulogy virtues” into 3 verses.  If you miss what God says here, you’ll miss the main thing about all the other teaching.  (Are you listening?)

     As I tried to point out last week, Proverbs often catches us off guard.  The wisdom found in it clashes with the way we usually think in our fallen world – even with the thinking of many churchgoers.  This prayer surely turns our ways of thinking about money upside down.  It looks like the prayer is a prayer for all of us to become middle-class people.  Could that be?  That doesn’t sound much like the Bible!  I can imagine a lot of complacent Christians thinking, “Oh, it’s not great but it’s OK.  Answer that prayer, God, and I can still be fairly comfortable financially.”  So, I think we need to meditate on these verses a bit.

What Is the Prayer Saying?

     Look carefully at vv. 7-8 and note this: First, Agur says he has two requests.  Then, in v. 7b, he adds a note of urgency:  “don’t refuse me as long as I live” meaning, “I’m going to need you in this way every day of my life. So, when we pray this, we’re really praying about a way of life that we want the Lord to help us live with regard to money.

     Then, in v. 8a, Agur prays, “Keep falsehood away from me”, showing us that we must be aware that these are two things he asks for are about situations in his life in which he knows he can easily be deceived. To summarize it: Agur is saying, “I want to live a life of integrity, Lord, that honors You every day of my life so please, please grant these two requests

     What does he pray so passionately for?  1) Don’t let me be too rich and 2) don’t let me be too poor.  The Bible is claiming here that extreme wealth and extreme poverty both are situations in which our own deception and falseness are very prone to come out in such ways that God is dishonored.  Both can deceive us into thinking that living unwisely is OK.  The deception in poverty comes out of a conviction that God is incapable of providing.  The life of self-centeredness for the wealthy comes out of thinking God is unnecessary.  So, let’s look at the dangers, first of being too poor and then of being too rich.

What are the Two Dangers?

Danger #1:  The Danger of Having Too Little: Disobeying God

     Agur’s first passionate request is, “Please God, don’t let me be too poor!”  I can imagine that many of us have prayed something like that.  It’s not too hard to pray, Lord, bless me with some money, at least that! An old Jewish proverb – not in the Bible – says, “Poverty is no disgrace – but it’s no great honor either.”

     But, I’m sure there’s a lot more to the prayer than that.  Remember that Agur had said that he didn’t want to be living his life on the kinds of paths where he was prone to deception.  How might you be deceived particularly when times are tough?

  • Other people might deceive you.  There are unjust predators on the poor in every society.  There are people who promise a good job and then trap you into things that are abusive or wrong.  The trafficking industry is fueled by that kind of deceit.  The same is true of the illegal drug dealing.  When you are poor and are in survival mode, then you can be deceived in innumerable ways by those who are evil and mean evil for you.  The  Proverbs had spoken of this often before this prayer is offered by Agur, like in 22:22: The rich may rob the poor, because he is poor or crush the afflicted at the gate
  • You might deceive yourself.  This is what we see in v.9 when Agur acknowledges a tendency he sees deep in the human heart (including his own), If I am too poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God.

     Do you see the point?  Agur’s prayer concern is not simply to get money.  Agur wants to avoid the temptation to steal.  He knew how we human beings are, i.e., that when we are in deep need, we feel temptation to take from our family or friends.  Many even feel the temptation to steal out of the church offering plate.  We often may deceive ourselves into thinking that we will repay this as soon as any money becomes available.  But, that rarely happens.  We start down a path of life – and it becomes harder and harder to turn back to a life of honesty and integrity    

     I think most of us here can relate to this temptation.  What can you learn from this first prayer request?

In times of need, you must be very aware of your vulnerability.

     Agur knows himself: that if the conditions were desperate enough and given the opportunity, he might steal and deceive himself into thinking it’s not all that bad.  Agur prays that God would provide him enough materially because he knows his flesh is weak.  His prayer shows his desire to stay away from places and situations in which he knows he is vulnerable and might give into temptation.  Does this sound like another prayer?  Remember that, when he taught us to pray, Jesus said, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…”

2.  In times of need, your deepest desire still must be to please God.

     Agur’s main concern is not about breaking the law and getting thrown into jail.  That surely is a part of this – but it’s not the main thing.  His concern is not about being a man whose life is in keeping with God’s ways – and he knew God had specifically said, “You shall not steal!”  Agur’s deepest longing was to honor God.  This prayer is more about a relationship more than about integrity.

     Do you see it?  If you pray this way, you show that you love God – that you fear displeasing the God you love even more than you fear poverty.  And you know that in a moment of weakness, you are capable of doing some foolish things like disobeying God by stealing from others.  So you pray,  “Lord,  I need help every day of my life. So, even in my time of need, let me not mess up by breaking your 8thCommandment.”


Danger #2:  The Danger of Having Too Much: Disowning God

     The second passionate request is this:  “Lord, please protect me from having too much wealth!”  Have you ever prayed this?  We might pray, “Deliver me from poverty.”  But have you prayed, “Deliver me from wealth!  No, Lord, I have too much income.  Save me!”  I imagine few of us have.

     But again, Agur knew his weaknesses. He recognized the danger of always having more than he really needed.  Look at how concisely and clearly he put it in: “If I have more money than I need, “then I might say I don’t know you, God.  I might say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

     Here is the principle, one made often by Jesus:  Money has a way of making us rely on God less.  When all our needs are met, we tend to deny our need for God.  We live without any reference to God. All too often, material things are the first things we tend to put into the place of God in our lives.

     Do I need to say more about this?  I doubt it.  Many of you in church tell me about family or friends that you witness to – but who say to you, “I’m doing well on my own.  Why do I need God?”  They may know deep down that you need God, but deep down inside, they also feel like they’re doing fine without Him.

     But, let’s stop thinking about “them”.  What about you?  Does wealth makes you feel secure, strong, protected, accomplished, admired, empowered.   When things are going well, do you come to the place of thinking you don’t desperately need God’s help – that you can take care of yourself quite well.  There is a subtle way this kind of self-sufficient lifestyle begins to play out.  It often begins with what some call a growing “obsession with 1st world worries.”  This will come out in your prayer life (if you still have one).  It will sound something like this:

  • “Lord, don’t let me break one of my nails because I’m going out with a guy I like.”
  • I’m frustrated because I can’t decide which Instagram filter to use on my selfie!.”
  • “Lord, it’s so stressful for me to own and care for two houses!”

     It becomes so easy for us, when we have a lot, to come to God only to get him to give us more things.  It’s clear to me that the way to live well is to live day by day in dependence and trust upon God for all we have.  Never to take what we have for granted.  Never to fail to see that every good gift has come from God.  Always to seek to use whatever he has entrusted to us to further his goodness in the world.

     This is the Proverbs perspective for many of us: It’s not always comfortable, but sometimes not having all the resources we want is the best place to be

What Are the Keys to Praying About Money?

     Let’s try to bring this teaching into our lives now.  Here at LAC, we have people at both ends of this spectrum and in the middle as well.  How do we find the faith and wisdom to pray this way?  I believe there are two keys provided right in the text – one is in the middle of the prayer and the other at the end.


Key #1:  Pray to live Each Day Dependent upon GodGive me only the bread I need each day… (v.8b)”

     Agur’s prayer is exactly the same as the way Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6.  “Give us this day our daily bread…”  So, this must be important in our walk with God.  What the Bible is talking about is living every day of our lives knowing that all we have comes from God.  We dare never take it for granted.  And we must trust him to provide and be grateful – deeply grateful – each day he does provide.

     God generally doesn’t want to be your Costco or Sam’s Club: supplying everything in bulk, keeping a large reserve of everything in storage...  When God fed the Israelites manna in the desert, he told them to collect only enough for one day.  If you collected more, it would all go bad overnight.  You could only collect enough for that day and had to trust that God would bring more food tomorrow.

     The Bible teaches that there is wisdom in being in a situation where you have to come to God each day.  It keeps you close, dependent, prayerful. I think most of us can understand the principle, but if we’re honest, we don’t really want it.  We’d much prefer to have some extra money in our savings, an emergency fund.  We’d much rather have more than just one day’s supply of food at hand. 

     Listen to me carefully: I don’t think the Bible teaches that we should all give away our savings.  After Jesus taught us to pray about daily bread, he also pointed us to how God cares for the birds.  We know, of course, that birds store up for the winter as a part of that care.  But I am saying that we should welcome the situations when we trust God to supply our needs. 

     And, I am convinced from other Proverbs and from the rest of the Bible as well that one way God provides for his people in need is through other Christian people who give generously to care for those in need.  If you are in a place now where you are blessed financially, you should be the most thankful person in the world – and you should look daily for ways to further God’s work and to bless others.  Have you read Proverbs 19:7?  Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and the LORD will repay him for his deed.                                                               

Key #2: Make Your Deepest Prayer a Longing to Honor God – “I will not dishonor God (30:9b).”

     The wise person does not want to be in deep poverty because he is afraid he will break God’s 8th commandment and steal  Both the poor and wealthy person do not want to be in places in which we are tempted to break the 3rd commandment and bring our God’s name into dishonor.  Our deepest longing should be that people in the world will watch us and see 1) our confidence in God in hard times and 2) the generosity of God in good times.  The longing that runs through this prayer was not, “Where would I be most comfortable or happy?”  That’s the way it is with many prayers.  It was, “In what situation would I be most likely to honor God – to glorify God, to be close to God?”

     Sometimes you need to recognize that some situations we think we most want are simply not very wise places to be.  We often pray for things that actually will make us less dependent on God, that will not require any faith.    

The bottom line of the teaching in Proverbs about money is this:  You live wisely 1) when you live day-by-day in complete dependence on God and, 2) when you have possessions, you do as much good as is possible with the money God has entrusted to you.

Don’t make me either poor or rich,
      but give me only the bread I need each day -- so that I might honor your Name.


To His glory,

Dr. Greg Waybright
Senior Pastor

Sermons Archive

Greg Waybright • Copyright 2015, Lake Avenue Church