I was recently asked to lead a prayer at one of so many meetings that we attend at church. I remember receiving an email from my good friend and mentor Dr. Skip Moen on Prayer. I used it that day to lead the group into understanding what prayer to the great King David meant. I hope and pray that you enjoy it. The original devotional can be found in Dr. Moen’s Site by following this link:
Missing Ingredients – by Skip Moen, D. Phil.
In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. Psalm 109:4 ESV
I give myself to – Reading this verse presents a dilemma. Are we to accept the gloss (the additional words) of the translation because it makes sense to us or are we to reject the gloss and end up with a difficult English sentence? A quick review of English Bibles indicates that they all gloss this verse, adding words (and thoughts) that may not be present in the actual text. They do this because of our conceptions of prayer, as we shall see.
First, let’s consider the Hebrew. As you know, Hebrew grammar often omits the copula in the present tense. For example, in Hebrew we would encounter Elohim Tov (God good) but in English we would translate “God is good.” This seems fairly straightforward. It means that in my paradigm I think of attributes as independent of the object they modify. That is, “red” is independent of “car” in the description “red car.” But in Hebrew thought, the object is the attribute. If I take away the “red” in “red car,” I don’t have an uncolored car. Instead I don’t have any car at all. This particular car is red. That’s what makes it what it is. So, “God is good,” does not suggest that goodness exists apart from God and is merely ascribed to Him. In Hebrew, goodness is God and He cannot be conceived as God without it.
Now let’s apply this idea to David’s verse. In Hebrew, the verse does not say, “I give myself to prayer.” Nor does it say, “I am in prayer” (as we find in ISR or NASB). In Hebrew it says wa’ani tefillah, “but I prayer.” Apply the grammatical rule. David says, “I am prayer.” “There are three rungs to this ladder [of holding fast to God in worship]. Third best is to talk about prayer. Second best is to pray. Best is to be prayer.” The gloss in the English text might make the verse easier to read but it disguises David’s powerful statement by reducing it to something that our paradigm comprehends.
We think of prayer as an activity that we do or do not engage in. We think of such an activity as independent of who we are. We do not think of ourselves as prayer. The translators of this verse have adopted the view that prayer is one thing and I am another thing and that there can be some nonessential connection between these two things. But that isn’t David’s view. For David, unless he is prayer, the evil of enemies will prevail.
What does it mean to be prayer? I imagine that David sees the essential connection between God’s spoken word, power, creation, covenant, love and transformation in prayer. I imagine that David experiences the personality of God in a conversation that does not know the difference between subject and object. But I can only imagine – because I am not prayer. David challenges me to put aside my truncated understanding and become something I am not.
Topical Index: prayer, ani tefillah, gloss, Psalm 109:4
 Chaim Stern, ed., Gates of Forgiveness: The Union S’lichot Service, Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1993, p. 7.
Let us pray, that we become prayer. Let us pray that the transforming love of Jesus Christ, let it encompass all of us in this place, that his love be our Shalom, that peace that overpasses all understanding. Will you join me.
Heavenly Father, Creator, Lord, Prince of Peace, let us this day be vessels of the love you shared when you walked on this earth. Let your spirit fill us, shine in us, let us be ambassadors of your grace, UNITE US.
Make us one with you so the world may believe once more that we are ONE in christ. Together we have achieved great things, together we can do so once more not for our glory but for yours, so the world that is fragmented, broken shattered in a million pieces can know that you are real. That these are not just stories but your love manifest on this earth. Let us be one in you.
In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
August 16, 2013