Praying for Pay Day

Bible Reading:
Psalms of the Troubled Soul Psalm 88; 91; 95; 108; 109

"O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me.... They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship.... May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.... May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.... He loved to pronounce a curse--may it come on him; he found no pleasure in blessing--may it be far from him. He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil. May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him" (109:1-2, 5, 9-12, 17-19).

These bitter words came from the mouth of King David, who is described, by God, as "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22). Most of us would feel guilty about uttering such hateful words. Yet, David seems quite comfortable with praying curses upon his accusers and tormentors, some of whom had once been trusted friends. While he seldom took justice into his own hands, many of the Psalms are filled with angry, hurt-filled prayers, asking God to take vengeance on his behalf (i.e. Ps. 28, 35, 52, 55-59, 64, 69, 70, 109, 140).

In times when I, too, have been personally attacked and betrayed, I have found great comfort in reading these psalms. They have validated my pain and have encouraged me to be just as gut-level honest with God as David was. When I would try to stuff down the pain and only pray "nice" prayers, the silent bitterness would wrap itself around me and slowly strangle my soul. But when I would turn on the faucet of raw emotion and repeatedly pour out my angry, wounded heart to God, the dark, bitter water would drain out of my soul. If I couldn't muster up any "love" in my heart for those who mistreated me, I could at least pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). I could pray like David did!

As I poured out my bitter water to the Lord, he poured his streams of living water over me. As I prayed for (and against) those who had hurt me, God began to reveal his own heart. He, too, was angry at what they had done, but he could also clearly see their wounds. As he gave me glimpses of their pain, my heart began to soften; my prayers began to change. Over time, as I experienced the healing powers of God's love and grace in my own life, I started praying that God would bring healing into their lives too. The more I learned to trust God's heart, the more I trusted him to dole out justice or mercy in just the right amounts and in just the right ways.

God can deal with my enemies much more effectively than I can. Just as David modeled, Paul also reminds us not to take our own revenge, but to let God handle those who have wronged us (Rom. 12:17,19). If they will not turn their hearts to God, he will not let them go unpunished. "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them" (Deut. 32:35).

While we may find comfort in praying for their "day of disaster," we can also find satisfaction in being kind to our enemies. Even if our motive in doing so is to "heap burning coals" on their heads (Rom. 12:20), God may use our unexpected kindness to crack through their hardened exterior and let them taste his unexpected grace. In fact, at one time in my life, the undeserved acceptance shown to me by one who should have treated me like an enemy was a major turning point in my spiritual journey.

Let us pray our enemies into the hands of the Sovereign Lord, who declares, "...I will judge you, each one according to his ways.... Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.... For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!" (Ez. 18:30-32).