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All About Prayer (3) By Babatunde Olugboji

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All About Prayer (3) By Babatunde Olugboji

As we continue our series on prayers, we will focus on prayers of imprecation.

To imprecate means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. David, the psalmist most associated with imprecatory verses often used expressions like, “may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them” (Psalm 35:6) and “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, o Lord!” (Psalm 58:6) 

David wrote Psalms 7, 35, 55, 5, 59, 69, 109 and 139 to ask God to bring judgment upon his enemies. Asaph and an unknown psalmist wrote the other two imprecatory Psalms, 79 and 137. These prayers, many of them prophetic, were written not so much to exact revenge upon one’s enemies, but to emphasize God’s abhorrence of evil, His sovereignty and His divine protection of His chosen people.

When David prayed for God to shatter the teeth of his enemies, likening them to young lions pursuing him to his death, he was making the point that God is holy, righteous, and just, and that He will ultimately judge the wicked for doing evil. 

There are also imprecations in the New Testament (NT):

  • Matthew 23:13: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”
  • Matthew 26:23–24: “And He answered and said, he that dipped his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me. The Son of man goes as it is written of Him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:22: ” If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord.”
  • Galatians 1:8–9: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preaches any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
  • Galatians 5:12: “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:14: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works.”
  • Revelation 6:10: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, does thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”

Jesus also quoted from psalms. In John 15:25, He quoted Psalm 35:19 while Paul quoted Psalm 69:22–23 in Romans 11:9–10. Since all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 2:16a) and since Jesus Himself quoted from these imprecatory psalms, there is a good argument to be made that such prayers were not sinful or selfish prayers of revenge. However, there is also the injunction in the NT forbidding believers from invoking the wrath of God upon others. (Matthew 5:44) 

So, should we be praying imprecatory prayers today as NT believers? We’ll seek to answer this and other questions in the coming weeks.

Have a great week.

Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column  written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.

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