Friday, June 25, 2010

Father's Day Sermons: Praying out of Anger:

Prayers that make me angry/prayers of anger.

Have you ever been in a situation where you overheard a prayer that made you angry?  Perhaps it was the way something was said, or something that the person praying attributed to God that you don’t or can’t believe God participates in.  Perhaps it’s a prayer of retribution, like we heard in the Psalm, involving the cruel and cold murder of infants for the purpose of ethnic cleansing. 

Maybe it’s just something that gnaws at you.  A word or a phrase that someone uses that really gets on your nerves.  This past week, I was driving and listening to Sports radio, where Dan Beebe, the commissioner of the Big XII was announcing that the 10 remaining schools of the Big XII would stay together in one conference.  He then attributed preservation of the Big XII (something that occurred in backroom deals between billionaires and TV executives, and University Board members) to God’s will. 

Yes, a deal that ingratiates nine Big XII member schools to the University of Texas, making it even more rich and powerful, is something that God wants, so if you’re opposed to it, you must be opposed to God too. 

Speaking of God in prayer in this way annoys me.  It’s fairly humorous and transparently wonkish in the case of Dan Beebe.  I wanted to write him and say, I’m a Hog fan, does God love the SEC too?  You would think so, with five straight years of National Championships, after all. 

A key question of prayer is, “to what should we attribute God’s attention and power?”  Is it appropriate to solicit God’s action in matters that benefit some, (including yourself) while disadvantaging, even harming others? 

If you do believe that some prayers wrongly characterize God, how are we as Christians who believe certain things about God, supposed to encounter such prayers? 

Perhaps the prayers that make me angry are some of those borne of an anger that I have not felt.  Perhaps I am just ignorant of the feelings (and blessedly so) that would cause some people to pray for God to take vengeance or bash babies brains out on the rocks.  Does that mean I should sit back silently and accept blindly those prayers when I hear them being prayed? 

If I were one of those Israelites enslaved by the Babylonians and betrayed by the Edomites, would I be praying the same thing, or if I had the wherewithal to speak up, would it be right for me to say, wait a minute Ahaz, I don’t think we should be asking God to take innocent children and bash their brains out on the rocks—after all, what if people hear that and think that God is giving us license to act in the name of God in that way, and do something terribly inhuman. 

What do we do when we encounter prayers that make us angry?

The following is the opening paragraph to the "angry prayer project."  The introduction helps us learn to be in communion with God even in the midst of our anger:
                                                                                --Elie Wiesel 

        Inspiration and healing through angry prayer?
        At first, those ideas don’t seem compatible.  But if you’re so stuck in an angry place that you can no longer commune with the Divine then how can you ever experience inspiration and healing?
        All people of faith are called to a life of honesty and prayer.
        Sometimes, however, because of the way we are raised up, even the most faithful find it difficult to pray truthfully during times of anger, frustration and stress. 
         Are you one of those people who is angry at God or who feels bottled up with this brokenness?  Have you ever considered how many biblical heroes felt that same kind of brokenness with God and yet prayed their way through it?
         I believe that God calls us to transition through the difficult emotions that plague us toward a place of peace by naming the problem, proclaiming our pain and reframing our perspective.
         Naming, proclaiming and reframing: This is the potential of truthful prayer as it is modeled in the Bible.
         And this is the hope of the Angry Prayer Project, to practice the biblical tradition of praying truthfully even if we are angry at God.
         In order to read, to reflect and to participate, click forward.
         If you have never been so angry that you have discontinued your conversations with the Divine just when you needed them most, be grateful and try not to judge those that struggle to pray truthfully every day.
         Angry prayers may seem ugly and foreign to you, perhaps even blasphemous.  In truth, I believe, there is nothing so blasphemous as trying to fool God by just paying lip service in prayer.

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