Psalm 141

Psalm 141[a]

Prayer for Protection against Evildoers

1 [b]A psalm of David.

O Lord, I call to you; come quickly to my aid;
listen to my plea when I call out to you.
2 May my prayer be like incense[c] before you,
the lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice.
3 [d]Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not permit my heart to be drawn to evil,
or to the pursuit of wicked deeds
in the company of those who do evil;
let me not share in their corruption.
5 [e]If a righteous man strikes me, I regard it as kindness;
if he rebukes me, it is oil on my head.[f]
But never let the oil of the wicked anoint my head,
for my prayer is always opposed to their evil deeds.
6 [g]When their leaders are flung down in stony places,
they will learn that my prayers were heard.
7 As the soil is shattered when the ground is plowed,
so our bones are scattered at the mouth of the netherworld.
8 [h]But my eyes are turned to you, O Lord God;
in you I seek refuge;
do not take my life away.
9 Keep me safe from the traps they have laid for me,
from the snares of evildoers.
10 Let the wicked tumble into their own nets all together
while I pass by unharmed.[i]


  1. Psalm 141:1 Surrounded by the wicked who persecute him in order to drag him with them into impiety, the psalmist offers up an evening prayer, matching the morning prayer referred to in Ps 5:4. The poet begs God to protect him against every defection, to help him refuse all connivance with the wicked, and to enable him ultimately to escape their plots against him.
    This psalm is a reminder to us that, impelled by the devil, our greatest enemy, the world hates us because we are not of the world (see Jn 15:19; 17:14). By every available means, it strives to snatch us away from Christ to serve the devil. Aware of our weakness, we should “pray that [we] may not enter into temptation” (Mk 14:38), reciting this psalm when necessary.
  2. Psalm 141:1 The psalmist is in a precarious position, so he hopes his prayer for help will be like a pleasing offering before the Lord.
  3. Psalm 141:2 Incense: literally, “smoke,” i.e., the fragrant fumes that wafted from the altar at the daily burning of sacrificial animals or aromatic spices. The lifting up of my hands: a symbol of dependence on and praise of the Lord (see Pss 28:2; 63:5; 1 Tim 2:8).
  4. Psalm 141:3 The psalmist, like the sages, carefully watches over his heart so as not to give in to sins of speech or action, for he knows that the wicked use their tongues for destruction (see Ps 140:4) while the righteous express love and fidelity (see Ps 15:2f). He begs the Lord to keep his heart from sin and temptation so that he may do God’s will (see Ps 119:10, 36, 133). Let me not share in their corruption: literally, “let me not eat of their delicacies.”
  5. Psalm 141:5 The psalmist delineates the fate of evil rulers at God’s hands, and hopes that the shock may bring their followers to their senses.
  6. Psalm 141:5 Oil was poured on the head in a gesture of welcome and hospitality (see Lk 7:46).
  7. Psalm 141:6 The text of these verses is obscure and their meaning uncertain. As it stands here, the meaning of verse 7 may be: “As a farmer breaks up the soil and brings up the rocks, so the bones of the wicked will be scattered without a decent burial” (see Ps 79:2-3).
  8. Psalm 141:8 The psalmist prays for deliverance and for vindication, for he remains with eyes of faith fixed on the Lord (see Ps 25:15).
  9. Psalm 141:10 God’s vindication comes in the form of retribution; the schemes of the wicked will recoil upon them (see notes on Pss 5:11; 35).

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