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Psalm 141: Guard my mouth

The power of words to encourage, equip

by Luke Haidle

“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

I am a pastor, meaning I talk for a living. Obviously I do other things as well, but my role of preacher/presenter/teacher/speaker is dominant. As a Christian—and especially as a pastor—I value the teaching of Scripture. I have always valued good preaching and strive for presentations of excellence. But it really wasn’t until I was regularly in the pulpit that I learned how valuable it is to have skill in the spoken word. 

In seminary I took many good classes on apologetics, hermeneutics, theology and leadership. But it is through the avenue of preaching that all of these come together and find their most meaningful expression. We may be great theologians or historians or students, but if we fail to communicate these lessons well to our congregations, then these lessons are of limited value.

The purpose of my spoken word is to encourage people and equip them for another week of life and ministry. The act of preaching is vaster than a simple “speech.” Not only are there a myriad of methods, but the invisible work of the Holy Spirit (“unction,” as we used to say) in our sermon preparation, in the heart preparation of the listener and in that moment when sound waves travel across space seeking fertile ground—a mighty work of the Holy Spirit—is something for which we long. But it truly remains the work of another person.

Several years ago I had a memorable encounter with Psalm 141:O Lord, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice. Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips (vv. 1-3).”

Verse three (the last sentence quoted above) stood out to me then and remains with me today. The spoken word is powerful. It has always been powerful. But from the pulpit it should be drenched in authority, inspiration, conviction, love and encouragement. For something to have that impact it must be free from the uninspired. That is why, in the moments before I walk on stage, many times I pray that the Lord will set a guard over my mouth. That the words I speak will only be what he desires to be spoken; that no idea or notion of me will ever make it past my lips.  O Lord, these lips are imperfect; guard them closely.  Amen.

Luke Haidle is the lead pastor at Henderson (Neb.) MB Church.



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