Tucked away in the middle of the Psalter, there’s an ancient prayer that’s maybe 3,400 years old. It’s ‘A Prayer of Moses the man of God’ and it’s full of great insight. Psalm 90.
Last week I gathered with my family for belated 40th birthday celebrations for me. It was a lovely occasion with my wife and children, mum, brothers and their wives plus lots of nephews and nieces. I was asked (as is often the case at such occasions) how I felt turning 40. And I said that it was fine, although it did make me wonder how I was doing in life. If this is the half-way point – which no-one knows – was I headed in the right direction? Was I achieving all I should be? Was I making a difference?
I had been reading Psalm 90 that very morning and it struck me how it spoke directly into my questioning… for Moses prays to God to ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom’ (v.12). This comes after a section reflecting on how humans so easily waste their lives. We may live for 70 or perhaps 80 years says Moses, but ‘they quickly pass, and we fly away’ (v.10). Moses prays that God would help us to see that life is short.
Rick Warren often reminds people that the average human lives just 25,550 days. That’s not very long. Having just turned 40, I have already lived for 14,610 days. If I live an average length I have only 11,000 or so days left before I die. That’s a real incentive to press on. To make a difference. Not to sit back. Not to dilly-dally, but to be intentional and to live life well. To invest in my wife, children and those around me. To leave a good legacy. To number my days in this way, says Moses, will give me ‘a heart of wisdom’.
I do want to be wise. I want a wise heart – a wise centre to my life – out of which I live wisely. Most people do. That’s been part of my prayers since I was a child: to be a wise person. To be that I need to number my days. To recognise that life is short. And make the most of each day. Starting today.