Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Proper Prayer Begins by Taming the Tongue

Our small group started the Priscilla Shirer study, Can We Talk?, last night. The six-week course is designed to encourage a more effective prayer life. The first week's lessons are about the tongue and how we use our mouths. 

I've taught on prayer for years, but beginning with the tongue was a little unexpected. It's a great starting point, though. Two verses in James explain why:

"But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;" James 3:8,9 nasb

The mouth is all I can see of the animal in the photo. My first thought was "llama," then "donkey," and, finally, "horse in the winter with long hair." The mouth captures my attention in a way it wouldn't if closed. It's so unattractive that I can't tell if the rest of the horse is beautiful or not.

My mouth, too, has all too often dominated how I seem to people over the years. I've spoken without thinking or, worse, spoken what I thought without caring about the consequences. As someone I love once said, I used my mouth like a weapon. I was good at it, too, if slashing the hearts and confidence of others with your words is a skill to be admired. 

What came out of my mouth, in the past and more recently than I'd like to admit, had more to do with pride on my part than a desire to impart truth. I believed "my" way was best, what I wanted was what should be done. 

It didn't take me long to learn the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the loudest voice is the one we hear, she who persists the longest often gets her way. I've known this, and lived it, most of my life. All those adages may be true, but they don't tell us about the hurt those loud, squeaky voices and those arrogant words leave behind.

I'm sorry for the arrogance with which I've spoken over the years and, if I could take those words back, I would. Words once spoken, however, can never be recalled. 

That, my friends, is why James describes the tongue as a consuming fire and why he says no one can tame it. Only God can extinguish the fire and bring balm to our mouths. 

If we want a right relationship with God, we need more than clean hearts and hands. We need clean tongues, as well. 

Let's think about our words for a moment, if we can stand it. How have we spoken in the last week, the last month, the last year? Have our words been a fountain of life or a spewing fountain of poison? Have we blessed God and cursed our neighbor? Have we spoken words that demean and hurt or build up and encourage?

If we want to please God, to have a sweet and intimate relationship with Him, we must allow Him to tame our tongues. 

The choice is ours. Will we surrender this tiny bit of our anatomy to His control? Will we allow our words to bless, encourage, flow with kindness like a river of love washing over those who most need it? 

I choose surrender, repentance, cleansing, change. I want my mouth to be a source of blessing to all I meet. What about you? 

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." Proverbs 18:21kjv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's link: Living in the Shadow of the Cross and Loving our Enemies

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