“The Bible stresses that what you say is an accurate indication of what is in your heart. If your words bless and encourage others, they give evidence of a compassionate heart. If you often share the good news about Christ, you demonstrate a heart that is grateful for your own salvation. When others are in a crisis, do they know they will find peace and comfort in your words? Do you frequently and spontaneously offer prayers for others? Do your words and the manner in which you say them reveal a patient heart? All of these behaviors indicate a heart that is like the heart of the Father.”
The words we use have tremendous power. The Bible says that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). I believe that our prayers will have more power and a greater anointing when our everyday life is filled with words that uplift and bring grace to others (Ephesians 4:29). A holy life is a powerful life when it comes to seeing answers to prayer. Jesus’ prayers were heard because of His reverent submission (Hebrews 5:7). Righteous living and right speech come from a right heart before God.
It is important for all of us who want to have an effective prayer life to carefully watch our speech.
The Power of the Tongue
A person can speak many words a minute and several thousand in an hour. You can imagine how many words an average person speaks in a day! And some estimates are that women speak twice as many words a day as men. We could fill a library in a lifetime! If we did, what would the titles of those books be? The tongue has a powerful influence on others. God is looking for a holy life, and one of the key areas that we must guard with all diligence is our tongue.
The truth is, we all have problems with what we say. That’s probably why the Bible says so much about the tongue. Proverbs is filled with verses about both the positive and negative aspects of the tongue. I counted the terms tongue, lips, mouth, and words, and they appear over 170 times in the Bible. We lived many years on a ship and remember how the small the rudder would steer our ship in huge storms. James 3:4-5 says:
“Take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
Speaking negatively is costly in the spiritual realm, while watching what we say can bring spiritual reward. In Jericho, God’s people marched around the city in silence for six days. When they finally shouted on the seventh day, the walls came down immediately. Their silence and then shouting at the right time won them the victory. This is true of us individually as well. If we guard our speech, we can win a great victory. Think about this:
- When we walk and speak in the power of the Holy Spirit, we defeat the enemy.
- When we abide in Christ, His Spirit flows from our lives in word and deed everywhere we go.
- When we enter a place where fear is evident, we can come in the spirit of peace and speak words of life.
Our words can be kind and full of love. Our actions along with words spoken with gentleness, peace, and self-control demonstrate love even in the midst of our enemies. We read in Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
The Lips of the Righteous
In Proverbs 10, we find seven characteristics of the lips of the righteous. When we refrain from critical and negative speech, we must replace it with uplifting, positive, and grace-filled words. Think about the words you speak. Are they uplifting and do they bring life to others? Ask God to help you evaluate your speech as you read these verses:
- A fountain of life – “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked” (verse 11).
- Discerning lips – “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment” (verse 13).
- Holds his tongue – “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (verse 19).
- Choice silver – “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value” (verse 20).
- Nourishes many – “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment” (verse 21).
- Brings forth wisdom – “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out” (verse 31).
- Knows what is fitting – “The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse” (verse 32).
On a trip to India, I took with me a book to read called A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot about Amy Carmichael. She was a successful missionary in India who saved children out of child prostitution, a shining example of one who had learned to give up her own life and live for God alone. Amy had Christlike character and godly speech. Every time I rode on those bumpy roads or had to go through hardship, I said to myself, “This is a chance to die to myself.” I had many opportunities on that trip to remind myself again what God was doing inside me. He was teaching me humility and brokenness and developing my character. I was reminded in those moments to watch my tongue and speak words that would uplift and bless others. And when I did speak positively, God blessed even in the midst of hardship.
When you’re going through adversity, realize the tremendous power of your words and tell yourself, “I will watch the words that come out of my mouth. This is a chance to die to myself and live for Jesus.”
“Jesus spoke plainly about our idle words, yet his warning often goes unheeded. Jesus said that for every idle word there will be a time of accounting in the day of judgment. We would expect Jesus to condemn profane and vile uses of the tongue, but idle words? Idle words are things we say carelessly, without concern for their impact on others. We too quickly assume that the sins of our tongue are minor sins, sins that God will overlook. Yet Jesus was fully aware of the devastating nature of our words.” Quotes by Henry and Richard Blackaby
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff