By Lee Karl Palo
© 2014 Lee Karl Palo
Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, appears to be dying. It is often a struggle to know what to do or how to feel regarding the imminent demise of a person who has caused so much pain. As a Christian, I know God desires reconciliation and repentance, but the hurt is great. It is toward persons like this that I pray like the Psalmists.
Feelings need to find a positive means of expression, and imprecatory prayer provides a way to this. For those unfamiliar with the term, imprecatory prayer is another way to describe the spiritual practice of cursing. It is better to express our anger and outrage to God than to take action contrary to the will of God. Unfortunately many churches today tend to avoid talking about how to deal with “negative” emotions. Lectionary selections from the Psalms generally avoid the imprecatory prayers scattered among them. There are some good reasons for this, but the subject shouldn’t be avoided altogether.
How do I do practice imprecatory prayer? I start by recognizing the will of God. As I mentioned above, God desires reconciliation and repentance. God loves everyone. That people act in ways that hurt others grieves the heart of God. There is such a thing as righteous anger though. The difficulty is in how to combine God’s love with our anger in one prayer.
Here are a few helpful images from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
– Christian baptism represents the death of the old sinful self.
– The wages sin pays is death (Romans 6:23).
– The Lord’s Prayer asks for God’s will to be done.
These points can be combined together as follows:
God, you know my hurt and anger toward Fred Phelps. I know that you love Fred Phelps and desire his repentance—that he should renounce his evil actions (his sin), and practice them no more. I ask that you bring his evil actions to an end. God, hasten the death of his sinful self or hasten his physical death, so as to put a stop to his evil actions. God grant me the peace to accept your will in all situations. I release my desire for revenge to you. Open my heart so that if he repents of his sin I may only see the new creation you have wrought in him instead of the person who has caused so much pain. As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, I too will affirm “not my will but yours be done.” Amen.
© 2014 Lee Karl Palo