A prayer for Wisdom

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Matthew 6:11

“The balance of the reflections of the wise is well summed up in Proverbs 30: 7 – 9 ‘Two things I asked of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘ who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal. and so dishonor the name of my God.”  Extreme poverty and extreme wealth both have their problems in leading us away from Yahweh.  The words of the wise recognize and warn against them.”

Michael D. Guinan, from his book, Gospel Poverty: Essays in Biblical Theology   (footnoted  from the book Neither Poverty Nor Riches, by Craig L. Blomberg)

Who is wise?  What is wisdom?  I learned the answers to this question from a rabbi, Byron L. Sherwin, who wrote the book, Why Be Good, subtitled Seeking our best selves in a challenging world.  He defined wisdom as “to understand what we know and to evaluate what we have experienced” and he quoted this Arabian Proverb:

“He who knows not and knows not that he knows not. He is a fool, shun him.  He who knows and knows not that he knows. He is asleep, wake him up.  He who knows not and knows that he knows not. He is humble, teach him.  He who knows and knows that he knows.  He is wise, follow him.”

I know one Rabbi who is wise and who commanded His disciples, “Follow me!”  He is Jesus and he taught His disciples many wise and practical things.  One of these wise and practical teachings is the prayer he taught them:

“This then, is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts  as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  (Matthew 6: 9 – 13)

This prayer is so deep, very practical and in many Orthodox traditions this prayer has been committed to memory.  And yet we miss the profundity of this prayer.  It starts with acknowledging who we are and how we should revere the name of our Father in heaven.  Then followed by a statement that His kingdom and a petition that His will be done here on earth as in heaven.

The first petition of the wise person in Proverbs quoted above is about truth and being truthful at all times, “keep falsehood and lies far from me”. The next prayer petition is about wisdom and humility saying “give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread”. How wise is this request?  Well, he explained it in the latter part of the wise sayings.  If he is given riches he may become too proud, forget God, the Giver, and mockingly asked, “who are you LORD?”.  And if he becomes poor, he may steal and so dishonors the name of the LORD.

When the disciples humbly requested Jesus to teach them how to pray, He taught them to trust and depend on God for our daily bread and to honor His name everyday of our lives. Does He know and knows that He knows?  He knows who He is, He knows who His Father and is known by the Father.  He is wise, follow Him.

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