"They are more of a window into the sinfulness of human beings," said Fredrickson, an assistant professor of pastoral ministry at the Pasadena school. "Normally when we think about praying, we're thinking about prayers of adoration, prayers of confession, prayers for someone we're concerned about who is sick or going through a hard time, or those sort of prayers for ourselves -- not the sort of vindictive, revengeful statements. These prayers are contrary to the way of Jesus."
Scripture, especially the psalms, gives humans "permission," in the worst of times, just to be human, as David is in Psalm 109, he said. That's the wonderful thing about the psalms, he said.
"We ask God certainly to do justice and to bring those who are errant to justice, but what I would consider an imprecatory prayer is not normative in Judaism," he said. "There is a difference between saying, 'May the wicked be brought to justice,' and 'May John Smith be cursed.' When we start naming names, that takes 'prayer' to an entirely different level."