I was reminded recently of this prayer for help in communication. In applying this verse with an analogy, one writer said that the “guard” before our mouth should include four soldiers or sentries. A sentry is “a soldier posted at a given spot to prevent the passage of unauthorized persons” (AHD). These sentries are Verity, Charity, Necessity, and Wisdom. These four should guard our lips, not from what comes in but from what potentially goes out. They keep guard by refusing to let anything out of our mouths that shouldn’t be out.
The first sentry is Verity. He asks, “Is it true?” (Eph 4:15). Is this word that you are about to speak a true word? Does it correspond to reality or is it a lie? If your word is not true, Sentry Verity says, then it may not pass.
The second is Charity, who asks, “Is it loving?” (1 Cor 13; Eph 4:15; Eccl 10:12-14). Is this word that you are about to speak a loving word? It may be true, but if it is not also loving, Sentry Charity says, then it may not pass.
The third is Necessity. He asks, “Is it necessary?” (Prov 10:19; 17:29). Is this word necessary to say? It may be true. It may be loving. But is it necessary to say. Does the person already understand and know all too well what you are thinking about saying. Determining the necessity depends in part upon the recipient of your words. Sometimes repetition aids learning. Sometimes repetition is not necessary. If the word is not necessary, Sentry Necessity says, then it may not pass.
The final sentry is Wisdom. Wisdom asks, “Is this wise to say this now, in this way? Is it best to come from me?” (Eccl 9:17; James 3:17-18). It may be true, loving and necessary, but it may not be the right time for this word to be said. It may not be the proper occasion for this word to be said. I may not be the proper person to speak this word. If I’m a child, is it my place to say this to my father or mother? If I’m an outsider to this family, would this word be better said by a family member? If the word is not a wise word, Sentry Wisdom says, then it may not pass.
Each thing that I choose to say should, in a sense, meet those sentries prior to coming out of my mouth. One by one, each Sentry should ask his question. If the answer is “no” to any of the questions, the words should be turned back and never be uttered. The sentry refuses the words and keeps them from exiting.
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”