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What is Imprecatory Prayer?

Imprecatory prayer is essentially praying the Psalms of the Bible and specifically naming the enemies of God who refuse to repent. In scripture, imprecations are prayed for political leaders or powerful people who threaten the peace of God’s people.

However, imprecatory prayer is directed primarily at God’s covenant people, not the unconverted or those who are not part of the covenant. The imprecatory prayer asks the blessings of God on His people if we obey the Law, and curses of God if we disobey. Throughout the Bible the blessings and curses of God are delineated as part of God’s covenant. Deuteronomy 28 and 29 contain lists of blessings and curses for God’s people. Many of the Psalms of David also contain imprecations.

The Beatitudes of Luke 6:20-26 contain the curses of God (in the form of “woes”) as well as the blessings:

Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.

Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

- Luke 6:22,26


Paul commands us to pray and sing the Psalms (Eph. 5:19) – all of them, especially the imprecatory Psalms that call down both God’s destruction and conversion of the wicked (Psalms 74, 83, etc.). In fact, imprecatory prayer has been part of the liturgy of various church denominations for centuries – especially in funeral services.

One of the most famous examples of this is the Requiem by Mozart.

Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.

When the accursed have been confounded
And given over to the bitter flames,
Call me with the blessed.



A vital feature of imprecatory prayer is repentance in order to receive God’s blessing. But another feature is rejoicing over God’s judgment of sinners. In the 1990s, I published a series of articles in The Forerunner about imprecatory prayer and applied it to the abortion issue and pro-life activism.

Author Ray Sutton calls this the “Covenantal Lawsuit:

One of the greatest concerns is the “wicked people” – abortionists, pornographers, statist politicians, etc. – who stand in the way of the visible reign of Christ (Heb. 2:8ff.). How should they be dealt with? Because the Biblical covenant commands Christians to be lawful, they are not allowed to use violence, except in the event of self-defense and a legally declared war by proper civil magistrates. Are they, therefore, left only with what some Christian activists call “a smile and a ‘God loves you’”?

No. The Bible specifies a special kind of lawsuit that can be filed with God against the wicked called a covenantal lawsuit. This Biblical concept is consistently used by the prophets. In a covenantal lawsuit, the blessings and curses found in Deuteronomy 28 are turned into accusations against lawless covenant-breakers and enemies of the Church, calling down God’s sanctions on them. Yes, a covenant lawsuit asks God to remove the wicked. God removes the wicked one of two ways: by conversion or destruction. So, a covenantal lawsuit is not “unloving.” But it is a Biblical method for taking dominion when opposition is met! A Christian’s greatest weapon in the face of opposition is not a “carnal” weapon but a spiritual one (2 Cor. 10:4), the covenant itself turned into a lawsuit before God (That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant)


The imprecatory prayer can take the form of a proclamation signed by church ministers and members calling political leaders to repentance. In the 1990s, many Christians became interested in how this could apply to the president because of his avid pro-abortion agenda. Bill Clinton was a member of a confessional church, which made him, at least confessionally, a Christian subject to sanctions of the church.

To be consistent, we ought to pray for all our leaders in this manner, not just the ones we don’t like. For instance, if John McCain were to be elected and continued to support embryonic stem cell research, homosexual rights and so on, then the church would be responsible to call the president to repentance.

This could take the form of praying specific imprecations (curses) found in scripture if the president does not uphold God’s law. The prayer would be published and the president would be warned and implored to obey God’s covenant.

An example

Psalm 109:8 is a prayer of King David when Saul was persecuting him.

“Let his days be few,
And let another take his office.”

This is essentially what I believe we should pray when John McCain (who is a church member and claims Jesus as his Savior) is elected. If he were not to be proactive on the pro-life issue as promised, then he would be under God’s judgment. The church’s responsibility is to proclaim this publicly through imprecatory prayer.

An explanation

The above is intended as an explanation to the many who have responded to an earlier blog post in which I referred to imprecations in passing. This can be wrenched out of context and framed in terms of “praying for so-and-so’s death.”

That is technically correct, but if taken out of context, it is a misleading way of phrasing it.

It is important not to take imprecatory Psalms and prayers out of context. I advocate praying imprecations precisely as stated in scripture. Of course, the reaction to church leaders who advocate imprecatory prayer is always going to be negative, especially when understood in the context of a liberal or atheistic worldview.

I may also be presumptive in thinking that most Christians understand the following:

  1. That Christians understand election and reprobation — I am afraid that most think that all may repent if we just give them the benefit of the doubt and pray for them long enough. But it is possible that John McCain is not one of the elect and no amount of time and prayer will change this. If so, then it is better that he be removed from office and a Christian that upholds God’s law would take his place.
  2. That most Christians understand that no one can really pray effectively for God to “kill” anyone. God is sovereign and He isn’t moved by prayer. It is just the opposite. God moves us to pray according to His will. That is why it is important to pray both blessings and curses of the covenant when we pray for our leaders (and especially for ourselves). If you read David’s Psalms (especially Psalm 7) David prays that God would judge him if he is disobedient or has sin in his heart.
  3. That people understand that John McCain is not pro-life. A lot of people think he is. I’d just recommend researching his record. Some say he’s pro-life about 75 to 80 percent of the time.

So let me know really what you think.

Is John McCain pro-life?

Is imprecatory prayer hateful?

Does the church have the responsibility to pray both the blesings and curses of God for our leaders?

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

Why the euphamism? Why not just say "Pray with all your might that John McCain drops dead"?

That would be un-Christian!! LOL!!

Thankfully, prayer is about as effective as singing "rain rain go away" in the face of a hurricane, so I think McCain is probably safe.

The same can't be said for our country if these two happen to cheat their way into office.

Posted by panthergirl on 12/09/2008 03:35 PM #

I don't follow your logic.

If imprecatory prayer is "un-Christian" then the Bible is un-Christian.

Imprecatory prayer isn't simply praying for someone's death. It is praying that God will bless those leaders who obey God's law and curse those who disobey.

It's simply praying along the lines of the Covenant.

If God does not judge criminal behavior, then He is not a just God.

Posted by Jay Rogers on 12/09/2008 11:17 PM #

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