Imprecatory Prayer?

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Recently I had a phone conversation with a friend concerning a statement made on social media. As usual the religious overtures of a theological post made more than a few eyebrows rise and caused some hostile responses to be made towards the one sharing it. This in-turn led to my friend posting a very similar statement as the one we discussed on his social media outlet.

I am all for the proclamation of the gospel with good theological discussion, as well as defending the faith with social media being one tool we have to use for these things. It is however, wise, when it comes to social media not to be so quick in our efforts to put something out there without first, much prayer, and second some godly counsel. For when it is done with a wrong understanding, or to garner attention for one’s self image or pride, and not for the glory of God. Then it becomes devastating to the witness of Christ and a preverbal spot or wrinkle against His bride, the church. Social media theological posts cause us all to cringe when they are not well founded and done out of ignorance, anger, or pride. As followers of Jesus the Christ our words, actions, and yes, our social media presence, should always be to glorify the Father.

Recently I have noticed a disturbing trend on the social media platform that worries me. Where it has become more of a shock- Jock mentality in an arena of theology with those trying to impress or show who can be more theological. As a pastor, and more importantly a follower of Jesus Christ, I feel this sort of fifteen minutes of theological fame needs to be addressed, which is the point in writing this letter. I want to engage my friends’ post which I believe is simply wrong and to give an objective opinion on “why” in the hopes that God is glorified.

The social media post I am referring to shared by my friend was concerning an imprecatory prayer against an individual, and in this case the individual is now the president of the United States, Joe Biden. My hope is to address the content of the post I have mentioned and how I believe it is wrong on two accounts.

First, it is wrong theologically. The word imprecate means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. This type of prayer is found in the Psalms and a few times in the New -Testament in books like the gospels and Romans. In the gospels Jesus quoted from an Imprecatory prayer for instance in (Jn. 15:25) He quotes form (Psalm 35). Paul also in Romans quotes from (Psalms 69). In the context Paul was speaking on God’s judgment against Israel as well as Christ referring to those who reject Him. The prayer is never towards an individual. Nowhere in the New Covenant do we see the church praying these types of prayers.. In fact we see the opposite as commanded by Christ:

“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, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For, if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:44-48, NKJV).

Interesting enough when Paul quotes from (Psalm 69) he does so from, of all places, Rome and never does he pray against the emperor Nero instead he writes (Romans 13) to encourage Christians it is God who places rulers in power and God who removes them. Paul never encouraged Imprecatory prayer against any one or ruler for that matter. Paul, however, does teach the church how to pray for kings when he writes to a young pastor:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (1 Tim. 2:1-3).

This is why Jesus said to pray for our enemies for not only are they bearers of the Imago Dei, but it is a sign of those truly born again, as our Lord taught us to love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7-8).

Remember the Scriptures show all aspects of man even one after the Lord’s own heart. David, in the Psalter, cried out to God and prayed for His enemies to be destroyed. Yet, that does not mean it is a biblical or even an implied prayer for us to pray today. The Psalms show us the despair of human weakness and depth of God’s faithfulness, and mercy. Just because a man prays what David prayed does not mean it is something that we the church should follow after, especially when the Lord told us to pray for their salvation (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Remember the words of Jesus to His disciples James and John?

“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (LK. 9:54-55).

The second, reason I believe, this imprecatory prayer post was wrong, and came from a heart not seeking the glory of God. Is because it was a social media post in the first place. It is a horrible thing to have the wrath of God fall upon you or any person. Our hearts should mourn for the judgment that awaits those who are outside of His mercy. Yes, in our human sinfulness we wish for vengeance and even for retribution, but we must hold to the command of our Lord and Savior.

“Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).

As Christians we are called to love our fellow man, and to boldly post a prayer that invokes evil upon or curse” our enemies is not love. And to make the prayer public is not a heart broken for their spiritual state, but a heart that is full of pride seeking self adulation. No right thinking Christian would ever want such a thing to befall someone, nor would they ever parade it in front of everyone, believer and non-believer alike. Instead they would weep and mourn before God and God alone.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly “(Matt. 5: 5-6).

I love my friend in Christ and know he loves Jesus. I however, am convinced he was wrong for the reasons stated above. No doubt this topic can be lengthy and a hard discussion to have, but I believe it is one worth having. I will close with this: we are the church, the light of the world. We are called to love and to glorify God through our devotion to Him. This includes loving our enemies and that love includes forgiving and praying for their salvation.

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

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