A prayer for writers, teachers, and preachers

This is a simple meditation on Scripture. In Ps 137, the writer begins by mourning how after carting the Israelites off to their land, the Babylonians taunted them by demanding that they sing cheerful songs of Zion. The Psalm then contains these verses (vv. 5-6):

"If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy."

The psalmist wants his singing to retain its authenticity and rootedness. He does not want to sing with falsehood in his heart. If he begins to sing the songs with an empty desire merely to entertain or please his captors, may God take away his ability to play the lyre or give voice to a tune. Therefore, he would not sing for the Babylonians like a paid performer.

For anyone who communicates ideas about God, whether it be in writing or speaking, whether in a large audience or small, there is a Babylonian taunt that whispers insidiously to us. It is an invitation to become performers. And let's face it, with all the attention given to Christians who can communicate well, the invitation easily becomes a temptation to invest our egos into the business of gaining an ever-larger audience. Whenever we seek an audience for our own ends, we are giving in to the insidious invitation to sell out.

Therefore, as one who communicates ideas about God, this Psalm quickly transformed for me into a prayer of authenticity. May I never write, teach, or preach just to gain an audience. Because ambition is always a temptation, I can pray this way:

"If I forget you, O Lord -- if I walk onto a stage for my own ends and not yours -- let my mind lose its skill in putting together ideas. May I never forget you while talking about you!

If I do not set you above the highest joy I could gain as a communicator, may my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth. May my fingers lose their ability to strike the keys of a keyboard. May my joy be in you and not in my own desires!

Lord, I set my heart upon you. When I speak for you, may I be loyal to you. May I seek your ends. May my pleasure be bringing you glory."

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