i’ve been reading a book recently called They Smell Like Sheep: Leading with the Heart of a Shepherd. it’s a book for us pastor-types. you guys are the sheep. i’m just sayin’.
anyway, there’s a chapter in the book that admonishes pastors to pray for their people; it discusses the power of leading from our knees. the next chapter spells out the recommendation of praying through the psalms in the bible. for the first 30 days, i’m supposed to read and then pray 5 psalms, and by so doing, i’ll get all the way through all 150 psalms in 30 days. so, since today is the first of the month, i begin today.
over the past couple days, i kicked the tires a little. i looked ahead. of course, what i found was no surprise. it’s why i personally have trouble even reading through many of the psalms, much less praying them.
psalm 1 – awesome
psalm 2 – a little disconnect for me
and then… psalm 3. ouch.
psalm 3, verses 1-2: O LORD, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!”
(i SO hope this isn’t true. you guys WOULD tell me, wouldn’t you?)
and then, verse 7 – Arise O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
see what happens? by the time i get to the 3rd of 150 psalms, i’m already feeling pretty uncomfortable. i know there are some awesome and amazing psalms coming up, but if i have to wade through this kinda stuff first, well…
i mean, this kinda talk might suit you, but didn’t Jesus say if somebody slaps you on one cheek, turn the other? i don’t remember him whispering something about asking God to uppercut the guy while you’re turning that cheek. how is a Christ-follower supposed to pray, ‘smack ’em in the mouth, God!’?
maybe you struggle with some of the psalms like this a well. if so, i’ve got some help for us both.
these psalms are called Imprecatory Psalms. they were written and prayed by people who knew they were called and chosen by God, and yet who struggled when they saw God not winning certain battles. when other nations had the upper hand over israel, the psalm writers cried out to God to be their champ, to smack ’em in the mouth.
as christians in america, we don’t so much feel this pain. sure, we don’t like certain people who do certain things to annoy us, but that’s not nearly the same as having great and mortal enemies.
but check this out as a way of understanding these psalms for our own lives: if you are a Christ-follower, you DO indeed have an enemy like this. his name is satan. everything he does is intended to tear down the kingdom of God. so if you are living in the kingdom, and living to expand the kingdom – if you are praying: Your Kingdom com, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – then YOU are targeted. you have an enemy.
and praying that God would shatter his teeth is quite appropriate.
tim keller, a pastor i enjoy reading, says this:
“basically, realize that calls for justice are absolutely right, and remind us how important God’s holiness and justice are. .. we as Christians can pray these psalms as longings for social justice and hatred against the ‘powers and principalities’ behind the world.”
(here, he means the evil or negative spiritual powers that contend against God – see ephesians 6.12 or colossians 2.15)
i don’t know about you, but i can get pretty fired up about praying that God would kick satan’s face in. i am so tired of seeing so many places where satan seems to rule, where sin, pain and injustice flourish. like the psalm writers, i am so ready to see God come as our champion to put things right and undo all the garbage around us that doesn’t bring glory to God and peace to us and our families.
so here i go. for the month of october, i’ll be praying through the psalms, starting today. i’d be happy to have some company, so if you’re joining me, let me know.
let’s kick a little satan-butt together!
smack ’em in the mouth, God!