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You have probably heard it said, “Think before you speak,” and also “silence is golden.” These are very meaningful expressions because many times we seem to either “lose it” or “blow up” when we become angry, frustrated, or irritated. In his prayer for godliness, King David asked God, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3). David seemed to have been in some distress as in his prayer he asked God, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds” (Psalm 141:4).

We use our mouths to pray and praise God. How then can we defile our mouths by letting harsh and wrathful words fly out? This will certainly occur if our mouths are not carefully controlled. Perhaps David realized that no matter how he tries, it is absolutely beyond his human capability to fully control his mouth. Many of us can relate to David’s feeling. Therefore, David rightly seeks God’s intervention to “set a guard over his mouth and keep watch over the door of his lips.” God is our “door keeper.” His help is only a prayer away.

Essentially, it is absolutely right to think before we speak and prayerfully seek God’s help to guard the door of our lips. This would place our entire being under God’s sovereign control. “God has made our lips the door of the mouth, but we cannot keep that door of ourselves, therefore do we entreat the Lord to take the rule of it. O that the Lord would both open and shut our lips, for we can do neither the one nor the other aright if left to ourselves” (Charles H. Spurgeon’s Treasury of David). Spurgeon is absolutely right. The Lord must be in control of the “open mouth” when we speak and what we say. On the other hand, He must be allowed to shut our mouths before we say the wrong words.

It takes only a single word which may have been innocently misspoken to ruin friendships, relationships, reputation that can cause a lifetime of pain and grief. Not surprising that James writes about the power of the tongue. He says, “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell … no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6,8). The Word of God is telling us exactly as it needs to be told. Since “no human being can tame the tongue,” our only recourse then is to seek divine help.

In addition to asking God to guard his mouth, David wanted God to “keep his heart.” He prayed, “Do not let my heart incline to any evil” (Psalm 141:4). The Lord Jesus in his diagnosis of the human heart said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. (Matthew 15:18). So we understand from Jesus’ statement what we say has consequences and will defile us, because it originates in our hearts. Hence, David fully knew why he should ask God to keep his heart as well as his mouth. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

In another psalm David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). This should be the desire and prayer of all believers to ensure that our hearts, our minds, and our speaking, must be pleasing to Almighty God. It is also noted that David wisely included in his prayer that God would keep his focus on Him. “But my eyes are toward you, O God” (Psalm 141: 8). If our focus on the Lord is “blurred,” then we will not reap the essential benefits which are available from Him. In a somewhat similar fashion, David stated, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices” (Psalm 16:8). Here David expresses such confidence in the Lord.

May God grant us the necessary will, courage, and wisdom to think before we speak, to speak the right words and to know when to keep silent.