A Prayer for Protection from Sin and Sinners - Psalm 141

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In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray by giving them a model prayer. In that prayer Jesus helps us see the kinds of things we should be praying for. That model prayer ends with this request: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. When Jesus taught His disciples (and us) how to pray he included this request in which we ask for God’s help in our fight against sin.

Psalm 141 is, in many respects, an expanded and more detailed version of that final request of the Lord’s Prayer. In this psalm we have David asking God to keep him from sin and to protect him from those who sin against him. What’s evident from this psalm is that David recognizes the seriousness of sin and he knows that he needs God’s help in order to put sin to death.

As David prays for protection, both from sin and from other sinners, we have an example of how we should pray. This psalm should give us words that we can use in our own prayers as we strive to put off sin and honor God.

 The Urgency and Sincerity of the Psalmist’s Prayer (141:1-2)

  • An urgent prayer (v. 1) – As the psalm begins the first thing to note is the urgency of David’s prayer. He prays and asks for God to hasten or to come quickly to his aid. It seems apparent that for David, there is no time to waste in this effort against the sin of his heart.
  • A sincere prayer (v. 2) – Using imagery from the Old Testament forms of worship David shows the sincerity of his prayer. He wants his prayer to be like sweet smelling incense and like a sacrifice acceptable to God.
  • Application – Even before David gets to his requests there’s an example here for us. Like David we should have sense of urgency as we come before the Father; sin is serious and we need His help. We should go to God with sincere hearts, believing that He will hear and answer our prayers. 

A Prayer for Protection from Sin (141:3-4)

  • Guard my mouth from sin (v. 3) – While we don’t know the specifics of David’s situation, it’s clear that he felt the temptation to sin with his words, and so he asks for God’s help. The imagery is vivid, a guard being set to watch the doors of David’s lips (Proverbs 21:23; 10:19; James 3:5-10).
  • Keep my heart from sinful influences and indulgences (v. 4) David’s temptations are heightened by the company he keeps and the desire for the things that their ways of life afford. But David’s desire is to honor God, so he asks God to keep his heart from pursuing evil.
  • Application – David knew his own heart. He knew his temptation to sin with his words and he recognized the sinful influence of the company he kept. We are wise to keep a close watch on the desires of our hearts and to ask for God’s help in our areas of weakness.

A Prayer for Godly Accountability in the Fight Against Sin (141:5)

  • The kindness of godly accountability (v. 5a) – David’s desire to put sin to death is exemplified most clearly in the requests of verse 5. David recognizes that for a brother or sister to show him his sin is a kindness. Godly accountability is good gift for those who gladly receive it (James 5:19-20; Hebrews 3:12-13). 
  • The profit of godly accountability – Using the imagery of oil being poured on his head, David heralds the benefits of godly accountability. The person who welcomes a godly rebuke is wise, but the person who rejects it brings harm to himself (Proverbs 29:1; 9:7-8).

A Prayer for the Judgment of the Wicked (141:5d-7) 

  • Praying for vindication (vv. 5d-6) – In the second half of the psalm David turns his attention toward those who are sinning against him. As he calls on God to judge them, he asks for his own vindication. Perhaps, as some are judged, others will recognize that he spoke the truth.
  • Anticipating judgment (v. 7) – While this verse has caused translators much grief, it seems most likely that David is anticipating God’s judgment on those who are sinning against him. 
  • Application – David’s prayer for judgment is yet another example of his hatred of sin and his desire for God to do what is right. We should be thankful that God is just and that in the end He will make all things right.

A Prayer of Confidence in God (141:8-10) 

  • Be my focus and my refuge (v. 8) – While David found himself in a difficult situation, he kept his eyes fixed on God and trusted Him to be his refuge. 
  • Be my protector against evil (vv. 9-10) – These final verses are a prayer for safety, help, justice and protection. It’s evident that David’s trust in God is unflinching. He believes that God is the One who can keep him from the enemies’ trap and lead him to safety. We should trust God in the same way.