O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering. Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong. Let the godly strike me! It will be a kindness! If they correct me, it is soothing medicine. Don’t let me refuse it. But I pray constantly against the wicked and their deeds. When their leaders are thrown down from a cliff, the wicked will listen to my words and find them true. Like rocks brought up by a plow, the bones of the wicked will lie scattered without burial. I look to you for help, O Sovereign Lord. You are my refuge; don’t let them kill me.
David asked God to guard his heart. Evil acts begin with evil desires. It isn’t enough to ask God to keep you away from temptation, make you stronger, or change your circumstances. You must ask him to change you on the inside—at the level of your desires.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that “the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches” (James 3:5). On the average, a person opens his or her mouth approximately 700 times a day to speak. David wisely asked God to help keep him from speaking evil, even in times of persecution. Jesus himself was silent before his accusers (Matthew 26:63). Knowing the power of the tongue, we would do well to ask God to guard what we say so that our words will bring honor to his name.
Be open to honest criticism. God may be speaking to you through others. Nobody really likes criticism, but everybody can benefit from it when it is given wisely and taken humbly. David suggested how to accept criticism: (1) don’t refuse it, (2) consider it a kindness, and (3) keep quiet (don’t fight back). Putting these suggestions into practice will help you control how you react to criticism, making it productive rather than destructive, no matter how it was originally intended.