Jesus taught his disciples to pray. But there’s a very real sense in which the psalms taught Jesus to pray. In this series, we’re going to sit with Jesus at the feet of the Bible’s lament psalms to see what they can teach us about prayer.
Why the laments? One of my students once observed that reading the laments made her feel like the Holy Spirit had been reading her diary. Generations of the faithful have testified to these psalms’ peculiar ability to help us express our most private and sometimes painful thoughts. Yet, the laments also teach us that, even when our prayers are full of anger or anguish, they are still “praise in a minor key.”
Study #9: Counting our Days
Read: Psalm 90:9-17
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. (v.12, NRSV)
My New Testament professor, Dr. Oudersluys, died just two days shy of his 104th birthday. I don’t think he ever let one of those days go to waste. Ask his grandchildren, who bought him a computer for his 90th birthday. Ask his students—especially the ones who took the last class he taught—at age 90. Ask his daughter, who testifies to the fact that her dad read his Greek New Testament every day until he was 102.
Previously, I told the story of reading Psalm 90 with Dr. O. just a few days before his death. What I didn’t describe was how eyes sparkled when we got to the part about how “the days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong” (v.10). I asked him if reading the New Testament in Greek was his secret!
But then we got to the prayer at the end of the psalm which begs God to “prosper the work of our hands.” As I read, my own eyes began to sparkle—not with laughter, but with tears of gratitude. With those words, I realized that I was praying for myself—myself and the thousands of students Dr. O. had taught in over the decades. In a very real sense, we are the work of that man’s hands.
So often we live as if we had all the time in the world. Dr. Oudersluys had more time than most. Yet, part of what I think we can learn from him is to make every day count for the work of God’s kingdom. After that, we can end our lives with the prayer that God will prosper the work of our hands.
Prayer: Teach us to use every day wisely and well. Then, prosper the work of our hands.