People get angry in different ways. You may raise your voice. Or react with harsh words. Or gossip negatively about someone. Or carry resentment. Or stonewall someone who has offended you. Or get depressed.
Or you can follow the example of the Psalmist and offer an angry prayer.
The Psalmist shows us how to deal with anger, particularly in the imprecatory (or cursing) Psalms. For instance, a typical example of an angry prayer is when David prays in Psalm 35:
“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me” (verse 1). He verbalizes his anger to God and entrusts justice to God. And he takes up his shield –- he sets his boundaries of protection (verse 2).
Honesty. Submission to God. Boundaries.
This is the godly way to deal with anger. This is the way that the Psalmist is at peace. Peace. What a gift it is to be at peace! And true peace – God’s kind of peace – is demonstrated in the midst of conflict and stress.
Perhaps you grew up in a home where anger was not dealt with in healthy and loving ways? If you’ve carried this forward then you’re probably having trouble in your relationships.
I’d like to help you learn that using angry prayers can help you grow in the peace of the Psalmist.
Think of a situation in which you are prone to react in anger or to stuff your anger…
Maybe it’s when a friend hurts your feelings, someone criticizes you, your child disobeys you, you make a mistake, or your driving your car and you get cut off…
Imagine yourself in that stressful situation…
Then pray with the Psalmist:
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me…
Take up shield and buckler;
Arise and come to my aid…
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation”…
Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
And delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, O Lord?” (Psalm 35:1-3, 9-10).
When we keep praying in the Psalmist’s way we’re being honest about the situation we’re in and how we feel. We’re not stuffing our emotions and getting depressed or resentful, nor are we going to the other extreme and speaking or acting out of anger in ways that hurt people. In fact, to help us release our anger we may need to use some other Psalms that have intense angry prayers.
Another thing the Psalmist is teaching us is to abandon outcomes to God. He’s showing us how to submit our will and your desire for justice to the Sovereign Lord. We’re stepping out of the position of trying to make my life what I want it to be and instead placing ourselves in the Kingdom of God. We’re defining our self (setting our boundaries) based on God’s righteousness, not just our own desires.
This takes practice. It’s a spiritual discipline. If you practice praying honestly and submitting to God in this way before you are mistreated, then God’s peace will work its way into you and begin to govern you and define you. Then, when trouble hits, you won’t react or implode with anger.
Listen to the companion Soul Talks episode, Emotions: Befriending our Anger.