Home Features All About Prayer (5) By Babatunde Olugboji

All About Prayer (5) By Babatunde Olugboji


All About Prayer (5) By Babatunde Olugboji

Since Kingdom Dynamics Weekly (KDW) first appeared in January 2018, imprecation is the topic that has generated the number one interest and elicited more comments than any of the over one hundred topics that the weekly commentary has addressed. 

This week still on prayers of imprecation, which means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies, we will zero in on the various explanations or justifications on why the psalmists turned to imprecations.

These ranged from a desire to get even with their adversaries, to the zeal to protect God’s honor. According to available literature, the basis of imprecatory prayers is fourfold: 1) prophetic revelation 2) covenant curses 3) personal sentiment, and 4) the scolding of evil spirits, with the last two considered as the least credible.

Imprecatory psalms are sometimes thought of as a reflection of the spiritual and emotional life of believers, the “mirror of the soul,” and may reflect the resentment of individuals who have been wronged.

But within a paradigm that recognizes psalms such as 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69 79, 83, 109 and 137 as authoritative divine revelation, they are regarded as guidelines for behavior. Psalms may portray reactions of unbelief, but also reactions that are normative. Sometimes psalmists came to a normative reaction through a process of doubt and little faith. 

Describing what is normative in a psalm and what not requires careful acumen from the interpreter. Merely to attribute all the imprecations as vindictiveness, hatred, and malice appears implausible. However, if the Psalter is regarded as a kaleidoscope of human experiences, it is most plausible to regard the imprecatory prayers as personal sentiment.

Taking a step back to examine the discourse around imprecations in light of Paul’s declaration that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3: 16-17) weakens the argument that imprecations are merely objurgations of evil spirits. It appears like an attempt to explain away the clear statements of Scripture. Besides, this view negates the setting in real life of the Psalms since it is clear that the enemies of the psalmists were wicked men who slandered and did harm. They were not mere spiritual forces.

The other two reasons often cited for imprecations (prophetic revelation and covenant curses) posit that imprecatory prayers, in spite of their historical context, were relevant to other contexts and may even be relevant to us as New Testament believers.

The answer to the question of what moved the psalmists to pray for vengeance, is thus not a quite simple question to answer. As today’s Bible scholars, considering that the Holy Spirit is the inspiration behind Scripture, it is difficult to question the authors themselves about their motivations. This is why scholars and Bible commentators revert to theories informed by hermeneutical premises about the continuity and discontinuity of the testaments to answer the question about the basis of the imprecations.

The question still remains, should we, or should we not pray imprecatory prayers? Based on existing research and opinion of scholars, and my understanding of Scripture, we will bring the discussion to a climax in the next two weeks. 

But what is your position? 

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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