You’ve all heard these words before – even if it’s only in the Boney M song:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing (acceptable) in your sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

They are pretty well known words, and they come from Psalm 19:14, but they’re still  rather challenging, would you not agree? At this year’s Spring Harvest festival entitled ‘Only the Brave’ we were teaching through the New Testament book of James including those pesky passages about taming the tongue. Ouch. I mean, really. Double ouch.

The words we say (or write) are inextricably linked to the meditations of our heart. Put bluntly, we leak. Our attitudes overflow, our passions are contagious, our prejudices are evidenced, our love is expressed – all via our words. Words carry the potential to change the trajectory of people’s lives, for better and for worse. Words inspire and condemn. Words contain the power to stir emotion and to stimulate thinking in ways that surprise us and disappoint us.

But words are not created in a vacuum. They always come from somewhere. James suggested in his letter that if we can master our audible words, it is as if we have actually begun to tame or discipline our inaudible hearts beneath the surface. The quiet work of shaping our character will be manifested physically through our words and deeds. Our faith, our values, our loyalties are like a spring that flow out as an expression of who we are.

What is hidden, then, always matters – partly because it doesn’t stay hidden forever, and partly because the most important element of who we are is not actually what is visible to others, but what is invisible. Our inner formation is our highest calling and should always be a far higher priority than our exterior impressions (undeniably a challenge in our instaglamorous world).

As part of these challenging sessions at Spring Harvest this year I wrote the prayer below. The responses from Psalm 19:14 were written to be read together – and they are in bold. A few people have asked for it, so here it is. Feel free to use it, if it is helpful to you.

I hope and pray these words bless and challenge you as we each go about our busy business, deploying our words purposefully and imaginatively and bravely as we go…

Prayer: (Using Psalm 19:14 as a response.)

Heavenly Father, one word from you brings life and light and hope. Jesus, you are the Word made flesh, demonstrating grace and redemption and unconditional love. Thank you Holy Spirit, for speaking words of wisdom and truth into our lives.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Might I, Lord, be a person who builds up and not tears down; who is known for bringing life and not death, for adding hope and not hopelessness, for seeing potential rather than problems. May my words change the world – for the better.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Father, might I see people as you see them. Might I love them as you do. Might I listen to them, not just to pause before I speak, but to really hear them with my mind and heart. Might I leave the people I meet feeling better as a result of our meeting.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Lord, might I be a peace-maker, a truth-bringer, a challenge-setter, a cheer-leader, a life-enhancer, a wisdom-seeker, a grace-sharer, a team-builder and a presence-dweller who is fully surrendered to you and your wisdom.

Speak to me Lord, and speak through me.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

So, Lord, for the things I have said that I should not have said, I ask your forgiveness.

For the things I should have said, but was not brave enough to, I ask for your mercy.

Help me to tame my tongue and my desires, and to live in your wisdom and truth.

And create in me a pure heart that overflows into what I do and do not say.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

AMEN.