3 PRAYERS TO DIRECT YOUR DAY
By Cindy Matson
Open houses to celebrate graduating seniors are the norm here in Minnesota. Pulled pork, buckets of iced water bottles, and marble sheet cake are common fare at these auspicious events. Having taught high school for more than a decade, I have attended my share of open houses—and I have had my share of getting lost trying to find them. The summer after my rookie year was the worst. I attended around nine open houses and got lost around nine times. Frankly, without a GPS (or Google Maps) to direct me, this is the story of my life. The simple truth is that I need directions to unfamiliar places; otherwise, I may just end up in Canada. However, I also need directions when it comes to navigating my day. I don’t mean that I need help building a schedule or forming a to-do list. (Believe me, I’m a champ at those things.) I mean that I need to start my day by consecrating it to God and allowing Him to direct it. Three simple prayers found at the end of Psalm 19 can do just that.
Prayer #1: “Cleanse me from hidden faults.”
After reflecting on both the general revelation of creation and the written revelation of Scripture, David responds in humble penitence, first asking Yahweh to cleanse him from hidden faults. We’re familiar with this concept in the New Testament as Jesus tells would-be confronters to examine their own eyes for planks of wood before going after a splinter in a neighbor’s (Matt. 7:3–5). Jesus is implying that we all walk around with “planks” of sin hanging out of our eyes and don’t even know it. Our hearts are so pervasively wicked that we sometimes don’t even realize that we’re sinning.
Maybe you’re wondering why this prayer would be helpful. After all, you’ve got your hands full with the sins that you know about! To that fair objection, I offer two responses. First, we must take holiness seriously. We’re commanded in both the Old and New Testaments to “be holy” as God is holy (Lev. 20:7; 1 Pet. 1:15–16). Yes, we have been robed in the holiness of Christ through the gift of salvation; however, God still commands us to pursue holiness.
Contentment with ignoring unknown sins demonstrates an apathy toward holiness. It’s the way I feel about the dirt, dog hair, and who-knows-what-else under my refrigerator. I know it’s there, but I don’t really want to see it, and I certainly don’t want to deal with it. So, I leave it. That’s not great housekeeping, but neither is it of eternal consequence. Apathy toward holiness is.
Secondly, we should ask God to forgive (and even reveal) hidden sins because of His grace. God is merciful in allowing some of my sins to remain hidden to me. If I had to deal with all of them all at once, I’d probably be so overwhelmed that I would drown in the “slough of despond” or give in to the “Giant of Despair.” We do not offer this prayer to a malicious, capricious tyrant who can’t wait to squash us. We pray to a God of steadfast love and mercy who faithfully nudges (and occasionally shoves) us toward holiness, revealing hidden sins one or a few at a time. In the meantime, He’s faithful and just to forgive these unknown transgressions as we ask Him to.
Prayer #2: “Keep Your servant from willful sins.”
Once again we hear an echo of this prayer in Christ’s words on the Sermon on the Mount, this time in His model prayer: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13 csb). We know that God does not tempt us to sin; that’s Satan’s job (James 1:13). However, as David recognized and Christ taught, we cannot avoid the temptation to sin without depending on God. While we who have accepted Christ as our Savior have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we still possess wicked hearts bent on highhanded rebellion against the Creator. Yes, we are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), but we still must fight to put sin to death (Rom. 6:12–14).
It’s one thing to talk about hidden faults; it’s another to consider the ways that we willfully sin against God each day:
- Indulging in one more glance.
- Making the snarky comment that you know will add fuel to the conflict.
- Engaging in the gossip in the break room or at a coffee shop with a friend.
- Keeping that lunch date that you know you should have broken off.
Whatever it is for you, without intentional dependence on God Himself, you’re likely to indulge that temptation because we love our sin. It just feels so good, at least temporarily. David’s prayer in Psalm 19:13 teaches us that we must start fighting these inclinations toward rebellion before we even enter temptation. We must ask the Lord of Hosts to go before us and fight on our behalf. He has promised to make a way of escape from every temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), but the way around the temptation is usually the better choice.
Prayer #3: “Let the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.”
My lightning-quick and razor-sharp tongue has gotten me into more trouble than I can possibly remember. Despite God’s work to help me tame this wild beast, I still need Psalm 19:14 every day. Even if you’re slower of speech than I am, you need it too.
Our hidden faults and our blatant rebellion begin with the meditations of our heart. Just as adultery begins with a lustful desire and murder begins with hateful anger, each of our sins finds its origin in our filthy hearts.
The prophet Jeremiah teaches us just how despicable our hearts really are: “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
For this reason, Solomon warned his son, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Prov. 4:23).
Likewise, our tongues—which speak out of the abundance of our hearts (Matt. 12:34)—have unlimited potential for evil. James puts it this way:
And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)
James did not write those words to unbelievers, but to Christ-followers, who, like you and me, were prone to sins of the tongue. For you, it may not be the sarcastic comeback, but the crude joke or the proclivity to gossip or grumble. Verbal sins come in many packages, each as odious as the next. Because of this, I need to start my day in dependence on the Father to guard both my heart and tongue. And so do you.
Confidence to Pray: Our Redeemer
These verses are not magic incantations that we utter to keep the devil away. I’m not suggesting that you mutter them each morning to gain God’s favor upon your day. The final line of Psalm 19 points us to our confidence in these brief prayers as David refers to his “rock and Redeemer.”
Though David did not fully understand the gospel as we do today, he recognized that none of these prayers would come to pass by his own flesh. He knew he needed a Redeemer, though he did not yet know who that would be.
Because of our standing in Christ, we can come boldly to His throne of grace, knowing that God the righteous Judge will be faithful and just to forgive us of every sin, whether hidden from our eyes or as obvious as the nose on our face. We will also find the mercy and grace to help in time of need and the way to escape in the face of temptations (Heb. 4:16; 1 Cor. 10:13).
May these three simple prayers of dependence on the Savior give direction to your day:
“Cleanse me from my hidden faults.”
“Keep me from willful sins.”
“May the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and Redeemer.”