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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Not open for further replies.

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
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.

I would add 'silence' as well. God can put an end to enmity by saving, by destroying (through judgment), or even by silencing the enemy. That is what God did to Israel's enemies during the feast seasons when all the men were in Jerusalem. He took the fight out of their hearts during that time.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
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.

What about what Blueridge said,

"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"

Seems IMPRECATORISH to me...
 

jaybird0827

PuritanBoard Honor Roll
The WSC explains that when we pray "thy kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer, that we are praying that Satan's kingdom be destroyed as well as the kingdom of grace be advanced, and so on. That is an imprecation. Imprecations are to be addressed concerning God's enemies.
 

Theogenes

Puritan Board Junior
I haven't read all the posts, but here is a resource which may be helpful:
Amazon.com: War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms: James E. Adams: Books

Chapter 5 of this book is online here:
May We Pray the Imprecatory Psalms? by James E. Adams

Thanks Jim!
This article has given me a much better understanding of this topic. I think a real key to the use of impreccatory prayers is whether or not a person is praying out of personal revenge or not.
I want to change my answer to "YES".
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I'm glad that any imprecatory prayers someone may have thrown at me were not in God's will and therefore null. I know I have done some things in my life to merit a harsh blast.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I chipped one of my front teeth in half when I was in fourth grade, thus demonstrating that someone was praying Psalm 58:6 towards me. :D :lol:

Maybe it is correct to pray imprecatory Psalms towards persons? :detective: (Just kidding. :cool:)
 

historyb

Puritan Board Junior
Found this from a link about impectory pray, a bump for the thread. :)
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steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
I am unconvinced that they are proper at the moment....

Christ's command for New Testament believers to pray for their enemies, bless those who persecute them, etc., is clearly to be understood as not praying for their destruction but for their benefit and that they may be converted; that is a much more likely and plausible interpretation of the text, and one that perhaps more people in the early church to whom the letter was written would have held this interpretation than not.

1 Timothy 2

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Here Paul tells Timothy that he is to pray for the people in high positions--those who at that time in history would be the ones persecuting them violently!!!--because it is pleasing to God and proper for living a godly life,and so they might come to a knowledge of the truth.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I am unconvinced that they are proper at the moment....

Christ's command for New Testament believers to pray for their enemies, bless those who persecute them, etc., is clearly to be understood as not praying for their destruction but for their benefit and that they may be converted; that is a much more likely and plausible interpretation of the text, and one that perhaps more people in the early church to whom the letter was written would have held this interpretation than not.

1 Timothy 2

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Here Paul tells Timothy that he is to pray for the people in high positions--those who at that time in history would be the ones persecuting them violently!!!--because it is pleasing to God and proper for living a godly life,and so they might come to a knowledge of the truth.

Even in the OC we were told to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lev. 19:18), which invariably included our enemies. That our enemies are our neighbors makes sense given that in Lev. 19:18 we are told not to seek personal revenge at all -- and who would be the potential recipients of personal revenge but enemies?

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that (1) Jesus' Sermon on the Mount was not an abrogation of any of OT law, but a confirmation of its details, and more relevantly that (2) the enemies referred to in the imprecatory Psalms are never personal enemies. Rather, we pray for the destruction of God's enemies in general, that unregenerates either be brought to repentance or crushed by King Jesus. In fact, when we pray "Thy kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer, we are implying the destruction of Satan's kingdom and therefore the destruction of all God's enemies; and that is not different in substance from the imprecatory Psalms.

So, interestingly, when we are praying for some specific person to have his or her heart opened by God, we are praying for the destruction of Satan's kingdom. The imprecatory Psalms and Jesus' injunction to "pray for those who persecute you" align quite well.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Sure I agree with all that. My original problem was with (I forget who) saying he could teach his children to pray along the lines of "Save him or damn him, so long as his evil and mistreatment of the church stops." That sort of prayer seems contrary to Jesus' teachings on prayer in the sermon on the mount. I have no problem with praying that God's enemies, those who hate him and seek to destroy his chosen people, be destroyed and have God's justice and wrath shown; I have a problem with praying that someone in specific be damned.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Sure I agree with all that. My original problem was with (I forget who) saying he could teach his children to pray along the lines of "Save him or damn him, so long as his evil and mistreatment of the church stops." That sort of prayer seems contrary to Jesus' teachings on prayer in the sermon on the mount. I have no problem with praying that God's enemies, those who hate him and seek to destroy his chosen people, be destroyed and have God's justice and wrath shown; I have a problem with praying that someone in specific be damned.

Yeah, I would disagree with that practice as well. It also seems to go contrary to Paul's opening words in Romans 9, in which he expresses sorrow for the unbelieving Jews, because they are going to be damned. We should pray for the salvation of our enemies as a means to stopping their persecution, or we could pray for their persecution to stop without praying for a specific means to its stopping, but it seems wrong to pray for evil to befall someone specific.

On the other hand, for those whom God has already laid out in Scripture to punish (rather than redeem), e.g. the man of sin, it would likely be permissible to pray for his destruction. In fact, I'm pretty sure the WCF teaches that somewhere, but I can't remember where.
 

steven-nemes

Puritan Board Sophomore
True but if a person is reprobate or elect is something perhaps altogether unknowable to any of us here today. It could be that I was really deceived by person X who lived what appeared to be a godly lifestyle but in fact was horrendously sinful and disbelieving and such. For this reason, I think it improper to pray for this person X to be destroyed as an enemy of God, because he could possibly by God's grace come to knowledge of the truth, like Paul for example.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
True but if a person is reprobate or elect is something perhaps altogether unknowable to any of us here today. It could be that I was really deceived by person X who lived what appeared to be a godly lifestyle but in fact was horrendously sinful and disbelieving and such. For this reason, I think it improper to pray for this person X to be destroyed as an enemy of God, because he could possibly by God's grace come to knowledge of the truth, like Paul for example.

Oh yeah, I agree with that. I was referring to more specific instances (so specific, in fact, that I can think of only one example). For example, if you are convinced that the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the antichrist, then it would be permissible (I'd say it'd be obligatory) to pray for his destruction. To pray otherwise would be to pray against what God has revealed that He will do, namely destroy the man of sin with fire.
 

CalvinandHodges

Puritan Board Junior
Hi:

The book recommended by Jim in post #34 above, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace, by James Adams puts the imprecatory Psalms in their proper context. It will also add a new dimension to your prayer life (if you have neglected this in the past).

Good Post Jim!

-Rob
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
God is allowed to curse His enemies and even hate them because He is an all holy and righteous God who can do those things with perfect righteousness. We cannot. Therefore, He doesn't call us to pray a curse on others but instead love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Just because it's good enough for God to do something doesn't mean we are allowed to place ourselves in the same seat. God takes lives all the time, however, He has commanded that we not murder. We are not God...we must know our place and know His place and not confuse the two.
 

JML

Puritan Board Junior
God is allowed to curse His enemies and even hate them because He is an all holy and righteous God who can do those things with perfect righteousness. We cannot. Therefore, He doesn't call us to pray a curse on others but instead love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Just because it's good enough for God to do something doesn't mean we are allowed to place ourselves in the same seat. God takes lives all the time, however, He has commanded that we not murder. We are not God...we must know our place and know His place and not confuse the two.


The imprecatory psalms were the words of David and obviously the words of God as well. But David was never corrected for saying these things. In fact he says in Psalm 139:21, "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?" By the wording of "do I not" it seems to imply this was what David was supposed to do. Obviously the other Scriptures about loving our enemies are true as well. There must be a balance that someone more intelligent than I am could maybe figure out. But we do find both in Scripture and there are no contradictions in Scripture.
 

HokieAirman

Puritan Board Freshman
1Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

I agree with imprecatory prayer being used against individuals. I think the scripture clearly shows that it should not be used for personal revenge, but rather a prayer that God uphold His people and His Word and bring judgment upon those who fight against Him for the purpose of repentence.

I see a close correlation between this and the purpose of church discipline.

I don't have a whole lot of scripture references to support this, as I haven't studied the topic specificially, however, I believe the psalms are a good example. David is not praying for personal revenge. He is praying that God would protect him against his enemies. I do think he is praying against individuals. An example would be the psalms where he is being persecuted by Saul. He may word the psalm to be nonspecific, but it is clear that it is against Saul.

:2cents:
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
1Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

I agree with imprecatory prayer being used against individuals. I think the scripture clearly shows that it should not be used for personal revenge, but rather a prayer that God uphold His people and His Word and bring judgment upon those who fight against Him for the purpose of repentence.

I see a close correlation between this and the purpose of church discipline.

I don't have a whole lot of scripture references to support this, as I haven't studied the topic specificially, however, I believe the psalms are a good example. David is not praying for personal revenge. He is praying that God would protect him against his enemies. I do think he is praying against individuals. An example would be the psalms where he is being persecuted by Saul. He may word the psalm to be nonspecific, but it is clear that it is against Saul.

:2cents:

Yes, I agree with you. The problem with praying imprecatory Psalms against specific people arises when the motive is out of personal revenge. The distinction is one of proper motives, and not one of generic/specific targets.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
God is allowed to curse His enemies and even hate them because He is an all holy and righteous God who can do those things with perfect righteousness. We cannot. Therefore, He doesn't call us to pray a curse on others but instead love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Just because it's good enough for God to do something doesn't mean we are allowed to place ourselves in the same seat. God takes lives all the time, however, He has commanded that we not murder. We are not God...we must know our place and know His place and not confuse the two.


The imprecatory psalms were the words of David and obviously the words of God as well. But David was never corrected for saying these things. In fact he says in Psalm 139:21, "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?" By the wording of "do I not" it seems to imply this was what David was supposed to do. Obviously the other Scriptures about loving our enemies are true as well. There must be a balance that someone more intelligent than I am could maybe figure out. But we do find both in Scripture and there are no contradictions in Scripture.

I would be careful in taking the Psalms as your guide on how to pray when Christ Himself is very clear on how we should pray. The Psalms often comes in and out talking about Christ and talking about David. That whole chapter appears to be talking about David, but we know that Scripture never contradicts itself and is never going to give us two commands in opposition to each other. Trying to take two commands in opposition of each and "balancing" the two is impossible. You either hate your enemies or you love them. I would be curious to see what a Hebrew scholar says about verses such as this.... whether the hate is toward the enemies' actions or the enemies themselves.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
We are to pray according to the Word of God. What is the will of God for our enemies? Will He not make them His and our footstool? Then we should pray for such. What is the will of God for salvation of our enemies? This we don't know, but we are to pray for all types of people, even those who are our enemies, we are to love our enemies. Then we should pray for their salvation.
 

willisadair

Puritan Board Freshman
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

amen!!!
 

willisadair

Puritan Board Freshman
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.

What about what Blueridge said,

"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"

Seems IMPRECATORISH to me...

These passages deal with how God deals with particular sinners, I am not seeing your connection to the question about prayer.
 
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