Break the Teeth of the Wicked

May 20, 2013

How do you pray for the young man who date-raped your daughter?  How do you pray for the terrorist?  How do you pray for the kids at school who are pressuring your son to try drugs?  How do you pray for the uncle who is abusing you?  How do you pray for those unreached people who tortured and killed your missionary husband?  How do you pray for government officials who authorize the persecution of Christians?  When you suffer evil, how do you pray? 

You could pray:

Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.  (Psalm 3:7)

Repay [the wicked] for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve.  (Psalm 28:4)

Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.  (Psalm 28:4)

May [the] eyes [of my enemies] be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever. Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.  (Psalm 69:23-24, 27-28)

May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.  (Psalm 71:13)

If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? . . . I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  (Psalm 139:19-22)

Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise.  (Psalm 140:9-10)

These prayers from the Psalms are commonly called imprecatory prayers, an imprecation being a curse.  They go by other more memorable names too, such as judgment prayers or enemy prayers.  C. S. Lewis called them ferocious prayers.  Whatever you call them, the psalmists prayed these kinds of prayers when they were harassed by evil.       

When you suffer evil, you could pray the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms.  After all, Psalms is the prayer book of the Bible.  However, if you’re like me, you might hesitate to do so.  I wasn’t taught to pray like this in Sunday School.  Something about these prayers makes me uncomfortable.  What about you?

So, again, when the wicked turn against us, we could pray prayers of imprecation.  If the evil is vile enough, we may want to pray them.  The matter we need to resolve first, though, is whether we should pray them.  Are the ferocious prayers of the Psalms fair game for the church?  Are imprecations the kind of prayers God would have us pray as Christians?

Over the next couple of days, I will try to answer these questions.  Specifically, I will answer the following:

Is it okay for Christians to pray the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms?
If so, how do we pray them?

My answer is that Christians may pray the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms, but only after we understand how the gospel modifies them.  Check in over the next couple of days and I’ll explain what I mean.



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