Have you ever said or written something you wish you could take back? Have you seen the crushing devastation that follows an ill-spoken word? The Bible cautions of the danger of loose lips, but it’s like steering an ocean liner with a tiny paddle. Hear this prayer from Psalm 141:
Scripture: Psalm 141:3-4
Take control of what I say, O Lord,
and guard my lips.
Don’t let me drift toward evil
or take part in acts of wickedness.
Don’t let me share in the delicacies
of those who do wrong.
Prayers for Loose Lips: Controlling Our Mouths
Controlling the tongue is perhaps the greatest challenge facing every man and woman, especially those who desire to be leaders. The Apostle James goes so far as to say this: “Dear brothers, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”
With our tongues we build up our family, co-workers, church members, pastors, and friends. But we can just as easily tear down. In fact, during idle times come opportunities for loose lips to wreak havoc.
We live in a day when free speech is esteemed as one of our greatest liberties, but if you watch the news or social media for very long you will see many people who would benefit from listening to James and the psalmist in Psalm 141. James says that taming the tongue is nearly impossible; animals can be tamed, fires can be squelched, but the tongue can be used to praise God or curse our enemies. Loose lips have destroyed marriages, careers, churches, families, and entire countries.
So what are we to do? James says in 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Be quick to listen and slow to speak. That is key to the path to victory.
In his book, Pledge of a Lifetime, Counselor and Author Mark Oelze encourages us to Pause, Listen, Echo, and Disarm before we ever offer something to a conversation that could be contentious. Think about that for a minute. If you took four proactive steps toward understanding and identifying with the other’s viewpoint before offering an alternative, do you think you might be less likely to say something that is volatile?
The problem is we all want to be right and we hate to allow a pause in a conversation go unfilled. Today in that pause, pray with the psalmist, “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
In contrast to tripping over our lips into sin, Psalm 19 calls us to these words as sung by Tim Hughes: May the Words of My Mouth.
Prayers to Today
Self: Lord Jesus, take control of what comes out of my mouth. Teach me to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Restrain me when there is a lull in conversation to want to fill it. Teach me to filter my thoughts and consider whether it needs to be said. May my tongue be used to praise and build up all I encounter.
Family: Father, you know the power of words to children. That’s why you pronounced about Jesus, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” May I as a father (or mother) be effusive with my praise toward my children, my spouse, my siblings and my parents. May I be slow to offer criticism or even advice–especially when unsolicited. May we become a family that guards our mouths, by your holy power, and uses our tongues to encourage and bless.
Work: Lord, you know how quickly things can unravel at work. In my conversations, my correspondence and in all my work, may I be slow to speak and quick to listen. Teach me to really pursue those around me to understand their perspectives, opinions, and experiences. Guard me from just “speaking my mind” and tearing down peers, competitors, and those with whom I disagree.
Church: Protect your church from the destructive power of the tongue. May I be quick to praise our pastor(s) and leaders and slow to criticize. Replace our criticisms and gossip with words of encouragement and praise. Just as our sanctuary is filled with praise and adoration of you, may our hallways and fellowship gatherings be filled with uplifting words.
Community: Provide me opportunities to praise and encourage those around me today, starting with my neighbors, friends, and all I encounter as I shop and go about my daily business.
World: Father, may our government leaders be men and women who promote peace through carefully guarded speech. Protect their minds and hearts from the disheartening words that are spoken every day and help them listen carefully to know the right paths to take.
Help me hear your words of praise today. I long to hear you say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”