October 25, 2015 • Life for Leaders
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Growing up, one of my heroes was a Presbyterian pastor named Ben Patterson. He was the speaker at many of the Christian conferences I attended as a teenager. I was gripped by his theological insight and poetic skill. When I began work as a young pastor, I listened to dozens of Ben’s tapes, seeking to learn from him how to be an effective communicator of the Gospel.
One of the traditions I picked up from Ben was to pray, right before I preached, a version of Psalm 19:14. As I recall, he would pray something like this: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” I didn’t always use this prayer in the pulpit, but I often did because it expressed the yearning of my heart as a preacher: that my words would honor the Lord, as would the thoughts of the whole congregation. Using this prayer reminded me that my effectiveness as a preacher did not depend on me, or on my insight or skill, but upon the Lord, who was “my rock and my redeemer.”
I still think Psalm 19:14 is a fine prayer for the pulpit. And I still use it at times when I am a guest preacher. But I have come to realize that this prayer belongs not just in the pulpit but also in the world. It’s even a great prayer for the workplace. For one thing, the identified poet of Psalm 19, David, was not a priest or a prophet. He didn’t do “religious work” in the usual sense. Rather, he was a shepherd, a warrior, a musician, a poet, and, most famously, a king. David did, if you’ll pardon the expression, secular work. Nevertheless, he sought to please the Lord with his words and thoughts not just in his private prayers but in every sector of life.
You and I are privileged to live for God’s glory in all that we do, in every word, every thought, and every deed. This means we ought to borrow David’s prayer in Psalm 19:14, not just if we happen to be preaching a sermon but also if we are teaching kindergarten, leading a board meeting, running for president, or firing an employee.
How would your life be different if you began praying Psalm 19:14 in the day-to-day situations of your life? What difference might it make if, before you participated in a meeting at work, you prayed, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer”? How might praying this way transform your language and actions on the athletic field, or when you’re out on the town with your friends, or when you’re writing a letter to a client, or when you’re negotiating a contract? How might it affect that way you speak to your spouse, your children, your roommate, or your colleagues?
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Use whichever questions in the previous paragraph fit your life to consider how Psalm 19:14 might change your life. Feel free to add other questions that make sense for you. How might your life be enriched if you were to pray often: “May the words of my mouth . . .”?
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you:
at work and at home,
at church and at play,
with friends and family,
in meetings and in solitude,
in every situation, all the time.
To you be all the glory. Amen.
P.S. An earlier version of this devotion appeared at The High Calling. It is used with permission under a Creative Commons license.
Photo Credit: The Conversation by William McElcheran via tripadvisor.com.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.