William Ross, a doctoral candidate in Old Testament at the University of Cambridge, wrote an article on the Gospel Coalition Website called, “Should we pray the imprecatory Psalms?” It caught my attention. The verb, “imprecate” means “to pray evil against” or “to invoke curse upon.” Psalm 59:5 “You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. So the question becomes, is it ever right and good to pray for judgment, calamity, or curse against one’s enemies, or the enemies of God? As we have been studying the book of Nehemiah together that question has come up on several occasions. I have been reading my Bible, reading other authors and praying, asking God for wisdom. This really is a tough question in light of the persecution of Christians all over the world but particularly in the Middle East. Due to limited space, I cannot go into great detail concerning this matter but allow me to provide some brief thoughts on the subject.
#1. God is God of Justice. He is a jealous God who loves His creation. Anger therefore is an essential attribute of God. If He were not angry at sin, hatred, torture and murder He would not be worthy of worship. Deut. 32:21-22.
#2. God is Sovereign and will according to His plans and holy purposes bring all evildoers to justice. All injustices are an affront against our Creator. Rev. 20.
#3. We are never justified to take matters into our own hands. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19. We must never condemn others on our own terms and make ourselves little gods; but this does not prohibit asking God to pour out his justice.
#4. Ultimately our fight is not against flesh and blood “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12.
#5. We are commanded by our Savior to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:27-28. It is not “loving” to want someone to continue in his or her evil and avoid God’s justice.
#6. There are very different responsibilities between a government and the Church. Rom 13:1-5.
#7. And lastly, as I think through this very tough question, “What do I want from God? Justice or mercy?” Do I want what I deserve or do I want grace, what I don’t deserve? The obvious answer is I want mercy and grace. On the cross Jesus, the sinless one was judged for our sin; he took our punishment as the wrath of God’s justice was poured out on Him. “So that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Rom. 3:26
Therefore I conclude: It is good and right to ask God for justice, to intervene and stop the evil in the world. But it always must be balance with a prayer for their repentance and salvation; to receive the same grace and mercy we have received. Our prayer should be that God’s justice would reveal his mercy and grace to many. In hope that the imprecatory prayers of judgment would cause the wicked to seek the Lord. In Psalm 83, Asaph prays that God would judge and humiliate His enemies so that they would seek His name and acknowledge Him as the sovereign God, may that be our prayer also.
Psalm 83:13-8: O my God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane! Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O LORD. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.