Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When Our Enemies are in Our Prayers

John N. Day's "The Pillars of Imprecation: How to Pray for Your Enemies by Praying Against Them" in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (November 2006) gives us a fine essay on how we might pray those psalms which ask God to destroy those who oppress and terrorize us. Day's essay focuses on Psalm 83, the very psalm which The Daily Prayer of the Church asks us to use on Mondays in Week I.

When praying such a psalm, Day urges us to place our imprecations before God as follows:
  • only is settings of extreme enmity (as, for example, in Dafur)
  • only while we practice persistant love of God and mankind (Matthew 22.37-39)
  • only as we relinquish all personal desires of revenge (Leviticus 19.18)
  • only as we appeal to God who has told that He alone is the Avenger (Deuteronomy 32.35)
  • only as we plead with "the perfected saints in heaven" (Revelation 6.9-11)
It is, of course, difficult to keep such admonitions and cautions in one's heart and mind as we "pray for our enemies by praying against them." As I was reading/praying Psalm 83 yesterday morning and in the post-psalm silence thought about how it as it relates to the Church's (and thus to my own) prayer life, I found it difficult to collect my thoughts adequately after the silence. The DPC's "after-silence" collect (usually good) was inadequate and did not help very much. To help me next month (or whenever I come across psalms of imprecation) last night I wrote this collect:

O God, in your mercy You have promised to deliver suffering and oppressed peoples from the hands of those who hate you; as we live between Your command to love our enemies and Your promises to undo those who murder, rape, and pillage the innocent, we ask that You fill those who are evil with shame that they may seek Your name and repent of their evil; seeking to be obedient to your will and forsaking every personal desire for retaliation, we implore You to execute Your divine justice for the sake of those who suffer oppression; within the Company of Heaven and in the love and justice of Christ, we offer ourselves and these petitions through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with You and the Holy Spirit forever.

If you would like to read Day's essay, let me know, and I see to it that you receive a print copy. And let me know how the collect above might be improved so that I might learn how to pray for my enemies while praying to God against them.

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