How to Pray When You’re Outraged

There is a healthy way to deal with things that disturb, frighten and even outrage you.

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Posted in , Apr 18, 2017

Pray your anger and outrage.

Everyone seems to be outraged these days.

Whether on social media or at awards ceremonies, in marches or speeches, in politics or entertainment, there is no shortage of outrage. “If you’re not outraged,” some suggest, “you’re not paying attention.” Others contend that outrage is being manufactured and subsidized by various entities with a sinister agenda. Regardless, there is a healthy way to deal with things that disturb, frighten, and even outrage you:

Pray.

Sounds trite, doesn’t it? “Just pray about it.” But one thing the Bible shows us is that prayer is a powerful and effective outlet for our outrage, and praying your outrage can help to prevent both denial (“I’m not feeling this way”) and guilt (“I shouldn’t be feeling this way”).

Read More: A Prayer for Stressful Times

The Psalms, especially, teach us to pray our outrage. They include a whole category of “outage psalms” (Bible scholars call them the “imprecatory” psalms, from “imprecation,” a word which simply means a spoken curse). You may be surprised at how “curse-full” some of the imprecatory psalms are (you may even be outraged by some of them!). Go ahead, take a look. They are Psalms 35, 69, 83, 88, 109, 137 and 140.

Why would the Bible include “cursing” or “outrage psalms?” For several reasons, I think. First, because the Bible reflects and depicts the whole range of human emotion; its testimony and teaching are both honest and complete. Second, God is not shocked or annoyed by our emotions—even our strongest ones. Third, as David prayed, “Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:4, NIV), so we might as well express what is on our minds and in our hearts; otherwise, we’re being less than honest before God, and that gets us nowhere.

The imprecatory psalms not only teach us (by example) to pray our outrage, they can help us to do it. For example, you might turn to Psalm 35, the first imprecatory psalm, where David cries:

May those who seek my life

    be disgraced and put to shame;

may those who plot my ruin

    be turned back in dismay.

May they be like chaff before the wind,

    with the angel of the Lord driving them away;

may their path be dark and slippery,

    with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. (Psalm 35:4-6, NIV)
 

You might adapt David’s words yourself:

 May those who _______________ be disgraced and put to shame;

    may those who _______________ be turned back in dismay.

May they be like chaff before the wind,

    with the angel of the Lord driving them away;

may their path be dark and slippery,

    with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
 

It may feel strange at first to pray your outrage, to honestly and forcefully ask God to triumph over certain people, patterns or problems. But don’t worry; God won’t shush you. Remember, He knows all about your outrage already. And it has to be better to express it to Him than to post it on social media, right? 

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