Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
O Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. Psalm 50:15
What is the part of our body that gets us in the most trouble? That would be the mouth. We commit the most sins using our mouths, because the sins we commit most often are gossip and false witness. We either bear false witness through lies or exaggerations. We gossip about other people and we do it with other people. We dishonor each other—our parents, spouses, children, friends and strangers—when we raise our voices to destructively criticize or correct. When we collaborate with others to commit wrong, we begin our collaboration with conversation.
This is why people joke (and it’s true) that God gave us one mouth and two ears. This is why icons of saints are painted with them intentionally having small mouths and big ears, to remind us that we should listen more and speak less.
There are a few one-line prayers that if we committed these to memory and used them throughout the day, they could have a marked impact on our lives. Of all the verses in Psalm 50/51, this is the one that should have the most frequent use. Because it is not every day that we need a clean heart and renewed spirit. There are hopefully days when each of us feels close to God and doesn’t feel beset by sin. However, there are very few days on which we don’t interact with other people, where we are not tempted to sin with our mouths. Imagine if you prayed Psalm 50:15 multiple times a day. Imagine if you prayed this (even if you offered nothing else) to start your day. Imagine if you prayed this verse before your first greeting with your spouse, your child, your friend, your co-worker or even your enemy.
Actors do well and remember their lines when they rehearse them. This is a universal truth. When you don’t rehearse something over and over again, you probably are not going to remember it. Thus, if we rehearse this one verse of Psalm 50 over and over again, there is a much greater chance we will remember it at the moment we need to. If we never rehearse it or think about it, if we never give thought to watching what comes out of our mouths, or praising God with what comes out of them, we might forget that this is what we are supposed to do.
Other one line verses that are very effective are:
Therefore, build up one another and encourage one another. I Thessalonians 5:11
I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I believe; Help my unbelief! Mark 9:24
He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30
Psalm 50:15, as a one line verse, reads more as a prayer than as an affirmation. Make it a quick go to prayer when you have only a few seconds to share a thought with God. Since most of us have multiple planned conversations with others each day, if we make a habit of praying this verse before each one, that could be a game-changer in how honor God with our lips. And by extension, how we honor God with the rest of ourselves.
Even if the heart convinces the mind to act in a way that is unkind, the lips are like a dam, that can either remain closed to keep the thoughts from becoming sinful words and actions, or the lips can be like a dam that lets the unkind thoughts come out like a flood, creating a great amount of destruction.
We know that our lips will open multiple times a day. Therefore, we pray to God to guard our lips, and upstream, to guard our thoughts and hearts so that when the information gets to our lips, it is clean and pure. We ask God that when our lips our opened, that we reflect praising and glorifying Him in the words that come out.
David does a good job connecting the heart and the mouth in Psalm 50/51. He asks for a clean heart and a renewed spirit, but he also asks God to let what comes out of his lips reflect the clean heart and the renewed spirit.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundance mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and blameless in Your judgment. For behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and feasting, the bones that were afflicted shall rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I shall teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will return to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of Your deliverance. O Lord, You shall open my lips and my mouths shall show forth Your praise. For You have no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and humbled heart, o God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion, and let the walls of Jerusalem be rebuilt. Then You will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then they shall offer up bulls on Your altar [and have mercy on me O God]. Psalm 50 (51)
Make Psalm 50:15 a prayer you offer multiple times a day!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.