At my high school there was another boy who was consistently better at just about everything than I seemed to be. We had been friends since the eighth grade, and even then he was just flat out better at sports, school work, being cool and always seemed to have exactly the right thing to say in the moment. He didn’t have to lord over me the fact that he was better than I at these things, it was fairly obvious. I remember, as an angry teenager, wishing that bad things would happen to him, if even just once–and hopefully in a very public and humiliating manner.
The portion of the Psalter appointed for this morning is, in part, Psalm 54. The final three verses are:
“Render evil to those who spy on me; * in your faithfulness, destroy them.
I will offer you a freewill sacrifice * and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.
For you have rescued me from every trouble, * and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.”
One of the things I enjoy about Daily Morning Prayer is that difficult verses like the three above are not omitted as they are upon occasion from the Sunday lectionary. We get the whole range of joy and tenderness, jealousy, self-righteousness, and even full on hatred that the author(s) of the psalms had in his/their heart(s) in the prayers made to God.
These three verses from psalm 54 are not the most cruel or violent that can be found in the psalms. However they give us a glimpse of the truly human nature of our prayers to God. They give voice to some of our most raw human emotions and thoughts.
If what God wants for us is to be in relationship with God–true relationship–then we not only have permission to pray things like what we have in these three verses from Psalm 54, but an expectation that we will open our true hearts and emotions and bring them to God. My desire for my friend to experience some sort of public humiliation, or even to find something challenging that I found easy to accomplish were expressions of my humanness, just as the expressions of the verses above are the expressions of the humanness of the psalmist. In the end these are all reminders that we should accept our humanness and offer all that comes with that, to God.
May we all find voice in our prayers where we express to God, who is merciful, loving and compassionate, our deepest and innermost thoughts, feelings, desires, and emotions. And may we do so knowing that we are bringing ourselves closer to God.