Swearing at God

7 As when a plowman turns over the earth in furrows,*

let their bones be scattered at the mouth of the grave.

8 But my eyes are turned to you, Lord GOD;*

in you I take refuge;

do not strip me of my life.”


In one or two previous Daily Cup posts I’ve commented on the fact that I love the psalms.  Specifically, I love the wide range of emotion that the psalmist gives us in these prayers to God and the permission they then give us in how we speak to God.   The psalms conjure up vivid images that express emotions that we almost all have from time to time.  Perhaps the words used might not be our first choice when we pray to God, but the feelings they express are ones that we most likely have experienced.


The portion of the Psalter above comes near the conclusion of Psalm 141, read during the  Office of Morning Prayer today.  How honest; how angry; how REAL are these words?  Who hasn’t wanted someone who has slighted us, made us feel foolish or hurt us in some way get the same treatment in return?   Perhaps we’ve never wished that the person who wronged you would have his or her bones churned up in a field by a plowman exactly, but I’ll wager that we’ve had moments when we’ve wanted some revenge.  From time to time we want someone to “get their just deserts,” or “get a taste of their own medicine.”

9 Protect me from the snare which they have laid for me *

and from the traps of the evildoers.

10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,*

while I myself escape.”


What we say to God in prayer matters.  The words we use, the emotions we express matter when we talk with God.  Being open and honest with God is exactly the kind of relationship God wants with all of creation.  Talking with God, not in some sort of Elizabethan English, but talking plainly and straight from our heart is what helps us to be in closer relationship with God.  Saying what we mean, what we feel, and expressing what we hope God will do about all of that is exactly what brings us into honest relationship with God.


Have you ever sworn at God?  Have you ever cursed God out?  Have you literally yelled at God?  I’ve asked that question to a number of the youth I work with and they usually look at me like I’ve lost my mind.  Most often I ask them, “Do you think you’ll come up with a swear word that God hasn’t heard before?”  Being angry with God is alright.  Expressing that anger, hurt, abandonment should come with just as much force as when we thank God for the wonderful things that have been gifts from God.


How wonderful it is that God wants to be in relationship with us, hearing our deepest thoughts, dreams, fears, joys and all the rest.  How wonderful it is that God wants us to be exactly who we are when we talk with God, and that God will always love us anyway.



About matthewhanisian

Associate Rector at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
This entry was posted in The Rev. Matthew R. Hanisian. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Swearing at God

  1. Bob Sellery says:

    Starting off in a very unsettled way this morning, drinking your cup settled me down to where I want to be. Thank you.

  2. Eileen says:

    Thanks for this very thoughtful and human message —- and the great examples from the psalms to remind us that prayer is just talking with God in a straightforward way. St. Teresa of Avila argued with her “Seigneur,” as she called him, all the time. You probably know the story of when, on a journey, her cart overturned and things were a mess, and she looked up and said, “Ah mon Seigneur!!!!! Look what You’ve done!!!! If this is the way You treat your friends no wonder You have so few friends!!!”

  3. My favorite examples of the necessity of being angry with God are in author Anne Lamott’s writings. Some are marvelously profane, but one of the more tasteful ones is:
    “Or you might shout at the top of your lungs or whisper into your sleeve, “I hate you, God.” That is a prayer too, because it is real, it is truth, and maybe it is the first sincere thought you’ve had in months.”
    ― Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers

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