Do me a favor and please read Psalm 141.
So, what all do we know about this psalm that can help us find context as well as application? Well, the superscription of this one (as well as 142-145) all give the authorship to David. And most commentators find that this psalm is not only a prayer but an EVENING reflective prayer. Finally, as we read this text we find the wording reflective of not only what he’s currently gone/going through but also it’s a petition of sanctification and protection for what is yet to come. David, upon reflecting on the day/week/month he’s had he asks God to protect him (vs 1, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10) as well as sanctify him (vs 2, 5, 6, 10).
Every night, as I lay down to sleep, my final “controlling” thoughts/actions are prayer. Even after I pray with my wife I still find time for my own prayer as I reflect on the day that I just had. I pray for the interactions between me and others, I pray for the parenting fails of the day, the relationship fails and miscommunications, I also pray for others that I know of that have been on my thoughts. But never have I thought of my words to God becoming an “incense” set before the Lord (vs 2) (an image not unlike Rev 5:8; 8:3-4). But this is what we see in our text. David requests that this prayer be a sweet aroma that blesses the Lord. I don’t know about you but to me that is simply a beautiful image. And I think it challenges us to not only make good use of our prayers but also recognize that our prayers are pretty powerful. Not in that they have power themselves but that our prayers MEAN SOMETHING.
And what I REALLY appreciate, not only about prayer but David’s here, is that David, while reflecting on the day that he had, not only is praying about those interactions, he’s not only praying that he had the right words and actions towards people, but he’s also using this prayer in a “future” tense too. So it’s not only praying that the words that were used but that tomorrows words be used in a right way as well. He wants to make sure that his lips were guarded today and that they will be guarded tomorrow (vs 3). He wants his heart protected (vs 4), he wants the rebukes of the righteous to correct him and anoint him (vs 5-7) and he simply wants protection (vs 8-10).
When we look and reflect upon our day and look to the day ahead we recognize that it has been hard. In a world that is broken and riddled with sin we recognize that relationships are difficult because people are difficult because sin is present. When we go to work we do so with people who are broken – and when THEY go to work they too deal with broken people (this is my way of saying that you and I are broken as well). We use the wrong words, we harm people with and without intention, we take part in “wicked deeds along with those” who too take part in wicked deeds. And, just as David prays at the end of verse 4, we fall into the trap of those evildoers and “eat their delicacies.” Which simply means that we want to hear that gossip, believe those lies, and play the office politics even when we know it’s wrong. Which is why David’s prayer to be struck by a righteous person is powerful. He prays for someone better, holier, and stronger than him to pull him aside and call him to the carpet on his actions. It’s a powerful word and conviction that reminds us that we cannot take each day alone. And since we cannot win all the battles, fight all the good causes, and stay strong – we need to surround ourselves with fellow believers that can hold us accountable and correct us when we take the wrong steps, say the wrong words, and fall victim to the evils of this world.
In my freshman year of college I was in a fraternity that was supposedly “Christian” and yet within a few weeks I found myself to be the lone “active” Christian who was trying to live out their faith. The other brothers may have believed in Jesus but I appeared to be the only one living it out each day. And while I did not succumb to events and activities I did not agree with I quickly realized that I needed to get out of the fraternity because I had no brotherly “support” and encouragement. And so I did. I told the president of our Fraternity that I couldn’t keep doing this anymore and needed to leave. He begged me to stay because, “we need more people like you so that we can change the culture” (his words) but my response was that “I couldn’t be the only one – and the only one without support.” So I left. I recognized the harmful situation I was in and the fact that I was alone.
I firmly believe that when we’re alone we become more susceptible to the things of this world. We need brotherly and sisterly support as we navigate, find strength, and display truth in our lives and we need to be in prayer for the strength and support we need. It’s why Christ gave us the church. It’s why Christ sent the Holy Spirit to us. It’s why I take comfort in the “refuge” we’ve been given and the fact that we HAVEN’T been given over to death (vs 8) for God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to take on (and overcome) death for us. It’s why we take comfort in knowing that God listens to our prayers and helps us in our time(s) of need.
Psalm 141 is a beautiful reminder for the Believer to set their evening prayers and hearts upon God. To recognize that our interactions are completely broken and we need the Holy Spirit to strengthen, guide, and fill us up. We need Him to speak for us, through us, and in us as we navigate a broken world and try to speak the words of Christ. Words of kindness, compassion, love, hope, gentleness, meekness, and mercy.
So with that being said, would you join me in my Psalm 141ish prayer?
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill me up with your presence. Guard my mouth and keep watch over the door of my lips. Focus my heart upon love and kindness so that I can take part in your ways and not the ways of this world. Surround me with holy, good, and righteous people as they help me today and tomorrow – and strengthen me to speak into their lives as well. May all those who oppose you find that their ways and actions do not find traction, and may they come to know you and your love. Fix my eyes, each day, upon you and may I live into your loving kindness and grace. Amen.”