Praying from the Psalms

June 20, 2009

More thoughts on Imprecatory Prayers

Imprecatory means to call down or pray for judgment to be brought on someone or something.
This is certainly a serious thing and we might remember that Jesus taught us to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us.  That is ‘going the second mile’ for those who would harm us.  Notice that this is the attitude towards ‘my’ enemy, towards the one who is persecuting ‘me.’  But what of the one who is persecuting someone else, perhaps, as happened in Thailand one time. A military strong arm, bent on overthrowing his country, was roaming the streets of Bangkok, killing students and other citizens who stood in his way.  Should we be soft on the sin and violence (I think of terrible suffering of Christians in Sudan), ignoring terrible tragedy poured out on others (whole villages destroyed in Indonesia simply because the villagers were Christian)? How easy for me from my easy chair to ask for forgiveness!  What about asking for judgment from the Lord?  Do we have a moral right and responsibility to pray for this? 

• I wanted to pray for the students’ safety, for blessing in a difficult situation  Yes, but
• How was I supposed to model praying ‘for’ that general? 
• ‘What’ was I supposed to pray for him?  Pray for the salvation and blessing on one who was killing students, some of whom were my students?
• Does the Bible offer any help in such a situation?

Yes it does and in the OT we read in such Psalms as 35:22-26; 69:22-28; 109:6-20; and 137:7-9, and many that have a verse or two such as Ps. 3:7; 139:19-20.  Even the NT has some verses that hint in this direction: Phil. 3:2, 18-19; 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 4:14.

The following are some lessons I have learned as I tried to make the prayers of Psalms my own:

(1) Do truth, holiness, righteousness really matter?  Have they gotten swallowed up in a mushy, romantic, back-boneless love, in an easy-going cheap grace?  Am I seriously looking for a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells? (2 Pet. 3:13)

(2) Do I take sin (first of all, ‘my’ sin) seriously?  We have all heard ‘hate sin and love the sinner’ which often comes out practically as ‘love the sinner and ignore sin.’  Which idea reflects most clearly my praying?

(3) Does my praying five evidence of my zeal over the issue?  How concerned am I that righteousness must be victorious over evil?  (Again, first in myself!)

(4) Who should pray for a wicked person to be forgiven?  If someone breaks into your house and molests your family, should I forgive that person for violence against you and your family, or must you be the one to pray for forgiveness?

(5) The seriousness which these verses (as well as the whole Bible) take of wickedness sheds a new light on the wonders of grace and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ.

(6) It also sheds brilliant light on the cross where ‘righteousness and peace kiss’ (Ps. 85:10); where God is both just and the justifier of the one who believes in Jesus (Rom. 3:26b)

(7)   It is a strong, practical reminder that we should be in tune with ‘The Day’ which is coming.  The day of vengeance, the day of reckoning, the day of judgment.  Righteousness will be a major issue then; it should be now as well.  (See Isa. 2:6-22; Zeph. 1:14-18; Acts 17:31)


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