God, Help Me Not to Mess This Up
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19
Every Sunday, before I preach, I ask the congregation to join me in prayer and I repeat this verse from Scripture. Maybe your pastor does too. That’s because reciting Psalm 19 is really just the pastor’s way of saying “God, help me not to mess this up.”
It is a humbling thing to stand at the pulpit with a piece of Scripture and try to interpret it for God’s people today. Preachers depend on the Holy Spirit to guide them in the right direction, but every preacher knows it’s possible to mishear that same Spirit and project our own ideas onto the text instead. And so, many of us recite these words as a sort of plea to God to use us to proclaim God’s message, and not our own.
But this is not just a pastor’s text. Because standing at the pulpit and speaking is not the only way to preach. Each of us preaches each day with our lives. On a good day, we preach the Gospel by the way we live. On a not-so-good day, we preach our own misunderstandings of it.
And so, what would it be like if we each started our day with a quick prayer asking God to help us not mess up? Maybe we could use the words of Psalm 19. Maybe we could use our own. Regardless, what if we just asked God to help us to be the best possible messengers of God’s love that day?
We each have a pulpit. May God help us to preach from the pulpits of our lives without messing up . . . at least too much.
O God, help me to not mess this up today. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the Senior Pastor of the Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, and the author of the forthcoming Glorify: Reclaiming the Heart of Progressive Christianity.