Should My Prayers Be Whinier?

December 21, 2008 | 11 comments
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The psalms are prayers. And some of them are real doozies.

Consider Psalm 120, where just a few minutes after requesting that the Lord shoot his (her?) enemies with flaming arrows, the psalmist declares “I am for peace.”

This is not the first nor last psalm that we might read as a prayer of retribution or vengeance; it is not the only one that prays for enemies to meet an unpleasant end. There are several apologetic dance steps that we might shuffle through at this point, such as claiming that the was the “old covenant” and that it would be inappropriate for Christians to pray in this way.

Another option is suggested by Psalms scholar John Goldingay: “The Psalms suggest an invitation not to deny that poison’s existence but to own it and bring it to God. It is at least possible that bringing our warring instincts to God will make it possible to leave them there?”

In other words, if you want to shoot your enemies with flaming arrows, ask God to do it. And then leave it with God. Get it all out. Vent. Whine. Plead for evil-doers to get their just reward. Ask God to do what you want to do, and then let it go.

What think we about this?

11 Responses to Should My Prayers Be Whinier?

  1. Anita on December 21, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Our car was stolen when we were newlyweds, and I happened to be reading the Psalms at the time. It was the first (and possibly only) time I really related to some of them–pleading for vengeance on my enemies matched my mood. Very therapeutic :-)

  2. Bookslinger on December 21, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I think that one of the main purposes of prayer is not for God to hear our prayers (we can’t tell him anything he doesn’t already know, or ask for something about which he doesn’t already know if we really need or not), but for us to hear our prayers.

    Hearing something spoken out loud makes it clearer to us. Only after hearing how pathetic some of my complaints and requests were, did I have a clearer understanding of what it was I was mentally thinking and wishing.

    I remember one request that I thought was reasonable, but when I heard myself pray/say it out loud, I realized how silly it was, withdrew the request, and apologized.

    So I think Goldingay has a point.

  3. Chris E on December 22, 2008 at 12:05 am

    I agree with you completely on this one, Bookslinger. I’ve had the same experience, sometimes all it takes is for me is to put my thoughts into prayer see how petty they are.

    On the other hand I have had the experience of being furious, (flaming arrows would have seemed like a reasonable option at the time.) Taking the time to pause and put my feelings into words to the Father of Mercy was an extraordinarily cathartic experience. Taking our thoughts to the Lord and expressing them, no matter how vile, mean, or whiny can help us to put them into proper perspective. It certainly helped me to avoid rash actions that I’m sure I’d have regretted. In my mind it seems to be one more way of casting our burden at his feet.

  4. Alison Moore Smith on December 22, 2008 at 3:09 am

    Great comment Bookslinger. Agreed–only sometimes I’m too–whatever–to withdraw.

  5. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Flaming arrows are too good for them.

  6. bfwebster on December 22, 2008 at 8:38 am

    In the D&C, right after the Lord tells us that “it is required of you to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10), He goes on to say: “And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.” So the Lord recognizes our need to vent and to express a desire for justice.

    Of course, the problem with that is that the last think I want is for the Lord to reward me according to my deeds, so I usually opt for the forgiveness part by itself. ..bruce..

  7. bfwebster on December 22, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Uh, “last thing I want”…

  8. Kathryn Lynard Soper on December 22, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Goldingay?

  9. Julie M. Smith on December 22, 2008 at 11:26 am
  10. Julie M. Smith on December 22, 2008 at 11:27 am
  11. Kathryn Lynard Soper on December 22, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Yeah. I just had visions of sugarplums and frolicking unicorns, that’s all.

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