Isn't Psalm 137:9 a little harsh? This is the only verse in the bible that in my view, does not seem to describe God's heart as I have known it. But, it being in the Bible, I want to know how to read it. -- Alberto Schirmer (Atlanta)

I appreciate your asking this question, and your honesty about how it makes you feel. I agree with you - this passage does not describe God's heart, neither as you have known it nor as I have. Does this sound unorthodox? It may help to remember that the Psalms constitute a sort of prayer book, faithfully reflecting the outpourings of heart of the men of God some 2500 or 3000 years ago. God allowed this troubling verse to remain in the Psalter, but why? Perhaps it is left to be an encouragement to us also to pour out our hearts, to share our true feelings, rather than going through the motions and praying/saying the "right" things.

The quality of honesty is commendable. (In the psalmist, bitterly struggling with his faith amidst the Babylonian exile, as well as in you!) Know this: Even though "shocking" things may be prayed, the Lord listens, discerns our true heart, and does not "shoot us down" when we are open with him. Candor needs to join faith and persistence if we are to pray with equal genuineness.

For more, see my 2005 audio set, Reading, Praying, and Living the Psalms.

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