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Wrong to mix prayers and swears?

Wrong to mix prayers and swears?

When life is frustrating or brutal – do your swear in your prayers?

Peter Manseau writing in Religion Dispatches wonders:

Do people often swear when they talk to God?

Such was a question raised at a recent meeting of the New Directions in the Study of Prayer initiative of the Social Science Research Council in New York. The salty phrases used to frame the discussion that followed earned hearty chuckles from the anthropologists, psychologists, and religious studies scholars gathered to consider innovative ways of examining a very old subject. Nervous titters aside, it was taken up briefly as an intriguing line of inquiry: Are there any common determinants of the kinds of language used in prayer across cultures? What factors influence the registers of address chosen within a given devotional setting? To put it plainly: Is it always a problem to say “f***” when you pray?

As it happens, this last point is not just a matter of academic concern. Recent questions taken up by the armchair theologians at Yahoo Answers have included Can I be forgiven for swearing at God? and Does swearing at God count if you say it in your mind?, while similar quandaries seem to vex those inclined to seek more orthodox advice online.

Last summer, “swearing in prayer” became the subject of a somewhat heated exchange in the forums of the Catholic Answers website,, the goal of which is “To Explain and Defend the Faith.” Not quite true to this mission, the trouble began when an apparently innocent search for explanation was met with a rigorous defense.

The psalms and laments ask God’s wrath on enemies — any Hebrew scholars see swearing in them?

For forthright prayers in the face of joy and/or tragedy and frustration with systems of oppression read the blog “leave it lay where Jesus flang it” by a priest serving on a reservation in South Dakota.


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Maria L. Evans

I don’t believe for a minute that when Jesus rebuked Peter, he said, “I rebuke you, Peter.” I suspect it was more along the lines of “Peter, you dip#$%&!” Fully divine, and yes, fully human.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive to curse less or not at all–it certainly is a stumbling block to communication, and it betrays a coarse personality, which doesn’t always play in Peoria.

But personally, I don’t think my occasional S-bomb, F-bomb, or the three letter word for donkey used hyphenated at the end of a word bothers God one little bit. God knows I’m frustrated, hurt, scared, or confused to the point I’m just blurting out something–anything–because if I have to hold back those words, I literally can’t speak, I’m so wound up.

My opinion is if withholding the swear word prevents you from praying, then it’s better to pray and swear than not pray at all.


I think we need to remember that to curse (actively, as opposed to the occasional epithet – or, maybe not) is a spiritual act, an act of prayer. It may not have appropriate intent. It may not even be intended for an appropriate spiritual agent. It is, however, a spiritual act.

And, yes, I do think sometimes those “coarse words” constitute real ejaculatory prayers.

Marshall Scott

Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

F*** yeah!

-Cullin R. Schooley


I don’t swear a whole lot, but I have been known to yell and scream in prayer (and elsewhere). I might as well be honest with God. Otherwise, why have personal prayer, beyond prescribed language and corporate praise? But I wonder, what’s the difference between swearing in front of/around/at God, and “cursing God” in the Job sense (I’m convinced there is one).


Hell yeah, I swear at God! I think the notion that God is some sort of easily offended, prissy, pearl-clutching scold is one of the clearest examples of humans making God in their own image, as the saying goes.

In light of all the terrible things that go on in the world, I find the idea that God would be offended by a few salty words supremely silly. God has seen it all. God can take it. And if you believe that God desires a relationship with us and wants to help us bear our burdens, I don’t see any good reason to make prayer an occasion for self-censorship.

I find it profoundly comforting and spiritually liberating to know that it’s natural and normal to be angry with God sometimes. On the other hand, the belief that God would turn away from someone in distress because of word choice is downright spiritually abusive.

Besides, swearing has been shown to alleviate pain:

[Commenter: For future reference, note our policy that comments by signed. – eds.]

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