Praying, Cursing, And Heading For Lent

Sometimes I really wish people wouldn’t read their Bibles. That sounds blasphemous I know, but it’s true. The Bible contains all that is essential for life and salvation, it tells us repeatedly that God is love, it gives us the narrative of our faith story, and yet there is no other book I can think of that causes more damage than the Bible. For instance, what are we to do with passages like these from the book of Psalms?

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, for evil finds lodging among them. (Psalm 55:15)

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; (Psalm 58:6)

28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous. (Psalm 69:28)

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. (Psalm 109:9)

Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. (Psalm 137:9)

The Psalms have a unique place in the Bible in that they are prayers and songs prayed to God. Where other parts of the Bible are filled with messages from God to us, the Psalms are our prayers and songs of praise to Him. The Psalms were not only the hymnbook of ancient Israel, they were the main prayer book and songbook of Jesus and his disciples, the early church, and most of Christendom until fairly recently in church history. The Psalms have been teaching believers how to pray and praise God for literally thousands of years.

About a year ago I released a book called, Out of the Depths: A Songwriter’s Journey Through the Psalms. In it I told readers that I just wasn’t sure what to do with certain scriptures like the imprecatory (cursing) Psalms, quoted above. I’ve gone as far as wondering if there are some parts of the Bible that Jesus would forbid us to pray. We would never see Jesus joyfully dashing infants on rocks and I don’t believe for a second that he would ever condone such unspeakable acts. Yet, here in the prayer book that we know Jesus used, we have unconscionable prayers like these.

How can the Christ who told his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them have anything to do with cursing prayers like the imprecatory Psalms? Does Jesus really want us to pray for the damnation of others, to pray that innocent women and children be widowed and orphaned, wandering desperately in the street with no help to be found? How does God answer our prayers of cursing upon others? I believe He answers them with the cross.

All the hateful things that we prayed about our enemies, Jesus took upon himself on the cross. When mankind prayed for God to humiliate, starve, and destroy the enemy, God answered those prayers by coming to earth as Jesus to be humiliated, starved, and destroyed in their place. When our weapons were aimed at our enemies, Jesus turned our weapons and aimed them at himself. Jesus died from the shots we fired. Jesus was killed in answer to our prayers against others. Jesus didn’t only die for our sins, Jesus died for the sins of the enemy.

Jesus on the cross is God’s response to the cursing prayers we pray. All the wrath that mankind could muster was aimed at Jesus on the cross. Jesus did not bear the wrath of God on Calvary, Jesus was God on the cross bearing the wrath of man. Jesus died at the hands of devout, Bible believing, religious people. When Jesus taught us to love our enemies, he also showed us how to do it. To love an enemy, you might have to step in front of a bullet for them. When we rage against others, Jesus steps in to bear that rage because no one else has shoulders big enough to bear it.

All that being said, the imprecatory Psalms ,and many unsavory passages like them, are still in our Bible and they aren’t going anywhere. What should we do with these passages as followers of Jesus?

When traumatic events happen in our lives, we often suffer from what is diagnosed at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Veteran’s Affairs requires soldiers who are victims of PTSD to write a stressor statement describing the stressful experience they had that led them to developing the disorder. This statement consists of three parts:

  1. Life before military service
  2. Life during military service (including traumatic event(s)
  3. Life after traumatic event(s)

Often, after traumatic life events, victims are filled with rage. They have trouble being around people and their temper gets the best of them. Victims often have trouble sustaining employment due to their condition, many times costing them their marriages, their homes and even their sanity. It is important that PTSD victims find a healthy outlet for their afflictions and that often comes in the form of therapeutic letter writing, chronicling their anger, grief, and need.

I believe that the imprecatory Psalms serve a similar function for us in our liturgy. Praying curses down on our enemies may not seem like a holy endeavor until we realize that we are praying them in all honesty to a God big enough to bear them upon Himself. When we pray for our enemies to be cursed it is an honest expression of what we feel, but God’s answer to us in Jesus will always be, “no”.

When God answers prayers of cursing, He does so by bearing the curse upon Himself.

Even so, we should still find the freedom to be completely honest with God in our prayers. Our God prefers an honest curse to a dishonest blessing. May God help us to see that Jesus is to answer to our prayers, even our prayers of cursing. He not only tells us how to love our enemies, He shows us. When we pray for our enemies to suffer and die, Jesus suffers and dies for them.

As we enter into this Lenten season, may God grant us courage to walk the road to the cross with Him, helping us learn what it means to truly be Christian. We will encounter scripture that makes us uneasy along the way so may Jesus be the living Word for us, showing us where we’ve gotten it wrong. When the crowd cries crucify, may God help us have the honesty to hear our own voices in the crowd.

A Prayer for Lent O gracious Master, infuse in our hearts the spotless light of Your Divine Wisdom and open the eyes of our mind that we may understand the teachings of Your Gospel. Instill in us also the fear of Your blessed commandments, so that having curbed all carnal desires, we may lead a spiritual life, both thinking and doing everything to please You. For You, O Christ, our God, are the enlightenment of our souls and bodies; and to You we render glory, together with Your eternal Father, and with Your all holy, life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Out of the depths Postcard

Rick Lee James Partnering With Lifeway Worship To Make New Record

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Dear Friends,

I have some incredible news to share with you about the record I’ll be recording this December in Nashville. I’ve only shared this news with investors and some family up to this point, but am now ready to share it with the rest of you.


A few weeks ago, I initiated a partnership with LifeWay Worship that will get me a long way down the road toward the accomplishment of a new album. Because of LifeWay Worship’s involvement, I will be able to record this album at one of the best studios in Nashville with A-list players and engineers. The investment of LifeWay Worship, alongside funds donated via  GoFundMe.com and my own personal investment, is making the dream become reality!

Here’s What This Means:

  • Funding to record and mix the album has been secured in full.
  • All songs recorded will be featured on my solo album and will be be repurposed by LifeWay Worship to introduce songs and arrangements at lifewayworship.com (charts, tracks, lyric files will be offered there).
  • All songs included on the project will be pitched to a variety of publishers, labels, and artists for placement in choral print and/or on any number of 3rd party album releases.

All this is to say, through God’s provision and generosity expressed through LifeWay Worship and an amazing team of partners at www.gofundme.com/hymns, we’re going to make an amazing record which has the potential be used as a music resource for churches internationally. I can hardly believe that God has blessed me with this opportunity 7 years after I accepted His invitation to make music for the church on a broader scale. 7 is the number in scripture that represents God so I see this as a tangible sign of His guiding hand. 

These songs were birthed out of my local congregation’s times of worship at First Church of the Nazarene in Springfield Ohio. I am so blessed that we will be able to share our musical expressions of worship on a larger scale using ancient and modern hymns. I can’t thank my producer, Craig Adams, enough for investing so much of himself into this project. He and I share a common calling to equip churches for worship. Authentic worship is what we pray will be experienced by congregations worldwide as they sing these songs.

Additional funding is still needed in order to accomplish album design, photography, printing costs, manufacturing, and miscellaneous expenses. Any additional funds collected at GoFundMe.com/hymns will help us achieve completion of the entire project. Thank you to all of you who have already given to this project and to those of you who still plan on partnering with us. I give all praise to our Glorious God and I pray He will use these songs of worship to glorify Himself and to further His Kingdom here on earth.  Bless the Lord at all times!

In His Glad Service,
Rick Lee James

Free Book – Tips Will Benefit The Hymn Project.

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All tips received for this book will benefit the Hymn Project -www.GoFundMe.com/Hymns

The Psalms: you’ve heard them read in church, adapted into worship songs and maybe glanced through them once or twice. But have you ever asked yourself what the message is behind this moving yet enigmatic book? Have you ever let the Psalms truly speak to you, or, to put it more accurately, let God speak to you through them? In Out of the Depths, singer and song-writer Rick Lee James invites you to do precisely that. Using a unique blend of personal stories, scholarship and pastoral insight, Rick walks you through the Book of Psalms in 10 deep and powerful chapters. He invites you to learn more, feel more and, above all, hear from God through the Psalms more than you ever have before.

Whether you’ve read the Psalms a hundred times or aren’t familiar with them at all, Out of the Depths is a book that will challenge you and help you to look at the Bible’s prayer book, the Book of Psalms, in an entirely new light.

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Help Me Create My Next Record

My next record will be a hymns album, with songs birthed in my local church at First Church of the Nazarene in Springfield Ohio. Watch This Short Video To Find Out More…then SHARE it like crazy!

 

All of the songs in this playlist are potential hymns for my next Album. Pre-order the record and help us create it at GoFundMe.com/Hymns