My Bible reading has led me to the Psalms. As I was reading the introductory section to the Psalms in the Reformation Study Bible, I read about a category of psalms called imprecatory psalms. We are told that these psalms cry out not only for the righteous to be vindicated, but also for God to punish the wicked. This section states that theologians are divided over whether there might be circumstances under which Christians may pray the imprecatory psalms against the church’s enemies in the new covenant era, but if there is a place for such prayers, two things must be kept in mind:
- “As under the old covenant, the imprecatory psalms are not for use against just any enemy who causes problems for God’s people. Rather, they are for enemies who are flagrantly and impenitently evil in their actions against Christ’s church.
- In praying imprecatory psalms, space must always be allowed for the Lord to answer them by redeeming our enemies through judgment, just as He has done for us. Christ bore the imprecations that were rightly directed at us as the enemies of God, and so we passed through judgment in Him unto eternal life. God may do the same for our enemies, uniting them to Christ so that He bears the imprecations in their place, granting them the gift of eternal life.”
Is it ever appropriate today for a Christian to pray imprecatory prayers?
Recently, legislators in the state of Illinois, where I have lived my entire life, passed a new abortion bill that the governor of the state, who has pledged to sign it, has said is “the most progressive in the nation for reproductive healthcare”. Abortion is our nation’s holocaust. There have been more than 61 million abortions in the United States since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. 61 million. Let that figure sink in. 61 million babies. As Ronald Reagan said, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”
The Illinois law, called the Reproductive Health Act, declares that a pregnant woman has a “fundamental right” to terminate her pregnancy, and that a “fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights.” But abortion is the killing of a human life that is created in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
My pastor regularly prayed for the salvation of the governor in our corporate worship services in the weeks leading up to the passing of the legislation, and we will continue to do so. But if there is ever a time for us to pray imprecatory prayers, perhaps it is now. This Illinois pastor’s prayer before the House asks God to judge the state for ‘Sanctioned Destruction of Innocent Unborn’.
In his article entitled “Can I Pray Imprecatory Prayers” in the March, 2019 issue of Tabletalk magazine, John W. Tweeddale writes “Praying for God to punish the wicked is neither unloving nor vindictive but is an expression of faith in Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).” He concludes his article with “We lift our voices, not our swords, as we pray for God either to convert or curse the enemies of Christ and His kingdom”.
I like the way William VanDoodeward states things at the very end of this video clip from a “Question and Answer” session from the 2016 Ligonier National Conference, when he states “We pray, as my family does, for example, for dictators, “Oh Lord, please convert this man; but if he’s not going to repent, please remove him (from office).” That is a good prayer to pray for our governor and the members of the Illinois House and Senate who voted for this bill.
What do you think? Is it ever appropriate for a Christian to pray imprecatory prayers? Why or why not?
June 3, 2019 at 5:12 am
It’s interesting that you should mention abortion in relation to the imprecatory Psalms, because one such says “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”
Psalms 137:8-9 ESV
I’m still working through the answer to your question in my head as I type. I know that God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance and faith. But I also know that if I was severely persecuted, I would feel like praying the imprecatory Psalms.
I think God doesn’t judge us if we are severely persecuted and long for judgement on our persecutors.
But it’s surely better to pray that our persecutors to come to repentance and faith, like Saul/Paul did…
June 3, 2019 at 10:55 am
Hi Robert. Thanks for engaging, and thinking through this question with me. I do like the way William VanDoodeward puts it,
“Oh Lord, please convert this man; but if he’s not going to repent, please remove him (from office).”
November 2, 2020 at 8:09 am
Hi I believe it is appropriate for Christians to pray imprecatory prayer. The devil use people to plot, lie, deceive & provoke the children of God. This is because what we stand for as being a child of God. For We wrestle not against flesh & blood, but against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. We are the church.. People will reap what they sow.
November 3, 2020 at 9:39 am
Hi Bernice. Thanks for your thoughts on this, and for reading our blog.