All About Prayer (7) By Babatunde Olugboji
As we look forward to concluding, next week, this series on prayers that shines the searchlight on prayers of imprecation, we’ll focus on the argument that praying such prayers is appropriate for today’s New Testament believers.
As a reminder, to imprecate means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. David, the psalmist most associated with imprecatory verses such as Psalms 55:15, 69:28, and 109:8, often used phrases 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)
The argument against imprecatory prayers rests largely on the premise that the Old Covenant, depicted in the Hebrew Bible, functioned within a specific dispensation centered around the nation of Israel, and that the NT believer is of a different covenant.
However, scholars writing in support of imprecatory prayers point out the continuity between the 2 covenants, the latter being a further administration of the same covenant. Afterall, the argument goes, the OT is the shadow of things to be unfolded in the NT (Hebrew 10:1) They see no tension between the Testaments. They are quick to point out that Jesus quoted some of the imprecatory psalms during his earthly ministry.
In John 15:25, Jesus quotes Psalms 35:19 and 69:4. And that Paul also quoted an imprecatory prayer in Romans 11: 9–10, which is a quote of Psalm 69: 22–23. Since Jesus and Paul quoted verses from these imprecatory psalms, it proves, according to this school of thought, that those psalms were inspired by God and counters any allegation that they were sinful or selfish prayers of revenge.
In both testaments, God remains a God of justice and mercy. Imprecatory prayers, like the psalmic imprecations, are appeals to the justice of God. Because the character of God does not change, His ethical standards do not change. However, in the light of Christ’s coming the administration of these aspects takes on a new form.
The cries for justice in the imprecatory psalms should be regarded in the light of Christ’s role as redeemer and final judge, says the school of thought that supports imprecatory prayers.
Praying in that manner allows God to work in our own lives to soften our hearts toward our enemies so that we’ll have compassion on them for their eternal destiny, and to remove bitterness and anger from our hearts.
Praying for God’s will to be done means we agree with God and are submitting ourselves to His divine sovereignty, despite not always understanding perfectly what He’s doing in a particular situation. And it means we have given up the idea that we know best and instead are now relying on and trusting in God to work His will.
Whether imprecatory psalms are applicable to NT believers or not, is a question that is determined to a large extent by extra-textual aspects such as one’s view on the relation between the 2 testaments and broader ethical considerations. A personal in-depth study of these psalms may further shed light on the extent and nature of the imprecations and the apparent ethical problem they pose for NT believers.
We will conclude this series next week.
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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