My take on the ferocious prayers of the Psalms is that Christians shouldn’t skip over them, nor should we pray them exactly as they stand.  My reasoning is summed up in one word: Jesus.  The gospel of Jesus is the supreme fact of the universe, and so we must learn to interpret all things in light of the gospel.  And by all things I mean all things, including the world around us, the Bible, that big book called Psalms in the middle of the Bible, and all the imprecations therein.

So, you find yourself on the receiving end of terrible evil.  Or you’re grieved and angered upon seeing how others are oppressed.  You turn to the Psalms to find a voice for your anguish.  And there they are—a short outburst here, sustained smoldering there—cries to God to do violence to his enemies.  I gave examples of these prayers here, and I argued that it’s okay to pray these prayers, provided we pray them in light of the gospel, here.  So what does that look like?  How are you, as a Christian, to pray these prayers? Read the rest of this entry »

The most likely explanation for why the Psalms have never made a person uncomfortable is that the person has never read all of them.  Woven throughout the beautiful prayers of praise and thanksgiving, of lament and confession, are appeals to God to do violence to his enemies.  I gave some examples of these prayers yesterday.

The Psalms include ferocious prayers, more commonly called prayers of imprecation.  Should Christians pray these prayers?  If so, how are we to pray them?  Those are the questions I want to answer. Read the rest of this entry »

How do you pray for the young man who date-raped your daughter?  How do you pray for the terrorist?  How do you pray for the kids at school who are pressuring your son to try drugs?  How do you pray for the uncle who is abusing you?  How do you pray for those unreached people who tortured and killed your missionary husband?  How do you pray for government officials who authorize the persecution of Christians?  When you suffer evil, how do you pray? Read the rest of this entry »

boston-marathon-explosion

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

– Jesus | John 14:27

Heavenly Father, our hearts are troubled and we are afraid.  Please grant peace to Boston and to us all.  We turn to you in the name of your Son, who was killed and rose again.  Amen.  

Jesus prayed the Psalms, of that we are sure.  But in what way did Jesus pray those Psalms in which the psalmist confesses guilt and cries out for forgiveness?  Bonhoeffer’s answer to the question has stirred my affection for Christ.  Here are a few relevant quotations:

It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us….

Christ speaks of the guilt of all men, also about the guilt of David and my own guilt which he has taken upon himself, and borne, and for which he now suffers the wrath of the Father….

How can the sinless one ask for forgiveness?  In no way other than he can, as the sinless one, bear the sins of the world and be made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Not for the sake of his sins, but for the sake of our sins, which he has taken upon himself and for which he suffers, does Jesus pray for the forgiveness of sins.  He positions himself entirely for us.  He wants to be a man before God as we are.  So he prays the most human of all prayers with us and thereby demonstrates precisely that he is the true Son of God.

Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 20-21, 37, 51-52

Christ Jesus, in taking upon himself our sin, also took upon himself our guilt and need for forgiveness.  Jesus prays in our place as the true man.