Read Psalm 141
A psalm of David.
1 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.
Psalm 141 is a psalm of lament, meant to express deep sorrow, grief, struggle, or regret. The psalmist (David) lays out troubling situations to the Lord and follows with a request for His divine help.
This lament is from the heart of a faithful, humble man who is calling for protection and help, praying that he would not compromise in the face of “evildoers” (v. 4). It’s clear he is passionate in his lament, and one can’t help but wonder if the modern Christian has lost this sense of sorrow and grief towards sin and temptation. Have we become so jaded by our own sin and so absorbed by our own pleasure, that we fail to pray with such intensity? Notice how the psalmist pleads with God to “come quickly” and hear him in his distress.
He compares his prayers to that of incense, which was a common practice in Scripture. We read about Aaron in the book of Exodus who started his day with incense and in Revelation 5, we see the creatures surround the throne of God with “golden bowls full of incense as part of their worship.” Today, the closest we come to experiencing the aroma of incense is the vapor from our essential oils running through a diffuser. The true and better incense offered today are our heartfelt prayers rising up to God as a strong, pleasing aroma to Him.
Like all of us today, the psalmist knew his words could cause him to fall into sin, so he asks God in verses 3-4 to guard his mouth, watch over his lips, and protect his heart from wicked deeds. And if that’s not clear enough, he asks that God would “not let me eat their (evildoers) delicacies.” This should be that moment when we follow in our own lament and mirror the psalmist’s simple, yet profound prayer. Raising up our cries to God as incense, with hands lifted as though we are reaching to the heavens. Pleading with white hot intensity that our very words and intentions lead us not into sinful delicacies offered by the world. That’s a prayer of lament not heard often in our modern age.
And when your prayer of lament finds it’s ending, conclude with verse 8 which declares that; “my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.” Amen.
- Take time today to pray Psalm 140 or 141 and let the prayers of lament rise as incense to God. How did it make you feel toward God and toward your sin?
- How have your mouth, lips and heart caused you to stumble into sin recently? How does Psalm 141 help you in finding victory over sin?
- Share with someone what it means for Christians to fix their eyes on a Sovereign Lord. Why do you think he uses the word Sovereign in verse 8?
Did You Know?
One third of the psalms are a lament. However, studies have found that less than 5% of modern-day worship songs are written as a lament. Why do we avoid lament in our prayers and in our songs? How can you make lamenting a part of your devotional life?
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