The Prayer of Help

Do you ever feel like your mouth needs to be guarded?
Do you ever feel the pull to be drawn into something that you know is destructive, but you are drawn to it anyway?
Does the luxury of comfort, money, or even an unhealthy relationship beg for your attention and commitment?

Welcome to the life of being human! We often speak without thinking. We are lured into situations that bring trouble into our lives. We want to be safe, comfortable, and loved however that may be offered; even when it’s not good. Paul describes our situation well when he acknowledges our fragility even though we are a miracle of God; it is the “clay jar” of our human vessel. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  – II Corinthians 4:7

Psalm 141 lands on my ears and mind as a balm. It is a helpful grace. It is a prayer that not only calls upon the Lord for assistance, it offers wisdom for the journey as we navigate through life. There is so much beautiful and amazing about this world that God created! There is so much broken and breaking in our world! “Breaking News” is perhaps the headline that tells us that we are breaking. We need divine help and repair. 

Psalm 141

I call to you,Lord, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

3 Set a guard over my mouth,Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies.

5 Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

6 Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
    and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
7 They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
    so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

8 But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord;
    in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
9 Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
    from the snares they have laid for me.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    while I pass by in safety.

In environments where “evil” is lurking, we see things like the enticement of luxuries or “delicacies”. We hear words and stories that are falsely represented; sometimes even by our own minds! We experience temptation without regard for others; no concern for the impact one action has upon another person. Often all of this looks “good” while we are being drawn into it. 

And in those same environments or moments, there is an invitation to tap into something more powerful. It is a higher offer; a gift God offers. Something miraculous is possible when the Spirit of the Lord intervenes. This prayer that we know as Psalm 141 calls it forth. 

While we allow the Lord to “set a guard over our mouths”, we are giving space for others to speak. This venting will often reveal its own motivation. Listen for what is behind the words you hear.  In another setting it may allow someone to empty themselves of something that is binding and hindering them from healing. Allow it. Let the Lord guard our mouths, not rushing to defend or correct. Give space to see what is really happening. Maybe we have nothing that needs to be said. Whatever this “guarding” may be; silence can be a grace. 

The practice of listening before I speak always takes intentional effort for me. I have to practice it. Not jumping to what “I” want to say, but to wait and listen. 

The “draw to evil” that the Psalmist mentions might be the lure of argument, judgement, or assumption. It can be the easy path of drawing lines that can keep others out and elevates us to a higher place, where our own temptations or weaknesses are disguised. It may be, surprisingly, jumping in to “fix” something that is not ours to fix; a “rescue” of another person’s needed journey.  

The variations and ways “traps and snares” are presented are numerous. But most often they come in the way that we are uniquely enticed or lured. We all have our triggers and inspirations! It may be money, lust, power, excitement, fight, managing someone else’s life; take your pick!  In these moments we need people of wisdom who have our best interests at heart to meet us… offering grace, correction, and wisdom.

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

There is a time to speak. Words of honesty are helpful and even freeing. Words of caution spoken in love are the words of a true friend. Wisdom is given when we wait for it and listen. When Jesus was preparing the disciples for their first experience of “being sent”, he knew they were going out into a world that was not “safe”. Jesus offered them exactly what they needed: 

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. – Matthew 10:16-20

God did not make their circumstances all safe and without challenge. The Lord provided access to divine help to offer everyone a different experience, an encounter with the resurrected Christ.  …the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken. (Psalm 141:6b)

Even when we are not aware, the Lord is intervening to bring forth the kingdom. This is our trust; it is our faith. 

Our human experience is a profound grace, a miracle. And we are all broken just the same. We  journey with the hope and confidence that the Lord is walking with us; guiding, protecting, correcting, and assisting. Every day. All the time. In every way we can receive. God’s love for us is steadfast and true.

Lord, thank you for the ancient prayers of those who have gone before us. Thank you for the ways you invite us to depend upon and trust you to assist us on the journey. We say and do so many things that we regret! But you, Lord, make it clear that your help and full equipping is accessible and ready to launch. You are amazing! Come quickly, Lord Jesus! We give you the praise! Amen.

I Give You Praise Lord /Chicago Mass Choir

One thought on “The Prayer of Help

  • Several months ago I wrote out “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord” and put it in the notebook I use for a particular setting. The reminder has helped me wait to speak. Many times it has moved me to keep silent.

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