More Thoughts on Imprecatory Prayer

Psa 3:7-8 Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. (8) Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah

Our friend Lynn has more excellent thoughts to offer here on the subject of imprecatory prayer – something that most churches and professing Christians today believe is “unloving.” Well, the Bible doesn’t share that conclusion and Lynn explains why. Many thanks to her:

To those who are against imprecatory prayer, I’d like to know what is your hesitation in praying or teaching others about the importance of practicing imprecatory prayer? That God may take negative action against the wicked and punish them for their wickedness? Don’t you want God’s perfect justice to take place and the wicked to be punished for their sins in this life? Don’t you want his justice to come to fruition in the lives of those victims who were abused by evil people masquerading as fellow believers?

If your answer is yes, then you must embrace imprecatory prayer. It is the offensive weapon God gave his people to use to bring about his justice in the earth. It is our part to play in the spiritual war engaged between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God.  The other deterrent to injustice is the civil authorities. Only one weapon guaranteed to never fail us is prayer.

How long must the oppressed wait for their injustice to be remedied? How many men, women, and children need to come forward with their stories of abuse at the hands of professing Christians – albeit pastors, volunteers, or elders – before the church will wake up and act like the body of Christ it professes to be? How long will you deny the oppressed the tools – like imprecatory prayer – and the support they deserve as fellow heirs in Christ, Christian?

This is one of the reasons I know that most of the professing Christians aren’t. They will not make the sacrifice required to support the victims because it will cost them time, money and energy that they’d rather invest in things that make them feel good. They’d have to be willing to patiently walk with people who have stared evil in the face and need help recovering from it, because their trauma is soul shattering and destructive. 

What’s worse? Not believing a victim and allowing the abuser to remain among you to prey on other members in your church or removing innocent people and casting them out of the church? 93 to 98 times out of 100 the victim is telling the truth about the abuse.  Popular opinion is that they’d rather endure the abusive person than to accidentally remove an innocent person.  It is foolishly wicked to allow abusers to remain in church. The old adage of innocent until proven guilty is one of the excuses given to why they tolerate evil.  They misunderstand its meaning and how it relates to church governance.  While it is instituted by God in the Bible, most pastors misinterpret the 2-3 witnesses believing if they don’t have at least 2-3 victims, then it didn’t happen. 

Witnesses don’t need to be people. They can be physical things, digital correspondence like email or text messages, or abuser withholding funds, forced isolation, or signs of emotional trauma manifested by the victim, to help corroborate the victim’s story.

What I see in Christianity today is a strong bias against victims. Those in positions of power are so afraid of accidentally maligning an innocent person – as if Christ’s name will somehow be destroyed if they expose the abuse and show support for the victim – that they side with abusers most of the time. Why do they do this? Greed. Cowardice. Power. Control. Ego. Love of self more than love for God and his people. 

When they are confronted with the story that the victim shares, their first reaction is to not believe the victim because that doesn’t fit with the person they know and love or minimize it as if it’s not that bad. 93 to 98 times out of 100 the victim is telling the truth. Think about that for a moment. Every time a church doesn’t remove an abuser from its membership when the abuse comes to light, it is adding to the number of victims the abuser can harm and becomes complicit in the abuse by allowing the evil person to continue to harm more people. 

God does not take it lightly when his children are mistreated. There will be hell to pay for those that remain unrepentant of their allegiance to the abusers when they are standing before him giving an account of their life.

Is it possible that sometimes God refrains from intervening on the behalf of a victim because He hasn’t been invited into the situation to take action? Vengeance is his. Imprecatory prayer is our way of asking him to enact that vengeance on our behalf. Expressing your pain and frustration in prayer is a good thing, but a better thing would be to ask Him to intercede on your behalf for the injustice you suffered in order that He may get the glory and credit that He deserves.

Imprecatory prayer is a lamentation of God’s people in the face of injustice.  It is them crying out to God from their place of pain asking him to act on their behalf and bring about the destruction of their enemies for the pain and destruction they’ve caused. It is a reminder to God of how his people trust and rely on him to bring about vengeance and enact perfect justice.  Much of the time it includes asking God to curse the wicked, which many professing Christians shy away from because they fail to understand what cursing is, and assume all cursing is sin. It’s not. 

Who/What are we to pray imprecatory prayers against?

Abusive people and institutions in our midst

Reprobates, false teachers, false prophets

Governments that are failing to govern justly and disobeying God’s law

God’s enemies – the devil and his children

Our sinful flesh

Many pastors shy away from imprecatory prayers because they are uncomfortable with the idea of asking God to curse those who have abused, betrayed, and defrauded them or their brothers and sisters in Christ. They’ve bought into the idea that it is unloving, ungodly, unChristlike to do so. But that’s not what scripture shows us. 

The Psalms are filled with imprecatory prayers. Hezekiah prays an imprecatory prayer. The Lord’s Prayer includes imprecatory language. Paul calls for a curse on all those who are false teachers and prophets ask God for them to be damned. Paul specifically mentions Alexander the coppersmith and asks God to deal with him for the harm he’s inflicted on Paul. 

Not all imprecatory pray specifically calls for the cursing of the wicked. “Come quickly Lord Jesus” is an imprecatory prayer.

Imprecatory prayer is the primary weapon God gave his people so they can ask God get them justice where there has been injustice. Prayer is how we take part in the war between God and satan. Taking imprecatory prayer away from Christians is like asking them to fight the enemy with plastic swords against their steel blades, and then being surprised when they get even more wounded in battle.

I know the reasoning many professing Christians use for not wanting to pray imprecatory prayers is that in their minds it contradicts Matthew 5:44’s instruction to bless those who curse you. The greek word for bless in Matthew 5:44 is eulogeo (https://biblehub.com/greek/2127.htm) – it’s where we get the word eulogy from – and means to confer what is beneficial. 

Conferring what is beneficial would include telling the truth about a person’s words and actions.  Correct? It is not asking for health, happiness, and prosperity for the abusive person. I think much of the time we make assumptions about what we think the words in the Bible are supposed to mean. That it can cause us trouble as we read scripture. We are looking through our own 21st century lens, and it completely skews the actual meaning.  The other reason is that most professing Christians don’t actually study their Bible and take the time to learn about what the words mean and in the context in which they are placed. They rely on other people – usually their pastor or a famous Bible teacher – to do the work for them, many of whom are wolves in sheep’s clothing. That’s why false teaching spreads so rapidly. Spiritual laziness and having their ears tickled results in dead churches.

By not understanding what it means to “bless” those who curse or persecute you in Matt. 5:44, it can cause us to respond in damaging ways for ourselves and those we have influence over. We assume that blessing means we are to only speak positive words designed to bring about health, happiness and prosperity to the person we are speaking to or praying about, when that’s not really the true meaning of the word. 

What if the verse means that when you bless an enemy you are to confer what is beneficial to him/her? That could happen in the form of a rebuke of their sin and to pray imprecatory prayers in the hopes that the negative consequences they experience will bring about genuine repentance? That blessing we are instructed to extend to our enemies includes how we speak about them to others. We tell the truth to others about our enemies, so it is beneficial for them to know and make their own judgement call, instead of asking God to give them health, happiness, and prosperity. 

What glorifies God more, praying imprecatory prayers against our enemies or praying health, happiness, and prosperity on them? 

Think about that for a moment. Nothing godly will come from praying God grant his enemies health, happiness, and prosperity while they are alive. It only feeds their delusion that their evil behavior is acceptable and gives them more ways to harm their victims. I want you to think about this. When you pray health, happiness, and prosperity on abusive people you are asking a holy, righteous God to reward your abusers wicked behavior.  Is that a godly decision on your part, to ask that wickedness against yourself be rewarded? I think not. So if you feel compelled to pray for your abuser(s), I’d encourage you to pray to God that He will quickly bring about the promised consequences for their evil actions and a just end to the wicked person for the sake of his holy name that is being maligned at the hands of these wicked people.

You may be wondering, can imprecatory prayer be used wrongly? 

I suppose it’s possible. It depends on how it is taught and what’s the intention of the person who’s praying it. What matters are your motives when you pray them.  Wanting justice that results in very bad things happening to your abuser is not sin. Denying justice to victims of abuse who have suffered for years, probably decades, at the hands of their oppressors is.

Let’s say someone does pray an imprecatory prayer and curses an innocent person? God knows that. He’s not required to answer that prayer and invoke that curse. Proverbs 26:2 tells us that like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, and undeserved curse does not come to rest. So even if your abuser does pray a curse against you because you will not give into their demands, God will deal with them for that. It will be another sin added to their growing list of sins that they will spend eternity being punished by.  If you pray an imprecatory prayer against someone who turns out to be innocent (it’s highly unlikely, if not impossible, to happen with abusers), as with any other sin, repent to God for your actions and seek forgiveness from the target of your imprecatory prayers.

So instead of being afraid to invoke curses against God’s enemies who are abusing you, boldly pray imprecatory prayers knowing that God knows your heart and will not punish you for seeking justice for your abuse via prayer. If it’s an undeserved curse, it will not land on the recipient. If it is, it will be brought before the Lord and He will hear it and act in his perfect time and according to his perfect will. That prayer will be added to past prayers of the saints until the cup of God’s wrath is complete and he pores it out on the wicked in final judgment.

So I encourage you to stop living in fear of being judged for praying imprecatory prayers against your abusers. God’s not mad at you for it. Those who oppose it and reveal their true colors demonstrate the states of their hearts. By standing against imprecatory prayer, they are showing you that they are not your friends, allies, or brothers or sisters in Christ. Take heart. God is for you. He hears the cries of your heart, sees your tears as a result of the evil you’ve endured, and collects each one and stores them in a bottle and records them in His book in heaven. They are evidence that God collects and catalogs for the final judgement. They are a witness to the pain you’ve endured at the hands of evil people and will testify against your abusers in the courts of heaven.   

May you be strengthened and encouraged by this article, and be free to pray imprecatory prayers against your abusers to your hearts content.  Grace and peace be with you.

 

A Rotten Apple…?

…there is more danger that the bad will damage the good than hope that the good will benefit the bad.

[Matthew Henry]

We like to give apples to the deer that come into our yard. I buy bushels of them that are on the brink of spoiling. In each box we will find one or two rotten apples and you can see how that spoilage will be spreading to the rest.

Now, it seems to me that we are being told in our churches that we need to be mixing it up with rotten apples in order to make them healthy. “Forgive the bad apple. Be reconciled to the rot. Your goodness and health will wear off on the bad and they will be healed.” That kind of thing.

But we do not see this in Scripture. In fact, what we do see is this-

2Co 6:17-18 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

In agreement with the Apostle Paul, Matthew Henry summarized the truth in the quote above. Associating in a “yoked” way with the wicked is much more likely to damage the good than for the good to benefit the bad. And this truth is not just limited to marriage (as this Scripture is typically solely applied today). Paul actually had the pagan trade guilds and their associated idolatry in mind when he wrote this. The Corinthians were trying to have their cake and eat it too by continuing to be “members in good standing” with the guilds (a kind of trade union), even though to do so required participating in Babylon and its idolatries.

The reason so many professing Christians today are “restricted in their affections” to Christ’s true people (as the Corinthians were toward Paul) is because they have not “come out from among” this evil present world which is Babylon, the kingdom of the devil. To do so would mean experiencing the sufferings and losses that Paul and other real believers experienced. They balked. They were in danger of “receiving the grace of God in vain” (see 2 Cor 6:1).

Christ calls His people without exception to come out of Babylon. To reject participation in and acceptance of the religious, economic, and political system whose theology is written by the prince of darkness himself. We are not instructed to be a healthy apple whose mission is to be in the same bushel box with the rotten ones. No. We are to come out from among them, and then and only then will the Lord be a Father to us.

And that is the reason why so many genuine Christians today, who are following Christ, who have separated from the idolatry that parades even as Christianity, are experiencing suffering in their daily lives. But then we also experience something else – salvation. Knowing the Lord and being known by Him.

Is He a Christian?

Psa 119:9-16 Beth How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! (11) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (12) Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! (13) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. (14) In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. (15) I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (16) I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

Most of you married an abuser who was “a fine Christian.” You believed he was. His claim to be in Christ seemed genuine. And even after the abuse began (which was probably from the very first day you met him, but was so deceptive), you continued to want to believe he was a believer. He said so. Your pastor said so. The people in your church were just sure of it. And yet….

So how can we know if a person’s claim to be a Christian is the real thing or not? How can we be wise in this respect? And in fact, as a very important side note – how can we have the assurance that we are born again? These are the things I would like to talk about here.

As you can see from the scripture above, and in the entirety of this long Psalm 119, the Psalmist had a hunger and thirst for God’s Word. It was a superficial ability to quote Bible verses, nor was it a love for theological systems. Yes, it is a good thing to know sound doctrine. To know that man in his sin is totally depraved, that God in His mercy elects His people to salvation based on nothing within themselves, that Christ actually accomplished the salvation of His own whom the Father had given Him, and so on. These truths are vital.

But being skilled and knowledgeable in theology like this is an ability that unregenerate people can have, and which many of them do. There are lots of seminary professors who are not born again. Many pastors preaching on the planks of the confessions of their faith, are not born again. And so many of you have told me how your abuser could debate and discuss theology like a pro. How he could quote big chunks of scripture, and so on. Yet in fact he was evil, a child of the devil. By the way, I have no doubt that the devil himself is quite a master at theology – and you know how he quoted and perverted Scripture to Jesus in the wilderness.

An indispensible and sure sign of the new birth, of becoming a new creation in Christ by faith alone in Christ alone, is something quite different than all that. It is what Psalm 119 talks about –

Psa 119:46-48 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, (47) for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (48) I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.

See it? A love for God evidenced by a love for His Word. A desire to know God’s Word so that he can keep that Word. A delight from the heart in Scripture. It is in fact a love for God and a love for God’s people, fueled by a love for God’s truth. The wicked man knows nothing of these things.

Let me illustrate further. Recently and with increasing frequency, I am receiving notes and emails from people, most of whom are abuse survivors, which have a common theme. They are extremely thankful that they have found our online sermons and Bible studies (livestreamed and uploaded to Facebook, Youtube, and Sermon Audio). Why? Because they are being fed God’s Word which they love. They tell me that they are watching every video of every sermon and every midweek Bible study, that they have begun to follow, for example, the podcasts of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and so on. That is to say, they have a real hunger and thirst for God’s Word. They don’t have to be pushed. They don’t have to be told “get with it now! Read your Bible. Know the Lord!” Because they DO know Him and it is evidenced by their zeal for His truth. They hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in the Word and they are sick and tired of listening to strangers who are false shepherds.

Now, I say all of this to emphasize that this love and hunger for God’s Word is an inevitable aspect of knowing Christ. Where it is absent, there is no reason to conclude that a person is a Christian even if by outward word and appearance they seem to be. This thing is not about buying all kinds of theology books, becoming expert on what the Puritans said about a certain doctrine, knowing everything John Calvin or Luther or Augustine taught. Those things can have value if pursued out of the right motivation. But they are also things that a wicked man can excel in. What he cannot fake however is this genuine love for Christ and His Word, so that it is sweet to him, so that it corrects and reproves him when necessary, so that he can keep his way from sin, so that he can love others more and more.

When a “christian” lacks these things, you can be sure that this is no person to trust.

Now, when it comes to pre-marriage counseling, this is what I am doing. I tell the person inquring about it, this – “Tell your perspective spouse that you want to go through the Bible studies we have put online. For example, tell them you want to go through and discuss together, the series on First John. And then keep doing this with the other series we have published. Keep doing it. And watch carefully what happens.” Because what will happen in the case of a fake is that he/she is not going to have that hunger and thirst. He might try to fool you for a time, but it won’t last. There will be excuses. He won’t “like the style.” He will argue. He will be the teacher. Or in other cases he might just go through the motions of listening, but that is all it will be.

And that will tell you just what kind of a person you are really dealing with. Make no mistake. The majority of people who claim to be Christians….aren’t.