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Imprecatory Prayer: The Church's Duty Against God's Enemies

By Jeff Ziegler
Published April 26, 2008

There is a communion of men with God by which, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, appeal to him in person concerning his promises in order to experience, where necessity so demands, that what they believed was not vain, although He had promised it in word alone.

– John Calvin

This grand description of the legislative dynamic of prayer, as taken from Calvin’s introduction to the subject in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, is an essential foundation for the Church to recover if she is to resolutely and effectively exercise her parliamentary role in the earth.

Explicitly, this “communion of men” reach into the very seat of all governmental authority in heaven and earth through prayer. These prayers are marked not only by sentimentality, mystical expression, nor monastic babbling. Rather from this lofty plane, they make appeal to the Father through Christ concerning divine legislation, chiefly, that which God has promised to perform in His Word. As depicted, the Church, this “house of prayer for all nations” is asking the God who keeps covenant forever” to execute His Word “where necessity so demands” thus advancing the Kingdom on “Earth as it is in Heaven.”

The aim here is not that the Church should pray for indeed she must “pray without ceasing.” Rather the stress is upon the legislative content of prayer. That is for the Church to rightly function in her governmental capacity, she must through prayer and public proclamation legislate God’s will, as revealed alone in Scripture, on earth, thus enforcing the Crown Rights of Christ over all life.

Again I must stress that the body and form of these legislative prayers are not subjective and cannot be formed by human instrumentality no matter how noble the thought may be. Rather such praying must be founded upon all that God has vouched to effect exclusively in God’s inspired and infallible Word. God’s Word is peerless in that it alone is divinely guaranteed no to “return void” and to “accomplish that which I (God) sent it.”

Positive and Negative Sanctions

The promises of God could be defined as anything that God has vouched to perform. Specifically, the promises of Scripture are grouped throughout in covenantal structures. Within these structures, God promises blessings both spiritual and material for those, who, in the long term, obey His statutes. Through this inheritance of blessing, God multiplies and increases His covenant people, so that in turn, they may advance His purposes in the earth. Just as crucial to understand is that within the same covenantal structures, God promises negative sanctions both spiritual and material for those, who, in the long term, transgress and mock His Law. Thus through the covenantal curse, the wicked are disinherited in history. Through this dynamic of blessing and negative sanctions, the righteous accrue dominion in the earth.

As an example of covenantal foundations of Scripture we examine the structure of Deuteronomy 28.

The first verse exhorts the Israelite nation to hear, observe, and perform all the commandments which God had given for the expressed purpose of setting her high above all the nations of the earth. Then in the next 13 verses, all the blessings that were to be accrued in relation to their obedience are delineated. Literally blessings are conferred which are coextensive with all life both spiritual and material and all given with the end of blessing the nations of the earth. However, in the 15th verse the transition to negative sanctions (curses) occurs. From this point until the end of the chapter, temporal but very real curses are delineated for long term disobedience and covenant breaking. Thus, negative sanctions exist to disinherit, diminish and eventually destroy wicked unrepentant individuals and nations.

If then the church is to pray and make proclamation covenantally, she must embrace the statutes of Scripture, both the blessings and the curses. For both are inspired by God and necessary for the work of Divine governance.

King David At War

David the warrior king, was a man of covenant who approached civil polity and spiritual worship with a firm understanding of positive and negative sanctions. Witness the first Psalm. David extols the virtues of the righteous man who delights in God’s Law. He declares blessing and strength for the lawkeeper. The righteous man is described as a tree planted by the water, which brings forth its fruit in due season, whose leaf does not whither. This man is shown to be prospering in “whatsoever he doeth.” However, David goes on to describe the lawbreaker as one who under the crushing weight of Divine wrath, becomes chaff driven by the wind, who cannot endure the judgment and will by virtue of his wickedness, perish from the earth.

This covenantal understanding is paramount if we are to comprehend, embrace, and emulate David’s imprecatory war Psalms and recapture our lawless society.

Let us examine the controversial 109th Psalm. David is at prayer warring against the enemies of God. In verses 4 and 5, David gives himself to prayer and describes his enemies as those who act with disdain for God and righteousness. From this forensic, legal ground, he proceeds to proclaim and enforce the covenantal negative sanctions against these very same enemies in verses 6 through 29.

It is important to note that David is merely applying God’s Law to specific conditions. The imprecations found in this Psalm are directly related to definite covenantal sanctions. There is nothing of David here! All of his utterance is being inspired by God and applied to very real circumstances. Yet to the casual observer, the language is harsh and even hateful.

Indeed, this has caused great bewilderment for many learned men who have tried to reconcile such praying with the love ethic of Christ. C.S. Lewis, for example, found these Davidic imprecatory prayers so offensive that he ascribed them to demonic authorship. C.I. Scofield while not as brazen as Lewis, nevertheless asserts that the imprecatory Psalms amount to something of a Davidic temper tantrum, which under the “old dispensation” was excusable, yet in the “new” is less than desirable behavior.

While these views are common, they are also heretical and in the case of Lewis, blasphemous. Certainly, these view (Lewis’ in particular) fail to take into account that God’s Word is divinely inspired, infallible and immutable. Secondly, they fail to understand the covenantal continuity of both the Old and New Testaments. What this means practically, is that unless the New Testament specifically changes, modifies, or nullifies an Old Testament principle, that principle is still in effect and is binding.

Scofield and the adherents of dispensational thought find his proper covenantal hermeneutic somewhat disturbing in that it strips away their convoluted notions that the New Testament saint should never act “harsh and hateful” as David. However, David is not praying these prayers autonomously, but rather under divine inspiration. Thus to assert that David is motivated by hated is to charge the God of Old and New Testaments with maniacal intentions.

Due to these views, the pietistic, antinomian, dispensationalist framework denies any possibility of enforcing negative sanctions in the temporal yet inconsistently and hypocritically affirms Divine wrath in eternity. Such incongruent thinking is typical of anti-covenantalists.

The New Testament Speaks!

Another strange omission by these anemic evangelicals are the numerous imprecations which are to be found in the New Testament directly from the lips of Jesus and the apostles. In Matthew chapter 23, for example, Christ unleashes a crushing cannonade upon the Pharisees in the form of a seven-fold curse upon your heads! Is this utterance inharmonious with the love of God? Certainly not! Rather this is a loving warning of the sure and swift negative sanctions that are about to fall upon those who have prostituted the Law of God if they do not repent. In fact, the Law of God is delivering a covenantal lawsuit that will arrest their miscreant behavior either through repentance or horrific judgment.

Also, the apostle Paul declares anathema (eternal destruction) upon anyone “who love not the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 16:22). Again, Paul grapples with heretics who were seeking to pervert the church at Galatia when he pronounces a curse upon them in Galatians 1:8 and again praying that they would be emasculated, neutered lest their heresy reproduce (see Galatians 5:12).

In 2 Timothy 4:14, Paul invokes covenantal theology when he declares that Alexander the metal worker be repaid according to his deeds. Alexander resisted and caused great damage to Paul’s ministry.

Question: Is this the same Paul who authored the great love chapter namely 1 Corinthians 13?

Answer: Yes, indeed and the same God who moved upon him with Divine inspiration!

Real Protestants Fight!

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Our Protestant forefathers embraced covenantal imprecatory prayer as a potent and Divine weapon that would demolish all opposition to the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. They were not a squeamish lot, and were fully prepared to prosecute the war against the lawless.

Martin Luther said: “We should pray that our enemies be converted and become our friends, and if not, that their doing and designing be bound to fail and have no success and that their persons perish rather than the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ.”

David Dickinson, a Reformed friend of God, put the same idea this way: “If any of the enemies of God’s people belong to God’s election, the Church’s prayer against them giveth way to their conversion, and seeketh no more than that the judgment should follow them, only until they acknowledge their sin, turn, and seek God.”

In light of such testimony, it is time to stand upon the covenants of Scripture. It is time to rise and strike for the advance of the Gospel. No shirkers nor cowards need apply. The call of Divine government is upon you. Will you be girded with terrible resolution as David? Will you join the “communion of men with God? Will you exercise dominion? I pray so for the sake of your children and our republic.

Soldiers of Christ arise!


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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

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Dr. Francis Schaeffer - How Should We Then Live? (DVD)

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A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

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Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.

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