How should we pray? With John in Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus!” (22:20). Or with the Psalmist, “O my God. Take me not away in the midst of my days” (102:24).
Psalm 102 is subtitled “A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” The writer is wrestling with his momentary afflictions and the everlasting greatness of God.
This is the struggle for us today. How do we balance the concerns over the cares of this world with the hope set before us? In Psalm 102, we see the fragility of our lives. We are compared to smoke, grass, shadow, a sparrow. This is contrasted with a God who is enthroned forever and remembered throughout all generations. At the end of the psalm, God, who laid the foundations of the earth and made the heavens remains while his creation wears out like a garment. God is the same, he has no end.
In the midst of this, however, the writer calls out…
102:24 “O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days – you whose years endure throughout all generations.”
Even though he understands the temporal nature of the world and the fragility of his own life, he prayers that God would spare him an early death.
We all know this feeling. There are things left undone. Places left to visit. We want to see our children and grandchildren grow up. We want to make our mark on the world. But there is never enough time. Life is short and fragile.
Is it okay for us to pray for a longer life? Or should we listen to Paul – press on toward the goal – accept that to live is Christ and to die is gain?
The Psalmist tells us that God is listening to our prayers for support in this world…
102:17 He regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayers.
Far from it! God looks down from heaven and hears the groans of the prisoners. He sets free those who are doomed to die (v19-20). Why? So that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord…so that people and kingdoms gather together to worship the Lord (v21-22).
We should prayer that God will preserve us in this life. But we pray with a proper perspective of our fragile nature and God’s everlasting nature. We should not look at our life or the life of the church right now as the crowning achievement of salvation history. We should remain focused on the imminent return of Christ and the consummation of the Kingdom of God. We should continue to live every day with endurance for the sake of our growing faith. And we should be at work “setting free those who are doomed to die” for the glory of God.