Imprecatory Psalms and the Enemies of God

A question from a reader:

Hey Matt,

I was reading this email and part of me was like “RIGHT ON!” and another part of me was wondering if these verses are being used correctly in this article. I mean they definitely seem to say what this author is saying and I don’t necessarily think it would be a contradiction to what Jesus taught, would it? Different responses for different situations? Just curious what you think.

This is in regards to this email:

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Imprecatory Prayer: The Intercessor’s Elephant Gun

Doug Giles (back to web version ) | Send

July 3, 2004

I hate to ruin your light summer beach reading, but America and much of the world are still in deep yogurt when it comes to the war on terror. As much as postmoderns want everyone to sing “We are the World” in some all-religion-encompassing global hand-hold and just move on, I’m afraid radical Islam is not going to be a part of pomo’s desired altruistic music video.

Radical Islam is incorrigible, period. So… face it and embrace it. We are not going to convert or appease these cats. We have nothing they want. There is nothing to negotiate. They want us exterminated. Capisce?

That said, what do we, Christians in particular, do when faced with an implacable radical enemy? Just sit around sing “Kum Ba Yah” and hope these bad guys will leave us alone? That’s what a lot of five-watt light bulb, spiritually neutered believers are doing. Just sittin’ around… hopin’ and wishin’… or worse yet, ignoring the viable millennial threat of militant Islam. I, for one, will not take a passive stance against this aggressive enemy. You cannot be lame and win this game with these guys. So, as a Christian, I suggest the following…

…[some policy suggestions]

Five: As people of faith, dust off and use what’s afforded to the believer within the Old and New Testaments, namely the imprecatory prayers.

What is an imprecatory prayer?

It is a prayer asking God to crush a clear enemy of His, an enemy which is an aggressive adversary of freedom and peace loving people. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Precious Moments Figurine Collector, the Bible is filled with maledictions prayed by saints and speedily answered by God against violently impenitent enemies of liberty and righteousness. Here are a couple examples:

“Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O Lord, the fangs of the lions! Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted. Like a slug melting away as it moves along, like a still born child, may they not see the sun… The righteous will be glad when they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.” Psalm 58.6-10.

“Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents. For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt. 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 69.24-28.

Given the soft-focused, effeminate condition of evangelicalism, I’ll bet the great majority of Christians have never even heard of an imprecatory prayer, much less prayed one. More than likely, the above God-inspired texts aren’t on their refrigerator scripture magnets either. I’ll go a step further and venture to guess that the majority of evangelical and Catholic clergy don’t even know what an imprecatory prayer is and have probably never taught on them or prayed them from the pulpit (Please investigate and report back to me.)

If my assumption regarding your typical congregation and clergy is true, then this is sad, unbiblical and a prime reason why militant Islam continues to march on. We are not using the spiritual big guns of imprecatory prayer against the beast of militant Islam.

My ClashPoint is this: Most religious people are familiar with Christ telling us to “bless our enemies” in prayer and to “love our enemies.” We should do both. But seldom to never do we hear about “the other” prayers for our enemies, prayers to be prayed when our enemies become gun-, bomb- and airplane- wielding idiots. Yes, there comes a time when the intercessors’ gloves must come off and enough is enough and we pray the “not so nice prayers.” It’s simple: when our enemies move from being foes who have personally wronged us, or have made fun of our bad combover, or have flamed us in a TBN chat room, to becoming jihadic death jockeys wanting to eradicate our memory from the earth, then it is time to stop praying the “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” stuff and start asking God to thwart and stamp out these bug eyed terrorists who want to hijack the planet and make it conform to their jacked up view of “life.”

So… start tossing imprecatory prayers heavenward and watch what God does to militant implacable Islam. The celestial spanking of terrorists is no big deal for God. And our prayers could save thousands of our soldiers’ lives, our citizens’ lives and the lives of innocent, moderate Muslims and others who get caught in the freak boys’ villainous crossfire.

Let us pray.

Well… some of the policy suggestions are interesting.

But as far as the Biblical use goes, I think that the imprecatory Psalms certainly do apply today, in that they describe the appropriate attitude towards God’s enemies. But the problem is, we don’t know who God’s enemies are. We were all God’s enemies at one time, and we were won by the sword of the word, not the sword of flesh and steel. God’s kingdom today is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this earth, or His servants would fight. An implication of what Mr. Giles says above is that some nations are victorious in battle and others are crushed because of a lack of faith and prayer. Does that mean the Christian Sudanese who are getting stomped right now are less good Christians than us here in the US of A?

Much Old Testament language is just that- OT language, phrasing spiritual truths in carnal clothes, so that the people of God are promised land and a prosperous garden and a boot in the teeth of their enemies, and we understand those kinds of things in terms of Spiritual blessings.

We ought to treat all people as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the upshot of Christ’s commands to love our neighbors, love our enemies, love all men. God doesn’t love all men, but He knows who’s elect. We don’t. And so we ought to behave towards all as if they are, potentially. We should be praying for the conversion of the Muslims, not their destruction. We don’t have anything to worry about from them physically. God will protect us.

Note that none of this means we shouldn’t be going to war, hunting terrorists, prosecuting criminals, or closing our borders. The sword is given to the magistrate for justice. But there’s a difference between the magistrate’s role in a secular environment, and how we as Christians ought to be thinking towards our fellow man. Even if I were in the military or police or CIA or whatever, I would try to maintain on the one hand the commitment to do my duty to my country, and on the other to good to all men, and especially the household of faith, which I think at a minimum would mean to desire and pray for the conversion of my enemies.

The writer below has a really uncomfortable tendency to equate the enemies of America with the enemies of God. It is true that there are many who happen to be enemies to both, but there are also many enemies of God in America. We cannot really expect God to go to war for us when we war against Him all the time. Perhaps the Muslims are being sent against us as punishment for our wickedness just as the Babylonians and Assyrians were sent against Israel (Isaiah 10).

He also seems to equate strength with physical force and a desire for conversion of others with weakness. This also is not too consistent with what Scripture teaches us. It is not strength for me to wish pain and death on my enemies. Strength is me wishing their good. Anyone can love their friends. It’s loving your enemies that’s hard. And we don’t get to stop loving our enemies when they get dangerous.

The wise man is not too quick to pray for the judgment of God (Amos 5:18, 2 Peter 3:9). The wise man is content to let God be as patient as He wants to be. The day of judgment will be darkness and not light.

I should also note that I don’t really buy this doctrine of prayer. I don’t think we pray in order to make things happen, but in order to align our hearts with God’s will. But that’s a different subject.

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