Learning to Prayer from Psalm 141

As we’ve read through Psalms, there is a desparation that comes through for God to act on our behalf. In Psalm 141, the psalmist asks for God to manage his speech and protect his heart.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds…

I love the understanding that such deeds are not accomplished on our own. We cannot just will ourselves to be better. Rather our hearts naturally incline toward the evil, and as we read in James, our tongues are uncontrollable. We need outside help. If we don’t look for it and accept it, yet still try on our own, it will lead to both failure and then to something like depression or self-pity.

Thankfully we are not alone. We have a God who does listen to our prayers and who–with such grace–wants to help us. This is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

How much of this prayer is about God’s action? It gives glory to God, calls for his kingdom and his will, and asks for God to provide for us. We need God to give us our daily bread and for him to forgive us. Like in Psalm 141, we need God to lead us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. These aren’t just nice words. We confess what it is true when we pray that way. In every way at every moment, we need our God to take mercy on his people.

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