When was the last time you heard anger, frustration, sadness, and despair expressed in prayer during church worship? Often we hear or say prayers that are polite and eloquent. Even if we hear raw emotions and unfiltered words expressed in prayer we are tempted to think, “those emotions are unacceptable” and “that word needs to be filtered”.
However, in the Scriptures we hear many examples of people expressing their unedited anger, lament, grief, hopelessness, and despair to God in the midst of injustice and suffering. Specifically, in Psalm 35, David’s prayer is a cry for justice that is neither unfiltered, nor refined. It is unashamedly honest. He says,
“…Bring shame and disgrace on those trying to kill me;
turn them back and humiliate those who want to harm me.
…So let sudden ruin come upon them!
Let them be caught in the trap they set for me!
Let them be destroyed in the pit they dug for me…” - Psalm 35:4,8
David doesn't try to hide his feelings. He doesn’t attempt to be polite or polished in his presentation. He simply expresses his hatred and aggression towards his enemies and calls out for God’s judgment. It is interesting that while he expresses his anger towards those who are unjust, he does not act against them in his anger. Instead, he appeals to God to judge them and puts his hope in God to make all things right.
This Psalm teaches us to be honest in prayer. It teaches us to acknowledge our concerns and feelings and ultimately commit all things into God’s care. In other words, it teaches us to say anything and everything, literally anything and everything to God and trust that He will take care of it according to His wise ways.
May we be honest with the plight of our world, including the persecution of the church in the Middle East and North Africa, the astonishing rise of paranoia in the West regarding Muslims and people of colour, the state of refugees and immigrants who are fleeing persecution, oppression, terror, war, and poverty, and the injustice and suffering we are facing in our own contexts. Be it anger or indifference, may David’s psalm and Jesus' prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane help us to bring our feelings to God in prayer. One thing is certain—we will never fully learn to trust God until we are completely honest with Him about everything.