Prayer, Anger And Peace

In my recent Tradition Thursday post, reader Pedat Ebediyah left this comment:

This is hard.

If we plant truth in our hearts, but see evil men sowing their wares, how can we NOT be angry?

In this wicked generation, when we peruse the landscape, how can we not feel some kinda angst in the face of what we see?

Can I pray and STILL be pissed off?

Elspeth then replied with this comment:

I was thinking the same thing when I read that part. I have prayed and asked God to help me NOT be angry about a thing anymore. Is it better when angry not to pray at all? And what about the command to:

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Eph 4:26-27

Emotions, anger especially, are a dangerous thing. They are often but not always one and the same as feelings. Whether separate or not, they are dangerous because they are associated with our Body. Thus, they are tied to the material plane and the effects of sin. Emotions, if we let them control us, take us away from God.

This is why Jesus told us to let go of our anger. If we go to bed angry then that anger will fester within us, and like a rot it will grow. Over time it will consume us. The same goes for any emotion.

It may be shocking to hear for some, but our faith is one that should eschew emotionalism. Emotions cloud the reason, and thereby allow the Evil One to slip past our defenses. They are a weakness, not a strength. Sure some of them can feel good, such as happiness, but again that and any emotion can be deceptive. Plenty of evil works evoked happiness in their makers.

Instead we should be experiencing/demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. These are things not of this world, but of the spiritual world. Thus, they are both safer and more fulfilling.

Now, to the specific questions:

Can I pray and STILL be pissed off?

If you are praying earnestly, then your anger should abate. You should not aim to be angry after praying. If you are, then your soul is not stilled, and your prayers ineffectual. I recommend praying aloud this part of Psalm 37:

Fret not yourself because of the wicked,
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass,
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your vindication as the light,
    and your right as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the wicked shall be cut off;
    but those who wait for the Lord shall possess the land.

(Psalm 37:1-9)

As for this question:

Is it better when angry not to pray at all?

The answer is no. Quite the opposite, in fact. You should pray when you are angry. You should also pray when sad, or afraid, or experiencing any emotion. We cannot overcome the weaknesses of our flesh on our own. Only God can do this- if we allow him, for He never forces his healing/mercy/love on us. Prayer is an important component of this. You should pray to your Father in Heaven that He give you peace; that you might no longer be troubled.

The Psalms are an excellent source of such prayers. Another that I might recommend would be Psalm 62:

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
    from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.

How long will you set upon a man
    to shatter him, all of you,
    like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his eminence.
    They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
    but inwardly they curse. Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us. Selah

Men of low estate are but a breath,
    men of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God;
12     and that to thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For thou dost requite a man
    according to his work.

(Psalm 62)

Finally, remember these words of our Savior:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

(John 14:27)

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9 Comments

Filed under God, Sin, State of Nature

9 responses to “Prayer, Anger And Peace

  1. If you’ll permit some heretic scripture here, this always pricks me when I don’t want to pray:

    “And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.”

    (When I am in this situation, it is very easy to imagine my personal Wormwood whispering “Do anything but pray…don’t you have some work/reading/eating to do?”)

    Prayer is one of those things I guess I can imagine someone doing too much if they really went overboard, but for someone like me, I’m much more likely to do too little.

  2. You know, I won’t be offended if you’d rather not approve that earlier comment. I don’t want you to feel under pressure to let stuff through that you might consider from a tainted source. That was thoughtless of me.

  3. Ame

    Lord, enable me to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Enable me to be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another just as You have forgiven me.

    … was my constant prayer for many years while married to my first husband.

    (ephesians 4:31-32)

  4. MK

    our faith should eschew emotionalism;clouds reason

    I rarely hear this, and it needs to be said. Thanks.

    When I’m angry (usually at injustice), I focus the negative energy to improving my own life. Living well is the best revenge against sin, and when I work to improve myself, I see how flawed I am and start to lose my anger.

  5. The quick and easy answer is that man should will what God wills him to will.

    The hard part is that this can be somewhat confusing. Most of the time we should feel the same disgust for sin that God does, yet hold the same love for the individual that is sinning. Sometimes this means reproving and correcting his actions. Sometimes it means suffering for God’s sake. Sometimes it means that we should shake the dust off our feet if certain company persists in unrepentant sin.

    The one thing I would say is that while we should avoid emotionalism, if by that you mean elevating emotions above reason and the will, we should not seek stoicism. The emotions have their place in a well formed character of informing the soul when there may be something that requires attention to enjoy, address, fight, flee, etc.

  6. Agreed with Chad.

    Emotions should stimulate us to righteousness, like David (most of the time at least), but what righteousness that is depends on the situation.

    Sometimes Jesus rebuked. Sometimes Jesus was compassionate. Sometimes Jesus made a whip and overturned money tables. Seek the Lord’s will in prayer for what action(s) to take regarding situations.

  7. @ dropit

    Not to worry. I was away from WordPress, so I couldn’t approve it. You self-identify it as heresy, so that acts as a balm. Plus I am pretty sure it is a rip off of at least one saint. I just need some time to find one.

    @Chad

    The one thing I would say is that while we should avoid emotionalism, if by that you mean elevating emotions above reason and the will, we should not seek stoicism. The emotions have their place in a well formed character of informing the soul when there may be something that requires attention to enjoy, address, fight, flee, etc.

    I want to say I’ve heard some saints say otherwise- that we should avoid emotion. Give me a few days to try and find them.

    @ Deep Strength

    Jesus was God, as well as Man. That gives him prerogatives that men lack. Not to mention that He, being born without the effects of Original Sin, would not have faced the same danger the rest of us have.

  8. It seems the matter is even more complicated than I thought. Going to need time to really delve into this. It is possible there is a difference of opinion between East and West here, and perhaps even within the East (where it seems I got that from).

    My personal inclination (which I admit is worth nothing) is towards what Chad wrote here:

    The emotions have their place in a well formed character of informing the soul when there may be something that requires attention to enjoy, address, fight, flee, etc.

  9. anonymous_ng

    My impression having converted to Orthodoxy is that Western thought is very defined by binary dualism and strict definitions. Things are A or B, black or white, mind or body. Whereas, my impression of Eastern thought is that things are more on a continuum A and B, black and white, mind and body.

    However, I’ve made no great study of philosophy, the holy fathers, or the saints.

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