“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….”
I read this short passage in Proverbs in my early years as a follower of Christ. It might have been in college after I gave my life and my heart to the Lordship and salvation of Jesus Christ, or it might have been in the few years that followed. I remember praying these things to God earnestly, and I have remembered these words and my prayer ever since.
During my late 20’s and through my 30’s, I struggled through many difficult years with a young and growing family. I didn’t realize how much this prayer would mean for me. At the age of 28, married for 3 years and with 2 children, I was restless. We had no debt, but we lived hand to mouth. I felt God leading me (I believed) to law school, but I was also focused on what I needed to do to increase my income so that we were not one bad circumstance away from the poorhouse.
I believe God did lead me to go to law school, but I also let worry, and sometimes even fear, creep in and sit at the threshold to my heart. Those three years of law school were very difficult. We had a third child at the end of my first year. The pressure of the work, of the necessity not to fail, of going into a hole financially, of an uncertain future and more was a very great burden. The pressures and the worry and fear overtook me.
I let those weeds grow up and choke the spiritual life in me. I didn’t maintain the discipline of regularly reading Scripture or daily prayer. My prayers were Hail Mary’s thrown up in the midst of the weariness and pressures of my life at that time. Even going to church was filled with tensions of herding three rambunctious boys into a car on Sunday mornings amid the whining, squabbling and desire simply to take a break. it became more of a duty that something I looked forward to.
Three more children, and new pressures and tensions as a new lawyer, struggling under the load of debt, and many, many activities threatened to snuff out the spiritual life in me. The worry, fear, busyness and lack of discipline on my part to take time out on a regular basis to sit before my God, listening for His voice, waiting on Him, being renewed by Him was a recipe for spiritual death.
In addition to praying the prayer of Proverbs 30:7-9, I prayed desperately to God before those days of tension, worry and fear not to let me slip ever from His hands. I didn’t pray that because I saw anything in my own heart that caused concern, but I had seen enough other people who seemed to have had it all spiritually together at one point walk (or slip) away into spiritual darkness.
It puzzled me then (in the joy of being a new Christian), and the inability to understand it at the time added to my concern that I might be no different than they. After all, everyone of us sins and falls short. There is nothing new under the sun. Though I had fully embraced Christ, and even left family and home and all that was familiar to me, to follow Him, Scripture gave me pause not to be so confident.
As I look back, I see that I was right to pray those prayers. Not that I count any advantage to being right. Rather, I have learned that Scripture is full of wisdom to which we would well to pay attention. Above all, though, God is faithful!
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
(1 Timothy 2:11-13) God cannot and will not deny Himself. If we cast our lot with God, align with Him, throw ourselves on Him, give ourselves over to Him, we are His, and He will not deny Himself.
Going back to Proverbs, poverty and riches are two things that might cause us to change our position with God. God doesn’t change, but we often do. All the buffeting I took from different directions threatened to unseat my confidence in God, and (ironically) the success I began to have as a lawyer began to seem like my port in the storm. I began to see how a person might become full and deny God.
Thankfully, though, God is ever faithful. Even as I had success, God was faithful to show me that my life was still a bad circumstance (always) away from disaster. Only, as He did that, He also exposed the sin that is worry, the sin that lies in failing to trust God for everything. Letting go of the worry and fear that (ironically) began to cause me to trust in my own efforts, I have found ( I think… for now) that place in between riches and poverty.
“[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord ?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
That was my prayer once. I understand it now much better than I did when I prayed it. God has answered my prayer, and He has kept me from error on either side – despite me and the tendency of my heart to wonder off the rails.