Recently, someone asked me “how do you pray when you are angry?” A provocative question for sure since anger seems to block any desire to pray. I’ve developed a way to pray through anger by using the example of what Christ did when He was angry.
How to pray this way:
1. Remind yourself that you are temporarily irrational. When anger grips our heart, it keeps us from thinking or acting rationally, instead creating a human desire to blame the other person, or worse, lash out at them.
2. Accept the fact that anger is part of life. Even Jesus got angry more than once. In Mark 3: 1-5 it is recorded that, “Jesus entered the synagogue and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
John writes in 2:14 -16: “In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market place!”
3. Follow the example of Christ by taking time to think things through before acting on anger. Although Christ was righteously angry, he waited, he wove a whip, and then he acted. Weaving the cord gave him an opportunity to calm down so that he could address the bigger issues and teach the people that his Father’s house was to be respected, not defiled.
4. Say what you need to say – rationally. It was a full circle experience – Jesus did not just get mad and storm off, he didn’t just yell or scream, he waited and then said what he had to say, using the experience as an opportunity to teach. Since we are human, we may have to wait until a later opportunity after we have done a lot of praying to have enough composure to do this.
5. Become more aware of what makes you angry. So, how does it work for us today? Both of these passages can be mirrored in today’s world – just think about it for a minute. How many times do people try to test us and challenge our faith, our faith practices, our sense of values, work ethic, or morals? It might not be direct, but it can come in the form of gossip, criticism, complaints, exclusion, unfaithfulness, unfairness, or betrayal.
6. Weave a prayer on paper. Customs today do not call for sitting down and weaving a whip – although we might want to do that! Instead, following Christ’s example, we can sit down and weave a prayer…on paper.
Whether you are angry because the car broke down again or you are angry because you have been betrayed and it seems like you are in the clutches of such deep emotional pain that lashing out in anger is your only escape, try this: write – and keep on writing.
7. Tell God exactly how you feel – just how absolutely mad you are, how miserable you are, and that you have been deeply hurt. Tell him exactly what happened.
8. Cry on Christ’s shoulder; ask him to help you, to heal your heart, to join your pain to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Keep writing….tell God you need his arms wrapped around you, the Holy Spirit to comfort you, keep writing, keep writing.
9. Rest, then look back on what you’ve written. You will see a message from God – you will see your anger has been transformed. You will see God’s work, he will have guided your thoughts, he will have taken your suffering and blessed you with his grace. You will see things differently, clearly, unclouded by angry thoughts. You will have a renewed sense of determination to stay on task, to remain faithful to God’s will, and you will be enlightened. And best of all, God will give you an opportunity to heal hardened hearts, an opportunity to teach, and an opportunity to grow closer to God through patient prayer.
copyright Cathy Belatti 2011