Monday, September 14, 2009

Christian Imprecatory Prayer

After the first beating the Apostles took in the name of Jesus, they gathered the church together to pray about it. This corporate prayer opened with these ominous words: "Lord consider their threats." The word "Lord" is a heavy word in Greek, despota, from which we get the English word "despot." It highlights the frightening power of Yahweh to wreak vengeance on his enemies. This prayer is thus a page out of Hezekiah's playbook when he laid Sennacherib's letter before the Lord in the Temple and said, "Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God" (Isa 37:17/2 Kgs 19:16). They were not merely asking God to hear. They were asking him to attend to the problem. This specific kind of prayer is called "imprecatory." It is when you ask God to put the hurt on your enemy so justice will be served and the righteous vindicated. The verbiage is often brutal (e.g., Psa 58:6–11, 59:5, 13; 109:6–15; 137:8–9; 139:19–22).

This prayer, however, ends with a most surprising twist. Instead of asking God to break teeth, smash enemies, or drop firebombs from heaven, the believers ask God to heal. This contrast is not merely seen in Biblical prayers of imprecation but also in the prayers Josephus records: Ant 1.18.6 §272–73 "make him a terror to his foes"; 4.3.2 §40–50, "make manifest thy judgment in no uncertain manner"; 20.4.2 §89–90, "come to my aid to defend me from my enemies…it is thy power they have had the audacity to challenge." That, in fact, was the very activity that brought them this trouble in the first place but it is the very thing that will bring salvation to their countrymen. So they request the boldness to proclaim the gospel in the face of impending persecution. Their imprecation is not against their enemies but in essence against themselves for the benefit of their enemies. There could hardly be a more striking fulfillment of Jesus' unprecedented injunction, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:44).

2 Comments:

Blogger Levi and Betsy said...

Thanks for this encouraging post. After talking to a church yesterday and nervously pleading with them to pray for the Taliban, we realize what a tough thing it is ask anyone to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute Christians.

September 21, 2009 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger BackwoodsCrafts said...

It is not for enemy's against us. I worked for a man named Murphy and Murphy was a thief. He stole and cheated all of us...all but one. Jose. Murphy paid Jose and when I preached to Murphy he referred me to Jose and said 'you 2 should get along good' I think he called us bible thumpers. Jose did not speak any English. Long story short Murphy could not pay Jose for 3 straight weeks and Jose lost his temper. I caught Jose with a pair of tin snips walking aggressively towards Murphys van. I stopped him to ask what he was doing. In broken English he said " Murphy is liar-ing me! I need money for my family- Murphy no pay, I fix him! I cut his brakes on his truck" I said whoa whoa whoa...hold a minute Jose lets talk about this...come come por favor, mucho por favor..Jose walked back into his hotel room and with angry pacing I tried to recall some Jesus-y stuff to say. Realizing that Jose had a very limited vocabulary I tried to get all Jesus on him in broken English using whatever Spanish I knew. This is what god said to both of us using my own mouth- I said pray for Murphy, and he had fire in his eyes, NEVER! I will never pray for Murphy. Words now came out of my mouth- you want to hurt Murphy? Si,si,yes came the reply...my mouth said, Murphy have diablo? Si,si Murphy have mucho grande diablo. My mouth said you want diablo? NO! NEVER! Me no want diablo! My mouth said- you want hurt Murphy you cut Murphy brakes then Jose heart black, diablo have Murphy,diablo have Jose too, Murphy love diablo, Murphy hug diablo, Murphy squeeze diablo, you want hurt Murphy? You hurt Murphy good. Mucho bueno hurt from dios when you pray god take diablo...you pray good for Murphy, you pray god bless Murphy, god hear you and rip diablo from Murphy, break Murphy's fingers! You hurt Murphy good and diablo go away. No diablo for Murphy, no diablo for Jose. That dude threw his face into the ground and busts out in prayer like speedy Gonzales...I mean to tell you I watched over the course of the next few months this dude lost everything. I saw him some two months later and I really felt bad for him. I do NOT rejoice...I am truly sad that he sat on a lawn chair with just enough change to catch a bus to the doctors because after it was all done and said he lost everything and was going to get his diabetes prescription for the first time and he needed to be trained on how to use the needles. I am no judge. And God is pretty good at it. I am called to the feet of Jesus and I am never to move from that place. In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have....those feet, they are attached to people. Sometimes they are attached to my enemy.

July 30, 2013 at 1:39 PM  

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