“Oh Lord, tell me when I will die. Reveal to me that my life is but a blink of your eternal eye,” prays no one. Okay, maybe not no one, but very few. And the few who do pray that have obviously read the psalms—Psalms 39 and 139 in particular.
In Psalm 39, David prays an extraordinary prayer of perspective. Verses 4-6a are odd (if you see a little a or b after a verse # it means the first or second half of the verse). They seem depressing in tone, but I think this prayer could change lives. It’s beginning to change my life.
The prayer goes like this: O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Seven times!! in just two verses David refers to how short, fleeting, and vapor-like life is. Why? What’s to be gained by praying this prayer? I think the answer is perspective.
The perspective gained from praying such a prayer is this–if my time on earth is prescribed, meaning God numbers my days (Psalm 139:14-16), then my time here is also pressing. There’s work to be done. There’s a certain kind of life to lead. This leads to a third realization, namely, my time here is preparation (notice the awesome alliteration). Preparation for another world, for eternity.
This is the way Jonathan Edwards lived. This pastor-theologian of the 18th century wrote a series of life resolutions between the ages of 18 and 19 (I doubt today he’d be a gamer). Here a couple of examples of what he resolved:
# 7 Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life
#52 I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
Imagine what the rest of your day or week would look like if you didn’t do anything you wouldn’t do in the last hour of life for fear of facing God while doing it, or, having just done it. Or how might you change your habits now if you could fast forward to your deathbed and look back over life?
Recognizing how short life is can dramatically improve on how you spend the time you do have. Moreover, that God numbers our days means nobody has ever died before his/her time. No matter how young or how old, they lived the fullness of their earthly days and now reside in eternity.
Praying like Psalm 39 is preparation for eternity. Prepare for death now in how you live. It’s not morbid or depressing to think about the reality of death. But it is negligent to not think on it and live haphazardly. Unintentional living produces little worth remembering. Maybe the question for you to consider is what legacy do I want to leave?