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All About Prayer (8) By Babatunde Olugboji

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All About Prayer (8) By Babatunde Olugboji

Should we pray imprecatory prayers? I believe yes, we should. You may not necessarily agree with me, but I encourage you to be open as we end the series on prayers. 

An imprecatory psalm (e.g., Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69 79, 83, 109 and 137) in Hebrew literature is a type of lament, and lament psalms are the individual and corporate cries of God’s people. The imprecatory psalms in particular articulated Israel’s tears in the face of unfairness and suffering. By invoking the curse of God through prayers on God’s enemies, Israel sought to hold up the goodness of God’s law for his people.

True, at its source, an imprecatory psalm is an invocation of divine cursing. However, examples of many of these imprecations, including Psalms 5, 6, 35, 69, and 109, are quoted in the New Testament and curse declarations are scattered throughout the biblical canon.

Examples: Jesus calling down woes of judgment on religious leaders in Matthew 23; Paul uttering an abomination on anyone who preached a gospel different from the gospel of Christ (Galatian 1:8–9); and the martyrs in heaven petitioning God to avenge their blood. (Revelation 6:10)

The consistent witness of Scripture affirms the legitimacy of God’s people making use of imprecatory prayers in their individual, family, and corporate prayers. Underlying this assertion is a basic assumption that the prayers of God’s people should be rooted in all of Scripture. Remember, all scripture is God inspired. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The imprecatory psalms, a component of God’s divinely inspired word help give shape to the hurt and outrage that the people of God at times witnessed in a world desecrated by sin.

Many believers react in revulsion to the harsh language of the imprecatory psalms. For example,  “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) While such disgust is understandable, we mustn’t lose sight of what our sin deserves. Others underscore the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies. But loving our enemies in the NT never comes at the expense of forgoing appeals to divine justice. Praying for God to punish the wicked is neither unloving nor vindictive but is an expression of faith in him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

There are believers who want to limit the imprecatory psalms to old covenant Israel. While the conditions of God’s covenant people have altered with the coming of Christ, the same unkindness that troubled Israel as a believing people in a hostile world still beleaguered the church today. If we remove the vocabulary of the imprecatory psalms from our homes and churches, what else will Christians sing and pray when tragedy strikes?

To pray the imprecatory psalms is ultimately to pray as Jesus taught us to pray. As followers of Christ, we long for God’s kingdom to come. We crave for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Praying the imprecatory psalms is not a call to arms but a call to faith. We lift our voices, not our swords, as we pray for God either to convert or curse the enemies of Christ and His kingdom.

May God’s will be done in our situations.

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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