Imprecatory Prayers: Good or Bad?

Are imprecatory prayers to be prayed?

  • Yes

    Votes: 51 68.9%
  • No

    Votes: 10 13.5%
  • I don't know

    Votes: 13 17.6%

  • Total voters
    74
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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I am currently for Imprecatory prayers, but I have been thinking about them lately.

1) In the Psalms when they are done, it seems as though they are always prayed against enemies which are opposing forces (armies/military). I've heard this recently and brought me to ponder the validity of imprecatory prayers towards individual people (example: Obama - as a person, not as president).

2) Are there other examples outside of the Psalms or examples where imprecatory prayers are prayed concerning non-military/army like groups? Like individuals who have slandered you or something.

3) How would someone who holds to imprecatory prayers (that we should pray them) respond to the verse which states that we should pray for/love our enemies?
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
Maybe with individuals we are to pray for their salvation, but also we are to pray for judgment on God's enemies generally and praise Him for their imminent destruction? And didn't someone else say in another thread that their destruction will be either the death of the sinful nature now or their eternal destruction later? After Jesus' death and resurrection, we know that if God chooses to regenerate the person who is currently his enemy, the judgment was executed on Jesus, and it was a very good thing. But if the person is not regenerated and is ultimately subject to judgment, God is glorified in that, too.

To me, this is reflected in "hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

Someone else can say this better than I, but I'm just in a posting mood today. :)
 

JBaldwin

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Maybe with individuals we are to pray for their salvation, but also we are to pray for judgment on God's enemies generally and praise Him for their imminent destruction? And didn't someone else say in another thread that their destruction will be either the death of the sinful nature now or their eternal destruction later? After Jesus' death and resurrection, we know that if God chooses to regenerate the person who is currently his enemy, the judgment was executed on Jesus, and it was a very good thing. But if the person is not regenerated and is ultimately subject to judgment, God is glorified in that, too.

To me, this is reflected in "hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

Someone else can say this better than I, but I'm just in a posting mood today. :)

I think you said it very well.
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?



2Ti 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

2Th 1:6 Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
2Th 1:7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
2Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2Th 1:9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
2Th 1:10 When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day
 

APuritansMind

Puritan Board Junior
Gal 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am in the minority on this. I do not think it is appropriate to pray these prayers. By doing so we miss their covenantal context. David's/Israel's enemies were YHVH's enemies. They were physical enemies that sought to harm and destroy His people in their land. A land YHVH had brought them into and dwelt specially with them. Victory over enemies was a promised blessing of covenant keeping. We however do not find ourselves in the same situation. To me praying these prayers is just as inappropriate as it would be for us to expect temporal covenantal blessings and prosperity.:2cents:
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
I am in the minority on this. I do not think it is appropriate to pray these prayers. By doing so we miss their covenantal context. David's/Israel's enemies were YHVH's enemies. They were physical enemies that sought to harm and destroy His people in their land. A land YHVH had brought them into and dwelt specially with them. Victory over enemies was a promised blessing of covenant keeping. We however do not find ourselves in the same situation. To me praying these prayers is just as inappropriate as it would be for us to expect temporal covenantal blessings and prosperity.:2cents:

I see your point, and this must be true with regard to our personal enemies. But what about imprecatory prayers concerning enemies of the church?
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am in the minority on this. I do not think it is appropriate to pray these prayers. By doing so we miss their covenantal context. David's/Israel's enemies were YHVH's enemies. They were physical enemies that sought to harm and destroy His people in their land. A land YHVH had brought them into and dwelt specially with them. Victory over enemies was a promised blessing of covenant keeping. We however do not find ourselves in the same situation. To me praying these prayers is just as inappropriate as it would be for us to expect temporal covenantal blessings and prosperity.:2cents:

I see your point, and this must be true with regard to our personal enemies. But what about imprecatory prayers concerning enemies of the church?

Good thing nobody prayed it down on Saul of Taursus:lol: I just don't think it would be appropriate. Don't want to start throwing around proof texts but , Vengence is Mine and bless those who persecute you comes to mind. It just seems to me that NT peoples are to pray in favor of enemies rather than for their demise.
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
I see your point, and this must be true with regard to our personal enemies. But what about imprecatory prayers concerning enemies of the church?

Good thing nobody prayed it down on Saul of Taursus:lol: I just don't think it would be appropriate. Don't want to start throwing around proof texts but , Vengence is Mine and bless those who persecute you comes to mind. It just seems to me that NT peoples are to pray in favor of enemies rather than for their demise.

Well, I agree, but I think the two are not mutually exclusive -- we pray that God would put an end to their rebellion, through either salvation or judgment.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I read Lewis on the Psalms a while back; it was interesting. He made some really enlightening points but without a hermeneutic that puts Christ at the center he wound up viewing them as expressions worthy of a self-righteous bullied schoolboy, living on a very low spiritual plane. Some of the interesting points he made were that Christ (surprisingly to Lewis) found the Psalms adequate expressions for His own experience, that Mary's magnificat is also 'imprecatory' in its exaltations (the rich has he sent empty away), and that the judge in the Psalms is not just judging a case but is actively establishing justice: he is a hero, a 'giant killer'. Israel's national state is a picture of what is going on: it is not the reality of the imprecatory Psalms: the picture that makes sense of all the pieces is Christ Himself. The first gospel promise of all is the promise of justice: of punishment where it is due (the head of the serpent will be crushed); and of course Christ has meted out that punishment, by being the righteous 'victim': it is strict justice for Him to ask for judgment on His enemies. When we pray the imprecatory Psalms we are praying for justice to be established, in the same pattern as Christ's death and resurrection: we are praying for the continued triumph of the cross: we are not praying for 'revenge'. Like Evie said, we are praying that God's kingdom would come.
 

APuritansMind

Puritan Board Junior
Here's Calvin on 2 Tim 4:14

But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views,
“Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” (Luk_9:55.)
 

Thomas2007

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am currently for Imprecatory prayers, but I have been thinking about them lately.

I've done it in the past, but I don't practice it. I can't say I'm for or against it, just my experience was a little too overwhelming for me and I question if
it's something I should do. I would just say tread cautiously in this area.


3) How would someone who holds to imprecatory prayers (that we should pray them) respond to the verse which states that we should pray for/love our enemies?

For me this is an issue regarding our vs God's enemies. I think that people can be your opponent, or even your enemy as it regards the Gospel but not be self-consciously an avowed enemy of God. Then, I think, their are those that are self-consciously avowed enemies of God. That, I guess is how I distinguish between the two.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here's Calvin on 2 Tim 4:14

But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views,
“Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” (Luk_9:55.)

Seretus sure wished John and his freinds didn't fell this way:eek:
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Here's Calvin on 2 Tim 4:14

But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views,
“Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” (Luk_9:55.)

Seretus sure wished John and his freinds didn't fell this way:eek:

John Calvin actually advocated that Servetus not be put to death.
 

etexas

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't do them. No Theological reason, I am part Irish, I just get in some ones face a scream at them until I feel better.:cool:
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
I am currently for Imprecatory prayers, but I have been thinking about them lately.

1) In the Psalms when they are done, it seems as though they are always prayed against enemies which are opposing forces (armies/military). I've heard this recently and brought me to ponder the validity of imprecatory prayers towards individual people (example: Obama - as a person, not as president).

2) Are there other examples outside of the Psalms or examples where imprecatory prayers are prayed concerning non-military/army like groups? Like individuals who have slandered you or something.

3) How would someone who holds to imprecatory prayers (that we should pray them) respond to the verse which states that we should pray for/love our enemies?


I'm at work and don't have all my resources handy, but I've always understood imprecatory prayers to be primarily group specific as opposed to individuals. Regarding individuals, Shimei comes to mind of someone who David didn't pray against, but did ask his son to 'take care of'.

Theognome
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
As fallen men with fallen natures I find it appaling that we would even consider imprectory prayers. We are commanded to love our enemies and we should be aware that we were no better than the vileist of sinners.

We should pray that God's will be done, and if that includes punishment for the ungodly, then all well and good but that is God's call not ours.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
As fallen men with fallen natures I find it appaling that we would even consider imprectory prayers. We are commanded to love our enemies and we should be aware that we were no better than the vileist of sinners.

We should pray that God's will be done, and if that includes punishment for the ungodly, then all well and good but that is God's call not ours.


I was thinking though, that as fallen people we are not very well able to judge which Psalms we should sing from our hearts as we are commanded to do? These psalms were penned by fallen men. I agree that when Christ says to pray for those who spitefully use us He is not instructing us to pray for personal revenge and for their destruction; but I think that understanding the Psalms in primary reference to Christ and then in terms of the church in the world, 'the woman' who is persecuted by the dragon, we can pray these things. I read Mark Jones say that he actually advises people to pray through the Psalms as a means of gaining assurance, knowing 'which side' we are on re: the church and the world. When I hear about a lady who is told either to renounce her faith or watch her children burn alive before her eyes, though I don't pray against individuals yes I do pray that such terrible evil and opposition to God's people would be destroyed from the earth and that Christ's people would be vindicated.
 

Theogenes

Puritan Board Junior
How do impreccatory prayers square with Matt5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."?

Also, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray "Deliver us from evil". We pray for God to deliver us from evil which I believe would include our enemies, but we leave it up to Him as to how He delivers us, whether he destroys them or converts them.
 

A5pointer

Puritan Board Sophomore
Here's Calvin on 2 Tim 4:14

But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views,
“Ye know not of what spirit ye are.” (Luk_9:55.)

Seretus sure wished John and his freinds didn't fell this way:eek:

John Calvin actually advocated that Servetus not be put to death.

Not sure you got that right. I have read that Calvin was for be-heading not burning as a more cicilized execution. Don't get me wrong I am a huge admirer of Calvin.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Thanks for the correction: my husband corrected me as well, but I had my hands full with burning his dinner :) (he advocated for beheading it).

I'm told that I mistook his warning Servetus to stay away, and then trying to get a less painful form of death for him, for somehow confusing myself into thinking that he tried to get him exiled.

-----Added 2/18/2009 at 09:00:35 EST-----

How do impreccatory prayers square with Matt5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."?

Also, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray "Deliver us from evil". We pray for God to deliver us from evil which I believe would include our enemies, but we leave it up to Him as to how He delivers us, whether he destroys them or converts them.

I was wondering if maybe a reconciliation is found in God's hidden decrees and His known will: when we pray for the church to triumph in the world, we are praying for an elect church that transcends our own moment in time, and may include some of our present 'enemies'. & wouldn't we be praying, in praying for the church's triumph, that people in the world will be drawn to Christ? But on that imprecatory level we're praying against God's enemies, and don't know who they ultimately are because that's hidden in His decree. Whereas, with OUR enemies, God's revealed will is that we are to pray for their good, and repay kindness for evil (and would it perhaps even be part of the triumph of the church over the world too, when we do)?
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
Maybe with individuals we are to pray for their salvation, but also we are to pray for judgment on God's enemies generally and praise Him for their imminent destruction? And didn't someone else say in another thread that their destruction will be either the death of the sinful nature now or their eternal destruction later? After Jesus' death and resurrection, we know that if God chooses to regenerate the person who is currently his enemy, the judgment was executed on Jesus, and it was a very good thing. But if the person is not regenerated and is ultimately subject to judgment, God is glorified in that, too.

To me, this is reflected in "hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done."

Someone else can say this better than I, but I'm just in a posting mood today. :)

I think you said it very well.

:agree:

-----Added 2/18/2009 at 09:12:59 EST-----

I am in the minority on this. I do not think it is appropriate to pray these prayers. By doing so we miss their covenantal context. David's/Israel's enemies were YHVH's enemies. They were physical enemies that sought to harm and destroy His people in their land. A land YHVH had brought them into and dwelt specially with them. Victory over enemies was a promised blessing of covenant keeping. We however do not find ourselves in the same situation. To me praying these prayers is just as inappropriate as it would be for us to expect temporal covenantal blessings and prosperity.:2cents:

I see your point, and this must be true with regard to our personal enemies. But what about imprecatory prayers concerning enemies of the church?

Good thing nobody prayed it down on Saul of Taursus:lol: I just don't think it would be appropriate. Don't want to start throwing around proof texts but , Vengence is Mine and bless those who persecute you comes to mind. It just seems to me that NT peoples are to pray in favor of enemies rather than for their demise.

Sometimes I pray this way... "Father, if it is your will to save this person (an enemy/troublemaker) please save them with my blessing. But if they are not elect and they are in the way of your will, please take them out of the way in whatever way you please." I never pray for anyone's destruction but I don't want to pray for blessings on God's enemies. "Thy will be done" is always a good prayer.
 
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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
:offtopic:

This is kind of tied to the thread, but if we are not supposed to inflict revenge on anyone else, is it alright to ask God to do this? Or is this the same in principle?

When the Psalmists ask for God to break the teeth of the wicked, etc., is this supposed to be purely divine justice, or is it also requested as a means of revenge?
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
How do impreccatory prayers square with Matt5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."?

Also, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray "Deliver us from evil". We pray for God to deliver us from evil which I believe would include our enemies, but we leave it up to Him as to how He delivers us, whether he destroys them or converts them.

If Matthew 5:44 denied the validity of imprecatory prayers, then it would make the prayers of David (like Psalm 58) at odds with it. I'm not ready to accept such a proposition, as such prayers are ultimately seeking judgment. The judgment of the Lord is definitely something that is neither abrogated nor passed away in Christ- rather, it is given even greater clarity through the NT... cumulating in the Second Coming.

If I use a man-centered idea of what is love or good, I could not reconcile this. However, Matthew does not state or even imply that imprecatory prayers are not appropriate, based on the standard of love and goodness that is the Lord. Note how psalm 58 ends-

"(10)The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the veneance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, (11)so that men will say, 'surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely He is a God who judges in the earth.'"

The glorification of God before the world is the end desire of the prayer. The imprecatory prayer is guided by the love of God and His glory upon the earth. Also noteworthy is the declaration by the world (who are wicked) of the sovereignty of God. If I pray such a thing for the wicked- that God would break them to the core that they would turn to Him, how does this defy the context of Matthew 5:44?

It does not. What better blessing for a wicked man than to be brought to his knees before the Lord? What greater love can we give to a pursuing infidel than to give him the Gospel of our dear Saviour, praying that He would bring them to repentance? Do we not see in the psalter that the thrust of the imprecatory prayer is that of breaking the pride of foolish men? Oh, that God would have heard such a prayer 'against' me when I was yet a youth, that I would not have spent half of my life hating Him!

Therefore, as I see it, an imprecatory prayer, heartfelt, sincere and with passion... imploring God that the wicked be broken by Him, is one of the most important, deepest in meaning and unfortunately neglected supplications we can make before the throne of grace.

Theognome
 

kalawine

Puritan Board Junior
How do impreccatory prayers square with Matt5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."?

Also, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray "Deliver us from evil". We pray for God to deliver us from evil which I believe would include our enemies, but we leave it up to Him as to how He delivers us, whether he destroys them or converts them.

If Matthew 5:44 denied the validity of imprecatory prayers, then it would make the prayers of David (like Psalm 58) at odds with it. I'm not ready to accept such a proposition, as such prayers are ultimately seeking judgment. The judgment of the Lord is definitely something that is neither abrogated nor passed away in Christ- rather, it is given even greater clarity through the NT... cumulating in the Second Coming.

If I use a man-centered idea of what is love or good, I could not reconcile this. However, Matthew does not state or even imply that imprecatory prayers are not appropriate, based on the standard of love and goodness that is the Lord. Note how psalm 58 ends-

"(10)The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the veneance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, (11)so that men will say, 'surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely He is a God who judges in the earth.'"

The glorification of God before the world is the end desire of the prayer. The imprecatory prayer is guided by the love of God and His glory upon the earth. Also noteworthy is the declaration by the world (who are wicked) of the sovereignty of God. If I pray such a thing for the wicked- that God would break them to the core that they would turn to Him, how does this defy the context of Matthew 5:44?

It does not. What better blessing for a wicked man than to be brought to his knees before the Lord? What greater love can we give to an pursuing infidel than to give him the Gospel of our dear Saviour, praying that He would bring them to repentance? Do we not see in the psalter that the thrust of the imprecatory prayer is that of breaking the pride of foolish men? Oh, that God would have heard such a prayer 'against' me when I was yet a youth, that I would not have spent half of my life hating Him!

Therefore, as I see it, an imprecatory prayer, heartfelt, sincere and with passion... imploring God that the wicked be broken by Him, is one of the most important, deepest in meaning and unfortunately neglected supplications we can make before the throne of grace.

Theognome

Bill, you are indeed a poet.
 
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