Friday, August 24

Horrible Prayers

A friend of mine sent me a post by Mark Galli. Here are some excerpts and my response.

Last week, Wiley S. Drake, an California pastor and a former national leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, asked his followers to pray for the deaths of two leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS).

He did so because the group urged the IRS to investigate his church's nonprofit status. Drake had endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president, doing so on church letterhead and during a church-affiliated internet radio show; the AUSCS was naturally concerned.

Drake said he was "simply doing what God told me to do." He believes AUSCS officials are "enemies of God" and that "God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church."

Leaving little to the imagination, Drake offered some samples that, I presume, were to be answered before God killed the officials: "Let his days be few, and let another take his office," his suggested prayer reads. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

Galli makes some interesting remarks:

"But when we Christians hear about a character like Drake, we flinch because we know that such prayers litter the Bible—everything from King David's "Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!" (Ps. 139:19) to Paul's "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22)."

"As silly and archaic as the Rev. Drake sounds, he's in good company.
So why are we so uncomfortable with him—and with Jesus, David, and Paul? Well, for one, we no longer have much confidence in the truth of the gospel. We've all been infected by the relativistic air we breathe in this polluted century, at least when it comes to religion."

"The difference between the Rev. Drake's prayer and those of desperate parents or even an angry Jesus is this: The Rev. Drake appears to have no love for his enemies but merely wishes them cursed. But is there not a way to pray for consequences, for pain—for judgment! —that leads to redemption?"

"I do not mean to suggest that all the curses and imprecatory prayers of the Bible (like Psalm 109, which goes on and on with curses) are models for us. Love and redemption do not often seem to be the driving motive!"

"At the same time, we are a na├»ve and sentimental people if we equate love with mere social grace and think that niceness will successfully confront the massive and intransient evils of our day, individual and corporate. Redemption—personal, social, and cosmic—comes only through suffering. The paradox is that while we should not wish pain on anyone, it seems to be a perfectly loving and realistic act to pray for it."
My response:
That's pretty interesting! I think I agree pretty much with everything Mark says. There's a lot about Biblical prayers that we're uncomfortable with--being angry with God and with other people, for example. But that means that a large portion of our inner life gets excluded from prayer. Better to pray all kinds of horrible things and trust God to deal with them wisely and well, than to try to deal with them in our own wisdom and strength, and keep our act "clean" with God.

Of course, for a Christian leader to call their followers to pray for anyone's death is another thing altogether . . .