When you come before God to pray, what do you think about yourself?
I’ve recently been learning that how I view myself when I pray heavily impacts the way in which I pray.
Dying Before Amen?
Centuries ago, an anonymous writer recommended a way of praying that seems counterintuitive. He wrote,
“And I say that me thinketh that it should be full speedful unto thee at the first beginning of thy prayer, what prayer so ever it be, long or short, for to make it full known unto thine heart, without any feigning, that thou shalt die at the end of thy prayer.”
Allow me to translate this into modern English! The author is saying that whenever you pray, whether it be for 20 minutes or 20 seconds, remember that you could literally die at the end of your prayer.
I like the idea behind this, but perhaps it’s a little too morbid. I prefer to think of it a little bit differently. Instead of thinking, “I could die before I finish praying,” I think about the fact that we are not promised more time on this earth (James 4:13-17).
Reflecting on the shortness of life when talking to God is something that Moses did long ago:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12).
Why Think This Way?
There are several benefits to having this mindset when we pray, but here are just two.
1. It reminds us of our dependence upon God.
If we reflect on the shortness of life during prayer, we be will more inclined to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. Only God can sustain us in this life and the next. It also helps us remember that apart from Christ we are nothing and we can do nothing. Once we are aware of our utter dependence upon God, then we can securely rest in the finished work of Christ as we pray.
2. It helps you focus on what truly matters when you pray.
Thinking about the end of our lives in general helps us focus on eternal things. This is no different in prayer. Knowing that I am not promised tomorrow makes me examine my requests more carefully. Are the things that I am praying for that crucial? More importantly, could the things that I am asking for be unbiblical?
Focus on the frailty of your life when you pray and your eyes will naturally look towards heavenly things.
Putting It Into Practice
So how do we pray with this in mind? It’s really quite simple. Read a passage in Scripture that talks about the brevity of life right before you pray and meditate on the passage as you pray.
Here are a few passages that I use to get you started:
Father, I guard my steps as I come to You. To draw near to listen to You is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools. I will not be not rash with my mouth, nor let my heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for You are in heaven and I am on earth. Therefore my words will be few. My life is fragile and I will one day pass away, but You will remain. Your love will hold me fast. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen.