by Tyler Quillet
Growing up, I was known to not have much of a filter over my mouth. If it came to mind, it typically came out. Didn’t matter if it was inappropriate, offensive, or hurtful, I typically let it fly. I thought I was funny. I assumed it would just make people laugh. Quite frankly, I didn’t care what I said, who I said it to, or who it might hurt. My words wreaked a lot of havoc over the years, unbeknownst to me at the time.
Now, for as much as I have matured and for as much as the Holy Spirit has done in my life, I still struggle with my tongue. I know I’m not alone in this. Proverbs 18:21a in the CSB says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” That’s every one of our tongues. We each carry the power to speak life and speak death. How have you chosen to speak recently?
It’s easy to deceive ourselves into believing the lie that as long as we aren’t outwardly mocking someone, using 4-letter words, or screaming publicly at our children, then we’re doing ok with our tongues. But what about the other day when my wife bought the wrong things at the grocery store and I picked on her incessantly about it? What about when my 7-year-old tried getting my attention while I was entranced by the football game and I not so graciously told him to go play in his room? What about when I spoke poorly of someone to someone else, leaving them to look at this person in a lesser light? What about when I muttered things under my breath that nobody heard, but they certainly weren’t words of life?
Yeah, that was me this week. Easy to tell myself that my tongue did ok, but it didn’t. It wasn’t honoring Christ. I need help in this, and I’d venture to guess you do as well! When David writes in Psalm 141, he’s asking God to be his mouth’s filter in verse 3.
Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. (CSB)
I love what the NLT says and how direct the petition is:
Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. (NLT)
What a great prayer to pray, on a regular basis! Picture with me, for a moment, a water filter. It catches the junk—the impurities and anything else that might make that water unclean. This prayer is asking the Lord to be that filter for you. You’re acknowledging that your heart is ugly and you don’t want that stuff to come out. He’s the only one that can filter that out, and He will, if you ask Him! Ask the Lord to be your filter when it’s easy for you to speak those things that are not life-giving.
When anger is stewing in my heart: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When someone who thinks differently than you has you flustered: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When your boss has asked too much of you or has treated you wrongly: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When you and your spouse have a disagreement: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When your child needs to be disciplined: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When you’re hanging out with the guys and the conversation isn’t life-giving: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When you disagree with someone on Facebook: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When someone has wounded me: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
When you are sitting at your kid’s ballgame and the ref makes a terrible call: “Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.”
Keep praying that prayer. What will begin to come out of your mouth will be life-giving. As the Holy Spirit changes your heart to become more like His, you’ll see the overflow of your heart—your words—will be life-giving. Ask Him to be your filter. You need it. I need it. He’ll be faithful to give you what you need in that moment!