Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry! Psalm 88:2 NASB
Let . . . come before You – The first thing you should notice is the change in syntax. In Hebrew the verb comes first. So, it reads, “Let come before You my prayer.” The action is the important thing. What matters is what happens. The actual prayer is secondary.
Think about that for just a minute. It doesn’t matter how religious your prayers are. It doesn’t matter if they have the right words, the right tone, the right genuflections. What matters, actually the only thing that matters, is that God hears you. Pray all you want. Lift up your hands or bow your head. Scream, shout, whisper, or sing. If He doesn’t hear, it’s all lead sky. A single word heard is better than a thousand that bounce off the ceiling. As Heschel notes, the whole intention of prayer is to be worthy of God’s attention.
Now consider the Hebrew verb. It doesn’t mean “come.” Of course, we need to translate it like this because what it actually means doesn’t make any sense in English. The verb is bôʾ. It means “go.” “Let go before You my prayer.” No, that’s not what we would say in English, but that’s what we would say in Hebrew. Why? Why does Hebrew use “go” when it should use “come”? Consider the difference.
To go means to send in a direction. “I’m going to the store” means that I travel with a specific objective in mind. I have a direction. Even just saying “I go” means I leave here and travel somewhere else. “To go” focuses on my action. I have to do something, to move, to advance, to continue.
But “I’m coming to the store” means the destination is the focus of my statement. Yes, of course, there is still action. I still have to travel, but now what’s important is my destination. “I am coming to the store” isn’t the same as “I am coming to America” even if both statements assume a journeying action. The emphasis of these statements is the destination. That’s why they are different even if the process of getting there is the same.
But “Let go before You” puts the stress on the action itself. “Let move, let proceed, let pass, let travel, let advance . . . before You” always requires that something happen. It’s not just the destination (“before You”), it’s the activity. In fact, this statement doesn’t even require that God do anything about my prayer other than acknowledge that it proceeds toward Him. The supplicant isn’t asking God to accept his plea. His intention is not that his prayer arrive before God. He only wants God to recognize that something is being sent.
Maybe that’s where we need to start. Instead of fixating on the right words of our requests, maybe we should concentrate on just this: Are we asking anything more than God’s attention? Are we sending something toward Him in the hope that He will notice it? Is that enough?
Topical Index: bôʾ, come, go, destination, direction, prayer, Psalm 88:2