A Reading from Psalm 109
1 Hold not your tongue, O God of my praise; *
for the mouth of the wicked,
the mouth of the deceitful, is opened against me.
2 They speak to me with a lying tongue; *
they encompass me with hateful words
and fight against me without a cause.
3 Despite my love, they accuse me; *
but as for me, I pray for them.
4 They repay evil for good, *
and hatred for my love.
5 Set a wicked man against him, *
and let an accuser stand at his right hand.
6 When he is judged, let him be found guilty, *
and let his appeal be in vain.
7 Let his days be few, *
and let another take his office.
8 Let his children be fatherless, *
and his wife become a widow.
9 Let his children be waifs and beggars; *
let them be driven from the ruins of their homes.
10 Let the creditor seize everything he has; *
let strangers plunder his gains.
11 Let there be no one to show him kindness, *
and none to pity his fatherless children.
12 Let his descendants be destroyed, *
and his name be blotted out in the next generation.
13 Let the wickedness of his fathers be remembered before
the LORD, *
and his mother's sin not be blotted out;
14 Let their sin be always before the LORD; *
but let him root out their names from the earth;
15 Because he did not remember to show mercy, *
but persecuted the poor and needy
and sought to kill the brokenhearted.
16 He loved cursing,
let it come upon him; *
he took no delight in blessing,
let it depart from him.
17 He put on cursing like a garment, *
let it soak into his body like water
and into his bones like oil;
18 Let it be to him like the cloak which he
wraps around himself, *
and like the belt that he wears continually.
19 Let this be the recompense from the LORD to my accusers, *
and to those who speak evil against me.
20 But you, O Lord my God,
oh, deal with me according to your Name; *
for your tender mercy's sake, deliver me.
21 For I am poor and needy, *
and my heart is wounded within me.
22 I have faded away like a shadow when it lengthens; *
I am shaken off like a locust.
23 My knees are weak through fasting, *
and my flesh is wasted and gaunt.
24 I have become a reproach to them; *
they see and shake their heads.
25 Help me, O LORD my God; *
save me for your mercy's sake.
26 Let them know that this is your hand, *
that you, O LORD, have done it.
27 They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.
28 Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.
29 I will give great thanks to the LORD with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
30 Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, *
to save his life from those who would condemn him.
The line of good and evil runs down the center of every human heart.
I sometimes find comfort in imprecatory (something that invokes evil) psalms, like the one assigned today. I’d love to call down wrath upon the head of my foe, to condemn my enemy to the pit. But as I read Psalm 109, I have to wonder: is the case between this pray-er and the one against whom he prays so cut and dried?
It seems convenient that the one who is praying is so purely downtrodden, while the one who is having fire called down upon his head is so straightforwardly evil.
Is the truth perhaps somewhere in between? If there’s some wrong on one side, and some fault on the other, then might it be that we are calling wrath down on our own heads by praying such prayers against another person?
There are times when one person truly does evil to another — many such are recorded in Scripture! — but may we be careful before praying such a thing that we are not ignoring the sin which festers in our own hearts.
The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Tamale – The Church of the Province of West Africa
St. George’s Church, Dayton, Ohio