Double-Edged Prayer

By Emily Hylden

A Reading from Psalm 83

1 O God, do not be silent;
do not keep still nor hold your peace, O God;

2 For your enemies are in tumult,
and those who hate you have lifted up their heads.

3 They take secret counsel against your people
and plot against those whom you protect.

4 They have said, “Come, let us wipe them out from among
the nations;
let the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

5 They have conspired together;
they have made an alliance against you:

6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;
the Moabites and the Hagarenes;

7 Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek;
the Philistines and those who dwell in Tyre.

8 The Assyrians also have joined them,
and have come to help the people of Lot.

9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
to Sisera, and to Jabin at the river of Kishon:

10 They were destroyed at Endor;
they became like dung upon the ground.

11 Make their leaders like Oreb and Zeëb,
and all their commanders like Zebah and Zalmunna,

12 Who said, “Let us take for ourselves
the fields of God as our possession.”

13 O my God, make them like whirling dust
and like chaff before the wind;

14 Like fire that burns down a forest,
like the flame that sets mountains ablaze.

15 Drive them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm;

16 Cover their faces with shame, O LORD,
that they may seek your Name.

17 Let them be disgraced and terrified for ever;
let them be put to confusion and perish.

18 Let them know that you, whose Name is Yahweh,
you alone are the Most High over all the earth.


We’ve surely had more than enough of contempt (Ps. 123:3) among people of differing conviction and opinion in the last few years. Today’s psalm gives voice again to that contempt, but unlike some other imprecatory psalms, 83 is explicit about the reason to bring low one’s enemies: “Let them know that you, whose Name is Yahweh, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” And so this particular prayer of curse is double-edged, and must be offered in the greatest humility, for how do we know that we ourselves are not the ones standing and fighting against the Most High?

In the upheaval of our age, the key is to approach others with humility and compassion. It can be nigh impossible to put ourselves in another’s shoes, especially ones with absolutely opposite views. And this is not to say that there isn’t objective wrong or evil, too, but we do well to remember that we are all of us blind and suffering with logs in our eyes, that across the “aisle” may be another person just as faithful in prayer and Scripture study, that our own myopia is as real as the others’.

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. When we are all aligned as followers of the God made known in Jesus Christ alone, we may pray for God to speak, for enemies to be cast into eternal darkness, and for all knees to bow and tongues confess “you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Mbale – The Church of the Province of Uganda
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas


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