“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (ESV)
I have sat in churches where the minister recites this verse as a prayer immediately before his sermon. I think to use it in such a way is to misunderstand the context, meaning, and importance of this verse. This is far more than, “Bless what I am about to say.”
This is the concluding verse of Psalm 19, which extols the word of God, both the “natural revelation” (verses 1-6) and the written word (verses 7-11). The last four verses turn to the one who receives the word of the Lord, and what our response should be. David focuses on how God’s word can aid our pursuit of holiness.
“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” (19:12)
The implications of this verse are about as appealing as the prospects of a colonoscopy. Most of the time we even try to ignore our visible faults and the glaring errors in our lives. Few of us have the fortitude to pray for God to show us where we are in error and are not aware of it.
“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sin; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression.” (19:13)
“Presumptuous sin” is redundant. To be presumptuous is to cross a line, to be bold, arrogant, or brazen. But this phrase helps us to see sin for what it is. It reveals the root of all sin—our pride. We think we know better or deserve more so we take it. James 4:1-6 repeats this theme for us. We do well to submit to penitent reflection and confession before God in order to be sure we are working to be holy and acceptable in his sight.
Finally we get to the last verse of the Psalm. If we have been following David’s progression of thought, we see that this is not the final bit to polish a sermon, but the very root of holiness. He has addressed hidden sin and pride already and now he is down to the core of the root. If we get this right, everything else follows.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (19:14)
Our thoughts and our words are normally the first pieces to fall into sin. If, by God’s grace and the work of his Spirit within us, we can keep these two things pure, everything else will be pure. Who commits sin and does not first conceive of it in his thoughts? How often do our words reveal the intention of our hearts, for good or for evil?
Far from being a prayer right before speaking, I think this verse should be a constant prayer for us. It should remind us to be diligent, not at the outer edges of our lives, but at the center. Sin is an insider attack. Nothing outside of us can force us to sin. It only happens through our consent. If we can keep our thoughts and our words acceptable before God, our whole lives will be acceptable as well.