Growing up, one of my heroes was a Presbyterian pastor named Ben Patterson. He was the speaker at many of the Christian conferences I attended as a teenager, and I was gripped by his theological insight and poetic skill. When I began work as a young pastor, I listened to dozens of Ben's tapes, seeking to learn from him how to be an effective communicator of the Gospel.
One of the traditions I picked up from Ben was to pray, right before I preached, a version of Psalm 19:14. As I recall, he would pray something like this: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer." I didn't always use this prayer in the pulpit, but I often did because it expressed the yearning of my heart as a preacher: that my words would honor the Lord, as would the thoughts of the whole congregation. Using this prayer reminded me that my effectiveness as a preacher did not depend on me, on my insight or skill, but upon the Lord, who was "my rock and my redeemer."
I still think Psalm 19:14 is a fine prayer for the pulpit. And I still use it at times when I am a guest preacher. But I have come to realize that this prayer belongs not just in the pulpit, but also in the world. For one thing, the identified poet of Psalm 19, David, was not a priest or a prophet. He didn't do "religious work" in the usual sense. Rather, he was a shepherd, a warrior, a musician, a poet, and most famously, a king. David did, if you'll pardon the expression, secular work. Nevertheless, he sought to please the Lord with his words and thoughts, not just in his private prayers, but in every sector of life.
You and I are privileged to live for God's glory in all that we do, in every word, every thought, and every deed. This means we ought to borrow David's prayer in Psalm 19:14, not just if we happen to be preaching a sermon, but all the time.
How would your life be different if you began praying Psalm 19:14 in the day-to-day situations of your life? What difference might it make if, before you participated in a meeting at work, you prayed, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer"? How might praying this way transform your language and actions on the athletic field, when you're out on the town with your friends, when you're writing a letter to a client, or when you're negotiating a contract? How might it affect the way you speak to your spouse, your children, your roommate, or your colleagues?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Use whichever questions in the previous paragraph fit your life to consider how Psalm 19:14 might change your life. Feel free to add other questions that make sense for you. How might your life be enriched if you were to pray often: "May the words of my mouth..."?
PRAYER: O Lord, my rock and my redeemer, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you:
at work and at home,
at church and at play,
with friends and family,
in meetings and in solitude,
in every situation, all the time.
To you be all the glory. Amen.
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