Reading: Psalm 141:1-4
A psalm of David.
I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me;
hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Set a guard over my mouth, LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
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 (NIV).*
The bend in the path — photo by David Kitz
Like so many of the psalms, Psalm 141 is a conversation with God—a prayer to the LORD—the Holy One. Prayer should be part of our daily routine, as routine as getting out of bed in the morning, and as regular as our evening meal. David, the psalmist, expresses this thought with these words: May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
In his revelation of the throne room of God, John saw our prayers being offered as incense before Jesus, the Lamb of God. And when he had taken it [the scroll], the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people (Revelations 5:8).
I find it fascinating to view our prayers being offered up in a tangible way as incense—a pleasing aroma to the LORD. See Numbers 15:1-15.
David continues his prayer with this petition: Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Often my mouth gets me in trouble. I say I’ll do something, and then don’t follow through. I let others down. In frustration I blurt out words that I later regret. James, the brother of Jesus, provides us with this advice. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).
I need a guard over my mouth. This is true in my daily conversation with others, but it’s also true of my conversations with God. I think we often pray rash prayers—prayers that in His mercy God does not answer. I think I know what is best for me only to discover after the fact, that what I thought would be a blessing is a huge detriment. My prayers can be mixed with the stench of human flesh.
Response: LORD, I want my prayers to be like sweet incense to you. Help me to pray according to your will. That means listening for your voice before I blurt out my requests. Guide my thoughts. Speak to me, and through me, as I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How careful are you with your prayers? Can we be too cautious in prayer?
* NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 BY BIBLICA
Volume II of Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer by award-winning author David Kitz is available now. For a closer look at Volumes I and II click here.