Imprecatory Psalms and Comfort for Weary Souls

They do more (though not less) than teach us about God's judgment.

August 08, 2018Filed under Theology#burnout#prayer#psalmsMarkdown source

I read Psalm 94 in my devotions this morning—one of the “imprecatory psalms” which prays for God to judge the wicked. After the last couple days I’ve had, I joked with my wife that I was praying it against Microsoft Windows.

The imprecatory content of the psalm is a deep well I shall not plumb today; in any case Windows is not an “enemy” the way the psalmist meant it. The thing I noticed as I reflected on the psalm, though, was how much it did that is good and right for me to imitate. This is not merely a prayer for God to deliver from oppression and to right wrongs. It is also a prayer that simultaneously demonstrates and practices trust in God: demonstrates, because only one who trusts God can pray like this; and practices, because the act of prayer is the necessary outworking of that trust. This is the right model for us whatever our circumstances—including for me, in the midst of some burnout and some particularly deep frustrations with the thorns and thistles of work and labor in this life.

Put more directly: If a man facing enemies of the murderous sort could say “When I thought, ‘My foot slips,’ / your steadfast love, oh Lord, held me up. // When the cares of my heart are many, / your consolations cheer my soul,” then I can—and must—say the same with him.