Prayer is a wonderful thing. Ever since I learnt to pray in my late teens, having discovered a relationship with God through Jesus, I have never ceased to be amazed at just how great a privilege it is. The mission organization we joined in 2009 has the words “Prayer is a priority” amongst their principles and practices and those in the mission acknowledge the vital importance of this truth. They believe as E M Bounds once said:
“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”
Of course, the Psalms are a great source for an effective prayer life. In fact, it was originally the Jewish prayer book. But, when we consider Psalm 109, despite its “valid function” (see quote from Kidner in my last Post), the question has to be, can a Christian pray using the language of vengeance and vindication used by David against his enemies?
Note that the question isn’t, can we feel like praying in this way? Because, in the face of incredible injustice (either against us or another), the natural thing should be a feeling of outrage and a sense that justice is required.
But, to actually pray as David did? Probably not! Why do I say this? Because I have read the New Testament and observed the words and life of Jesus and his followers. Here are a few examples:
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:9-12)
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
And on the cross, 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Kidner comments on this question:
“…the short answer must surely be No… [although he adds] we may of course translate them into affirmations of God’s judgement, and into denunciations of ‘the spiritual hosts of wickedness’ which are the real enemy. As for the men of flesh and blood who ‘live as enemies of the cross’ or who make themselves our enemies, our instructions are to pray not against them but for them; to turn them from the power of Satan to God; to repay their evil with good; and to choose none of their ways.” (# 29)
The good news is that there is help for us to be able to pray, even in this incredibly amazing way. Paul says:
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Let me finish with a quote from Charles Spurgeon
“Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.”