When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)
We have heard all kinds of theological charlatanism when it comes to the application of what are called “imprecatory” prayers. An imprecation is a curse. Sometimes of course it can be a sinful thing. When someone uses foul language when we they are angry, we call it “cursing.” Uttering a “damnation” against someone unjustly is indeed a sin. And a serious one. Jesus said so —
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22)
However, Scripture also shows us that there IS a proper and righteous prayer of cursing someone! This is called, once again, an imprecatory prayer. Here is an example:
So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! (Psalm 109:5-12)
Recently a lady wrote and said that she had to endure a sermon recently in which the preacher claimed that such imprecations in the Psalms were the sin of the Psalmist breaking out (which he later repented of!). This kind of false teaching is sadly typical. All anger, all desire for justice is seen as sin. Victims are blamed and accused… while the wicked perpetrator folds his arms and smugly says, “Yep, I told you so. You are the one with the problem. You are unforgiving.”
Well then, consider the prayer cited above by the martyrs in heaven. Do they have sin in them? Only the craziest of false teachers would say that they do (and there are plenty of crazies out there nowadays it seems). They are in heaven! In the presence of Christ! Of course they have no sin. And here they are, praying. Praying what? Imprecations against their enemies who are also and fundamentally the Lord’s enemies. “Judge them, Lord! Take vengeance upon them! Give us justice.” That’s the prayer, you see.
How does the Lord respond to these prayers? “Now, now, now children. You must not be angry. You need to confess your own sin. You need to love these people and forgive them. You know, you are sinners too.” No way! And yet those are the kinds of words being put in Jesus’ mouth by so many professing Christians and preachers nowadays. (It’s a wicked and dangerous thing to put words into God’s mouth, by the way. To say “thus saith the Lord” when in fact He has not said it.)
No, the Lord responds to their prayer by AGREEING with it! He comforts them, rewards them, and assures them that justice and vengeance are on the way. Just a little longer and that Day will arrive.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2Thess 1:5-10)
If the inspired words of Scripture, written by God’s prophets and apostles, include expressions of their own sin (that are not clearly identified as such by the inspired writers themselves), then who decides what portions of God’s Word are the sinful utterances of the biblical authors and which are not? Who decides? Who handles the cutting and pasting and deleting? You see it? This approach sets man as judge on the Word of God and leaves him free to accept or reject whatever he wants, based on what appeals to him or not.
It is right and just and proper for victims of wickedness to call for God’s justice, just as the saints in heaven are doing right now. Anyone calling such desires and prayers evil are simply revealing themselves to be ignorant of the character of God, or an intentional ally of the kingdom of darkness themselves.
How then do Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and praying for them reconcile with the imprecatory prayers? I will let you answer that question, with this hint — read ALL the verses, not just “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Read it in context. How is this love defined here?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)