Scripture Focus: Psalm 35:5-6
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
     with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
 6 may their path be dark and slippery,
     with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

From John: Erin and I are both ready for our daily readings, especially imprecatory psalms, to be less topical to current events. It’s distressing to write from the scriptures referencing some of the horrors we’ve recently witnessed up close and far off. But isn’t that what the scriptures are for? And what regular reading does for us? One of the best features of the way we approach devotionals at The Park Forum is that we don’t chase topics, we just walk in the scriptures. For no matter what valley we walk through, Jesus is with us in his Word, through the Spirit, and among the community of faith. Peace be with us, in us, and among us.

Reflection: Wartime Prayers
By Erin Newton

The book of Psalms reveals a wide range of emotional responses to life: praise, joy, lament, pleas for deliverance, and expressions that seek justice. Psalm 35 is one of the latter types of psalms—an imprecatory prayer.

The psalmist utilizes militant language asking for shield, armor, spear, and javelin to be set against the enemy. There is hope that the foe will be caught in a net, fall into a pit, and be disgraced and put to shame.

It is a prayer against injustice. It is a prayer for retribution.

Many of us are peace-time civilians in the West. Our conflicts are not wartime struggles but personal attacks, neighborly conflicts, and systemic injustices. But war still happens, is happening now, around the globe. The cry for justice is universal.

Federico Villanueva, a Filipino scholar, reveals the most important aspect to this type of prayer: “The difference is that this prayer is directed to God. It is not simply wishing that something bad will happen to a person; it is asking God to do this action.”

Psalm 35 is unique within the book of Psalms. Together with Psalm 34, it is the only place the angel of the Lord is mentioned. The plea is for the enemy to become worthless, useless, weak, chaff. The psalmist begs for the way of the enemy to be darkened and treacherous. The whole plot to disarm the enemy is done by the angel of the Lord.

Injustice should lead our hearts to lament and pray. Our emotions should rise with the stories of pain and suffering. These psalms give voice to the Spirit that stirs within us, “Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me!”

The desire to defend the weak is good and righteous. We are called to seek justice in every area of our lives. Let us seek God as we pray for his will to be done. When we are cornered and afraid, let us call upon God to impart perfect justice as only he can.

Federico reminds us: “Human justice is very imperfect…The imprecatory prayers become expressions of trust in God our Father who is not only powerful but is just and loving. It brings comfort to those who are weak and oppressed, who have no one else to go to but God. It also serves as a strong warning for the oppressors. There is a God who fights for the right of the weak.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 15 (Listen 5:30)
Psalms 35 (Listen 3:21)

Read more about Miracles of Deliverance and Judgment
In a warzone, however, wickedness removes its disguises…The lies of wicked rulers corrupt those around them and cost lives.

Read more about An Imprecatory Psalm for Mass Shootings
The imprecatory psalms and our angry prayers in crisis are still valuable to God.