Adopt some old school prayer habits like silence and vigil.
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37
Come judgment day, I think God will have some questions. “What have you done to my polar bears?!” for example. Or, “Have you loved your neighbor?”
“What have you done with the gifts I gave you?” will almost certainly be among the things we will have to answer for.
We have all been given spiritual gifts, talents specific to our callings, but there is one gift that is especially easy to take for granted: words.
Henri Nouwen reflects on the powerful things we can do with our words in this quote:
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”
I’m a comedy improviser, so I worked for a long time to become comfortable speaking without thinking and dealing with the consequences of my words after receiving the reward of a laugh. But that rarely jives with my call to holiness. I get caught in that thoughtless habit that works so well for me onstage and speak rashly out of passion or the desire for a laugh. And I know that I have hurt people by being a poor steward of the gift of language. I have made words a weapon, instead of a means to share or honor the Word Incarnate in times where it has mattered greatly.
Are you a good steward of language? When you speak, how often do you consider the effect – especially, the potentially lasting effect – your words might have before letting them out? How might you improve?
Lord, thank you for the gift of Your Son, the Incarnate Word. Thank you for the gift of language. Because of it, we can read and live in light of scripture, we can learn, and we can tell our stories. We can interact with You and with Your children. Lord, I confess that there have been times when I have taken this gift for granted but I don’t want to take any gift from You for granted. Help me to honor You and the people around me with my speech. Amen.
Take some time this week to exercise a vow of silence. Use it to reflect and confess the ways you have abused the gift of language: have you gossiped? Cursed? Taken God’s holy Name in vain? Criticized another person? Then use your silence and words for good by listening to God and the people around you. Respond only after reflecting on the words you want to say and your intentions first!