The Prayer of Agur


The Prayer of Who?

agur

Agur ben Jakeh is widely reputed to be the author of Proverbs, chapter 30, sometimes also referred to as the book of Agur. Although most of the book of Proverbs is said to have been compiled by King Solomon, toward the end of the book other authors start to creep in. Or at least the names of other people start showing up.

Not much is known about the character of Agur, he only appears this one time in all of scripture and does not have any mention in any other Hebrew Chronicles of the same time period. This is perhaps because the name itself could just be Solomon again trying to disguise his identity. Agur in Hebrew literally means “the compiler” while Jakeh means the one who “spat out the word of God”. So Agur ben Jakeh in Hebrew means “The Compiler, Son of He Who Spat out The Word of God”.

The actual identity of Agur therefore is not important.

The so called Prayer of Agur has over the years become a personal mantra of mine. For a time, when I was going through serious financial difficulty I taped it to the inside of my wallet and it became one of the starting points for my first book; “Meekonomics; How to Inherit the Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy.” It reads;

Two things I ask of you, 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. [Proverbs 30:7-9]

I am sorry to say that over the years I have done the exact opposite of what this prayer requests. I have lied, I have been both poor and somewhat wealthy, I have arrogantly disowned and subjugated my faith in the Lord and I have committed fraud in an attempt to maintain my position and lifestyle. I discovered this prayer when I was at my absolute worst. God brought me to a point where I could cling to nothing I had created or developed without Him. I distinctly remember waking up in the middle of the night, debts mounting, bill collectors calling and my mortgage company threatening repossession and literally praying for death.

It was during this dark time that, through a Sunday Sermon on generosity, I first heard the prayer of Agur. I read it again this past week as I came to the end of a two month study on Proverbs. Life has changed for me since I first embraced this prayer. I am no longer on the verge of losing everything. I’ve been through “the valley of the shadow of death” and emerged on the other side a stronger, more practical, and more generous man. I no longer carry these words with me everywhere I go but I realized as I read them again for the first time in a couple of years that I still need them. From time to time I still need to be reminded of their message and their power.

Everyone has a tendency to bend the truth and seek after extravagant and disproportionate wealth. We all tend to put too much stock in our own ability and so deny the power of God working in our lives. We all tend to try and keep up with the Jones’ by any means necessary. The Prayer of Agur reminds us not to do those things. He reminds us that God is God and we are not and he reminds us that everything we have is ultimately a gift from the one who made us.

humbepie

The Prayer of Agur can be summed up in one line –

Lord keep me humble, so that I don’t become arrogant and forget about you.

The world would be a much better please if we all tried to remember that.  Let’s do it, shall we?

A Few Thoughts on Humility


I run an organization called The Meekonomics Project. If you’re reading this you probably already know that. What you might not know is how much I have struggled to live out the values that the name of the organization professes.

You see, I can be really arrogant at times and I hate that about myself.

arrogant

A friend of mine once told me it’s a bit of an occupational hazard. When you are in the advice business it’s hard not to come across as a bit arrogant. People come to you with questions, and  you’re supposed to have the answers. But what happens when people decide not to take your advice? It’s hard not to be a bit arrogant about it isn’t it? We tend to write people who disagree with us off as stupid and a waste of our time. But that’s just the height of arrogance.

As I have worked through my tendency to be arrogant here are a few things I’ve learned that help promote humility.

1 – Acknowledge the questions. Say something like “Hey that’s a really good question, thanks for asking.”

2 – Ask clarifying questions. “What do you mean by that, can you give an example?”

3 – Admit what you don’t know. The adage says “You don’t know what you don’t know”, so when faced with a question you’re not completely sure about acknowledge that, say something like, “You know I’m not 100% sure let me get back to you.” Then if you like you can move on to #4.

4 – Avoid absolutes. Phrases like, “What I and others have found”, “In my opinion”, “This has worked in the past”, take the emphasis off yourself and frame the response in a way that makes you look less like a dictator and more like a fellow traveller or learned source who’s just a little bit further down the same road.

humble

Remember, in this day and age information is exceedingly easy to get. When people have questions they can usually find the answers on their own with just a few clicks of a mouse. Any business that is based on advice and expert commentary needs to be aware of that. The value you add is more in how you deliver it than the content you provide. In my opinion a little humility goes a long way to building a lasting, trust based relationship with your clients while arrogance only serves to alienate people and give them reasons to discredit you, especially if your brand has the word meek in it…

Anger, Compassion and Meekonomics


I think that revolutionary anger, like all anger, hides a deeper, slower sadness about the essential human condition, and it is through contemplation, not action, that we can come to terms with it.

Combat, territoriality, conflict, sickness, aging, dying: these are not foreign to human life, they are inescapable parts of it.  We are capable of evil as well as good; greed is in our nature along with altruism.

We cannot run from tragic aspects of ourselves; we can only conquer them by facing them squarely and incorporating them into our knowledge of ourselves as whole.

We must slow down.  We must move from our heads to an examination of our hearts.

The true revolution is an honest respect for the differences of others; forgiveness of their sins because their sins are ours.  We must, above all else learn compassion.

How can we learn compassion from anger?

Only through time.  Stephen Rechtschaffen, “Timeshifting; Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life”

I apologize for the long quote that opens this post.  I don’t often incorporate such large chunks of other people’s work within my own but Rechtschaffen’s comments on anger, violence and the root of conflict hold such profound truth that to edit them further would have been doing a grave injustice to both you the read and Mr. Rechtschaffen himself.

I also apologize for taking so much time in this space lately to pull things out of Rechtshaffen’s 1996 book on the spirituality of time.  This book obviously moved me in unexpected ways, this is the last post on it though, I promise.

The quote above comes toward the end of the work.  Rechtschaffen is beginning to sum up his theory on reclaiming time and he hits on what I think is a profound truth about conflict and anger that we all experience.  Anger, according the Rechtschaffen “hides a deeper, slower sadness”

How many times have you met an angry person and thought to yourself, “how sad?”

How sad that someone is harboring such negative emotions?  In many cases in my experience it has been obvious to everyone around that the angry person is really just masking and avoiding a deeper, more personal emotion.  It comes out as anger when they don’t want to appear weak or afraid but some form of pain or sadness is usually at the root of it.

I haven’t talked much about the core concepts of Meekonomics lately.  Mainly because I’ve been focusing on the latest round of edits in preparation for the release of the second edition coming this spring, but this latest reading has helped me refine another aspect of Meekonomics, namely; compassion and understanding.

To be truly meek you cannot be sad or angry.  As I have defined it many times meekness is a willing submission of power in order to achieve a greater good.  To be meek you must set aside your own agenda and work with people of various backgrounds and opinions.  In order to do that you must come to terms with your own anger, inner sadness and conflicts.  In my book I call it the Love Mentality which is only achieved when we understand and conquer our innate Ruler and Caretaker Mentalities.

Rechtschaffen rightly states that in order to integrate our internal conflicts into a functioning whole we must slow down.  We must be willing to experience our emotions in order to work through our internal conflicts.  Don’t fight them, don’t rush past them – meditate on them.

Meditation is not to be confused with dwelling on your emotions however.  Dwelling on your emotions is to simply repeat over and over that you feel a certain way until it wells up in you and you explode in a burst of violence or collapse into a deep depression.  Mediating on your emotions on the other hand tends to be a much deeper experience.  Mediation goes beyond the mere feeling and asks the question, Why?.

It is not until we stare into the why of a feeling that we can move from our heads to our hearts and are truly able to learn from the experience.  Meekonomics theorizes that when we learn that on an international, macro-economic scale, we can change the world!

For more information on the general theory of Meekonomics write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or buy the book “Meekonomics; Kingdom Economics from a Love Based Mentality” here or from Amazon.

The Worst Kind of Question You Can Ask


Meekness is often misinterpreted as humility.  Indeed many English bibles have incorrectly translated Matthew 5:5 as “Blessed are the Humble”.  While humility is often a trait associated with meekness it’s not the same and to equate the two and use them interchangeably is just wrong.  Meekness, as I have said elsewhere is a willing submission of power, not a surrender or expression of weakness, but a submission, there is a huge difference.  Humility on the other hand, while it may make it easier to express meekness, is not a requirement.

That being said, I have lately begun to notice something in my business dealings that while it may come across as humble, maybe even meek, is far from it and is actually one of the most arrogant and potentially adversarial things you can do in business.  I’m referring of course to the use of rhetorical questions.

We are taught in sales to ask questions to help our prospects build solutions.  But not all questions are created equal.  The way in which we ask questions is critical to the way we are perceived by our prospects.  Learning to ask questions with meekness and humility is the key to building trust and long standing relationships with your prospects.

Consider two questions, designed at least on the surface, to get at the same information.

Question 1 – Can you please explain to me the process you are using now and how it achieves your goals?

Question 2 – Could you get better results if you did things a bit differently?

Question 1 places the listener in a learning posture and gives the prospect the opportunity to explain their position and show off their achievements.  If there are weaknesses in the process they will likely point them out themselves and give you the opportunity to offer solutions.  Question 2 is adversarial and automatically puts the prospect on the defensive.

Question 2 is a rhetorical question.  You ask it already assuming you know the answer.  If the prospect gives you any answer that does not fit with your preconceived solution then your next course of action is to make him look stupid while presenting your smarter option.    That is the height of arrogance.  It assumes you know better than your prospect.  It places you in a position of power and exploits weaknesses that your prospect may not even know, or agree, that he has.   Sales should not be an adversarial, you vs. them, type of relationship.  It’s a process of identifying issues and proposing solutions together.

Asking rhetorical questions never gets you there. Therefore; in the world of business, especially in sales, meekonomist should never ask rhetorical questions.

Is the New Pope a Meekonomist? Maybe…


A week ago everyone was wondering who the New Pope will be.  For the past week the internet has been awash with stores about.  Today, at his inaugural mass we heard directly for the first time from the man himself.  

Pope Francis I is a humble man who I beleive will infuse the Roman Catholic Church with a heathy dose of Humility, Grace and Gratitude.  Something that has been seriously lacking, note just in the Vatican but in all halls of power the world over for decades.  The world needs a leader like Pope Francis now more than ever.

If his early actions are any indication of things to come, Pope Francis could be the world’s very first Meekonomist leader.  Maybe, maybe not.  Check out the article from the Wall Street Journal and judge for yourself.

Pope Celebrates Inaugural Mass – The Wall Street Journal