I was really touched by the Psalm 130 in which David the Prophet pleaded, and with which we begin the prayer of the Twelfth Hour, “Compline”:
“ Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!”
Out of the depths I have cried: Out of the depth of the heart and passion, out of the depth of the call for help, as it says in Psalm 119 : “With my whole heart I have sought You.” Out of the depth of faith and confidence that You will respond. Indeed, out of the depths I have cried: Out of the depth of my weariness and neediness... Out of the depth of my weakness, frailty and inability... Out of the depth of the bottomless pit where I am..
It is a deep prayer similar to Jonah’s prayer from the fish’s belly.
Indeed, out of the depths I have cried to You, because there is no one else but You who is sincere and is a saviour... Entirely like the prayer of the people before the moving of Al Mokattam Mountain... A prayer on which the whole future of the church relied.
Or perhaps like the prayer in the heart of Daniel when they threw him in the lions’ den.. Or the prayer of the three young men when they were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace... Out of the depth of the heart, out of necessity... Like the voice of a drowning person calling the rescue boat to hasten to reach him before he drowns...
It is not important the length of the prayer or the selection of its words, but the depth of feelings in it...
The prayer of the Pharisee was longer than the prayer of the tax collector (Lk 8:14), as we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other sections. Why? Because it was a prayer out of the depth: the depth of humility, contrition, feeling of remorse and shame... He stood afar off without daring to raise his eyes to heaven.. His few words were enough because God looked at his depth...
And like the prayer of the tax collector, so was the prayer of the thief on the right hand.
A short prayer but deep. A prayer of a person in his last hours, on the verge of death. Out of his depth he yearned for his eternity, and asked God to remember him. He said to the other criminal before: “And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds” (Lk 23:41). Truly, it was a crucial prayer, it was said in depth.. It was heard.
One sentence a man says in depth, like “Lord have mercy”, so one of the twenty four elders comes forward and takes this prayer in his golden censor and ascends with it to the throne of God as a smell of incense which are the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8). Another man says the same prayer tens of times and not one is received, as if he did not pray!
Then how can we distinguish the deep prayer?
It is a prayer which has a feeling of relation with God, a prayer with passion, understanding, contemplation, concentration, warmth, love, humility, contrition... with faith, confidence and hope... A prayer with a spirit and not mere words... Its length is not important but its depth, as the scribes and Pharisees and the like, were -for a reason- making long prayers (Mt 23:14).
St Paul said: “I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:19)... And so our prayers ought to come out of our depth; and if we had length with the depth, it would be much better.