Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
A Prayer to Begin a New Year
I remember my grandpa telling me, “The older you get, the faster the years pass by.” As a ten-year-old this was just one of those puzzling things that older people said that really didn’t make much sense. How could time go faster or slower? How could years speed up and slow down?
We’ve just entered a new year. Whether this is the 98th time you’ve changed calendars or just the 27th, you are one day closer to the end of your life here on earth. A couple of verses earlier, the writer of this psalm wrote, “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10). Whether they knew it or not, the 70’s progressive rock band, Kansas, was simply summarizing a truth taught throughout Scripture when they sang, “All we are is dust in the wind.” We are here one moment and blown away with the breeze the next.
So, what does this mean for us? Is the point to simply make the most of every moment recognizing that our time is short? Should we just eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die? Or should we just despair over the ever-shortening length of time we have left? No, none of these are real solutions. Instead we can pray, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Numbering our days means acknowledging that our time is short. It means not pretending that we are immortal, and will somehow escape death. But God doesn’t encourage us to number our days, just so we are aware of how little time we have. He wants us to do this so that “we may gain a heart of wisdom.” He wants us to look away from ourselves to his compassion and mercy, because it is there we will find true wisdom. It is there we will find wisdom born in a manger in Bethlehem. In Jesus we find forgiveness, salvation, and new life. In him our lives are charged with meaning and purpose, no matter how short they may seem right now. This is a prayer to begin the New Year:
Dear Jesus, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”—Psalm 90:12