I came across this translation of Psalm 42:8 the other day. I looked at a variety of translations and Psalm 42:8 is usually translated something similar to, "a prayer to the God of my life". But the translation that I quoted, "My life is God's prayer", hmm.
This fascinating translation comes from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book. I'm not a Hebrew scholar so I’m not able to make my own translation, but this translation is in a major denomination’s book of worship so I have to assume it’s somewhat accurate. So what does it mean, “my life is God’s prayer”?
Among many things, a ‘prayer’ is an offering. An offering is a way of saying, thanks; an offering is a way of honoring-- which leads me to question, is my life a holy offering to God?
Martin Luther (German guy from 16th century not civil rights guy from 20th century) might have answered, “no”. Sin (in this case, selfishness) stains our offering in that offerings can have strings attached. Sometimes offerings are guilt offerings trying to buy some peace of mind for ourselves, sometimes offerings are given out of duty rather than joy.
In life, we offer our lives to God but we might attach conditions--if we can live life the way we choose, i.e. the career I choose, the lifestyle I choose instead of what God calls us to be. This is a prayer, an offering with conditions.
Lives sometimes are offered out of a sense of guilt, or bargaining. In World War II, my father was a prisoner of war. The story goes that- if God would deliver him from the Nazis, my father would enter the ministry. He was delivered, after the war in a worship service that pastor announced that my father was entering the ministry…and it never happened. But we make deals with God, that’s what we do. I think deals help us control the future (or so we think) instead of letting God guide us through a world of ambiguity.
Offerings are also offered out of guilt, not out of gratitude. The old expression is that God loves a cheerful giver, one who give out of joy and thanksgiving—not out of regret. An offering of gratitude sees a life of abundance, gifts to be shared not stored away.
“My life is God’s prayer”. Maybe it has me consider...from my opening thoughts in the morning to my last thoughts before sleep, did I honor the Spirit of God within me. “My life is God’s prayer” might ask me if the decisions I made throughout any given day would honor the Christ who died for me.
Tonight, before my mind disappears into another world for rest, I will wonder, Today—was my life God’s prayer?