Every day I look for a phrase that helps me focus on God and dismiss unnecessary and distracting thoughts as I pray. The other day a beautiful “phrase” came to light that had been staring me in the face. It’s in The Book of Common Prayer and comes from Psalm 51.
Officiant Lord, open our lips.
People And our mouth shall proclaim your praise. 
As I meditated on that petition, it occurred to me that God gives us the ability to speak, first and foremost, to declare his praise. The idea of praising God is a stream that runs through the Bible, especially in the Psalms. Accordingly, the last psalm gives us a grand series of prompts to praise God. For example, “Praise God in his sanctuary; / praise him in his mighty heavens. / Praise him for his acts of power; / praise him for his surpassing greatness.” It ends with the triumphant, “Praise the Lord!” 
We also use our lips for ordinary communication, recreational conversation, and relationship-building. It is truly a blessing to be able to speak. Alas, we use our mouths far too often for criticism, backbiting, and even vulgarity. A good spiritual discipline would be to monitor our speech and go a whole day, a week, or even a month without negative conversation.
An article about a gifted pastor by the name of Dieter Zander has prompted me to think more deeply about the purpose and blessing of speech. In 2008 he suffered a massive stroke that hampers his ability to think normally. His speech no longer flows freely. He cannot preach or teach, so he lost his vocation as a pastor. And he has lost friends who simply don’t have time to wait and listen. 
In the midst of those losses there is the blessing of silence and intimacy with God. Zander ironically refers to his misfortune as a “stroke of grace.” He has embraced the losses as part of his life journey. “And I realize it’s not my leadership, or my singing or my performance that God loves. Even when all that is gone God tells me—just as I am, all alone with nothing—I am loved.” 
Yet, God has reopened Zander’s lips! A short video, available at http://vimeo.com/16044957, shows how the prayer, “Lord, open our lips. / And our mouth shall proclaim your praise,” is being answered.