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Should Christians Pray Imprecatory Prayers?

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

All attacks from my enemies, I command to backfire on them in the name of Jesus.” — Anonymous.

I found that on social media from someone in my cycle of friends. Such prayers are especially not rare today. I have heard many such prayers from various believers in variety of situations.

Imprecatory prayers, is what they are called. But, should we believers be praying imprecatory prayers since such prayers call God to curse our enemies? Should we curse our enemies? What if your enemies want to kill you?

I’m prompted to write this article because a dear friend asked me a direct question: “How do you make sense of psalm 109, which has some of the worst curses you can imagine?”

David Cursed Enemies

King David had many enemies. In the face of injustice, unfairness, risk of death, we see King David calling down curses on his enemies. For instance Psalm 69 has some of the worst curses you can imagine. “Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation”, (v. 27).

Again, in psalm 109:6-8, David prayed against his accuser saying: “Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” More of such prayers are found in Psalm 79: 12, 94:1-3 and 137:7-9.

Most imprecatory prayers were by King David. Nehemiah, like King David, also prayed some imprecatory prayers; calling curses on Sanballat and Tobias because they despised the builders who were restoring the broken walls of Jerusalem, (Nehemiah in 4:4-5; 6:14; and 13:29).

Jesus Blessed Enemies

Psalm 69, a prayer of King David, is well known for its application in the New Testament to the anguish of Jesus, God’s righteous Servant, as he sought his Father’s will during his earthly ministry. What is interesting though is that, Jesus’ response was the exact opposite of King David’s. Rather than cursing his enemies, Jesus blessed them instead.

He was the leading preacher of forgiveness and love. In fact at one point he shocked his listeners by saying “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27). He didn’t stop there. He demonstrated it on the cross by forgiving those who were crucifying him. He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, (Luke 23:34).

Commanded to Bless

Scripture has repeatedly commanded us to “love” (Luke 6:27), “forgive” (Luke 23:34), “feed” (Romans 12:20), and “bless” (Romans 12:14) our enemies. Why? Because we’re to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Evil cannot overcome evil. “Eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”, says Mahatma Gandi.

God has made no promise, whether in the Old or New Testament, to answer imprecatory prayers. It seems clear that God has reserved certain wrongs to be made right on judgment day.

Since Christ commands us to love our enemies, let’s not take matters into our own hands. Vengeance is for God. He will repay. Therefore, Christ’s example overrules any examples since he didn’t pray imprecatory prayers even when he could. We ought to learn from him to bless and not curse those who curse us.

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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