Summary: We become angry at God because our prayers are self-centered, but when they are not answered we shut down and avoid God. Until we see that the blessing is in the presence of God we will not reap joy.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, September 8, 1991 (this version); preached in slightly different form at Luther Rice Memorial Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, July 30, 1978; Calvary Hill Baptist Church, Fairfax, VA, August 6, 1978; Forest Heights Baptist Church, Oxon Hill, MD, Sept. 9, 1979; Hillcrest Baptist Church, Hillcrest Heights, MD, Sept. 23, 1979; First Baptist Church, Gaithersburg, MD, April 27, 1980; First Baptist Church, Upper Marlboro, MD, Dec. 28, 1980; First Baptist Church, Rockville, MD, April 5, 1981; First Baptist Church, Wheaton, MD, August 9, 1981; Greenbelt Baptist Church, Greenbelt, MD, August 16, 1981; WHBC Radio, Washington, DC, August 30, 1981; Calverton Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, May 1, 1982; First Baptist Church of Camp Springs, MD, Feb. 12, 1984; Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC, September 29, 1985
In September each year I bring at least two messages on prayer. Messages about prayer are appropriate at any of the year, of course; but it seems to me that in 5eptember life gets more hectic as we move back into the rhythm of school and job and all the rest.
In hectic times, the best way to confront the hurried pace of life is to stop, and wait, and listen, and pray. This, above all times, is a time to pray.
Now the two messages I have planned for this fall deal with a strange theme: "angry prayer" Angry prayer. But do not dismiss that as inappropriate or as tasteless until you have faced the issue. Stay with me on this business of angry prayer this week and the next, and I think we’ll grow.
These messages are based on two episodes in the life of David, King of Israel, as recorded in the Second Book of Samuel. These episodes both center on the ark … that is, the ark of the covenant, not Noah’s ark. No beasts here except the one in the pulpit!
The ark of the covenant - what was it and what was its significance? The ark was a large wooden box, ornately decorated and mounted on two long poles. This box had been carried around by the people of Israel for several generations; wherever they had wandered, it too had gone. When they had gone into battle against their enemies, it too had been carried into battle. When they conquered the land of Canaan and crossed over the Jordan, the box, the ark went along.
Some said the ark contained the original stone tablets of the Law as given to Moses. Others guessed that the ark contained the very bones of Moses the lawgiver. No one really knew, and no one was about to open it and see, because the ark was believed to be holy. The ark was seen as the embodiment of God Himself. And therefore it was not to be touched, it was not to be tampered with; and, in fact, some believed that the very presence of the ark brought you either blessing or curse, as God willed. Why? Simply because, in the minds of the people, this box, this ark, represented God Himself.
Now if you had asked then whether this box was actually God, of course they would have denied that. But still, being in the presence of the ark was like having God in your possession. And once when the army of the Philistines, their bitter enemy, captured the ark, it was said that the "glory", that is, the presence of the Lord had departed Israel.
You could just about say, then, that this ancient ark, this box, embodied God Himself. I hope you have that picture, because that will be crucial to understanding what happened with David, and it will be important for understanding why sometimes we pray in anger. We want to understand, this week and next, what is involved in angry prayer.
Follow the first of these two stories with me: II Samuel 6:1-15
It must have dawned a beautiful clear day, this day for which the King of Israel had made such elaborate plans. It looked like a fine day for an expedition which could open up a whole new chapter in the history of his nation.
King David had been in such a long, long journey. He had started out as just a shepherd boy wandering the hillside. He had first been noticed when he and his little slingshot took out a very big target named Goliath. And his musical talent also commended him to the court of the old King, Saul.
What a long, long journey, though! To have to face the undisguised hostility of old Saul; to lose his best friend, the King’s son, Jonathan; then to have been proclaimed king over a part of the nation and to have fought and bled and suffered to unite the people and to defeat the Philistines and all the others …David had come a long way.