There’s a thing in scripture called “imprecatory prayers.” These prayers are summed up like this: “help me; hurt them.” (Psalm 137 is a prime example.)
Isn’t it good to know it’s ok to unload on God like this?
Presently, I’m in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah in my daily devotions. One significant aspect of the book of Nehemiah is that the book contains no miracles, nothing supernatural (as in the lives of Moses and the prophets, or in the Gospels and Acts). Just a common man leaning into Almighty God while every circumstance around him gave him good reason not to.
Nehemiah had been given expressed permission by King Artaxerxes to travel to his homeland in Israel and to lead the rebuilding of the city walls surrounding Jerusalem (the primary source of protection in those days was the wall). There was one problem though. Israel’s nasty neighbors did all they could do to keep it from happening. Why? Because Israel has laid desolate for well over a century. If they rebuild, they could potentially become strong. And those pompous neighbors didn’t want that.
Every wily attorney knows “if the evidence is against you – attack the witness.”
And that’s precisely what Nehemiah’s neighbors did. They took cheap shot after cheap shot at both Nehemiah and the people of Israel, doing all they could to fill them with fear, confusion and paranoia.
Israel’s neighbors couldn’t attack them (without Persian repercussions), but they could launch threats and verbal attacks at Nehemiah and his people. In short, they “attacked the witness.”
As you well know, targeted character assassinations and ridicule can plunge us into crippling discouragement and despair. It’s demoralizing. We begin questioning God, ourselves, and whether or not what we’re doing is even worth it. This was Satan’s strategy in Eden. He hasn’t changed. (If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.)
But, Nehemiah was a man of intense prayer (the longest recorded prayer in the Bible is in chapter 9). Prayer terrifies the devil. A preacher once said, “Satan trembles when even the weakest Christian cries out to God in prayer.” Here’s what Nehemiah prayed to God about his enemies:
“Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins,…” – 4:4-5
Help me; hurt them.
It’s ok to pray like this. If we’re praying amiss, God will convict us of that and redirect our prayers. But, most importantly, this kind of prayer leans into God and taps into his incomprehensible power. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” he warned. Hence, we are able to leave all of our fear, anger and discouragement at the feet of the Risen Christ.
I titled this blog “Scary Prayers.” Not because they’re scary to pray, but because those about whom we’re praying should be scared to death. God is coming.