Imprecatory Psalms

How does a New Testament Christian understand and make application from the Imprecatory Psalms, where there are statements like “Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them”?

Imprecatory Psalms are those that essentially ask God to curse your enemies. There are anywhere from 18 to 21 imprecatory Psalms. A list of 21 gives these Psalms: 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 137, 139, and 143 (Wikipedia).

New Testament Christians have a different outlook on life. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our fight is not against flesh and blood. So we take the imprecatory Psalms in a different fashion. There are several ways that we can understand and apply the imprecatory Psalms.

  1. Historical prayers of the psalmists. Many of these Psalms of prayer asking God to destroy the wicked people in these psalmists lives have to do with their place in Israel. Especially King David had enemies all around. These imprecatory Psalms represent the real dangers he faced. But when he was in trouble he called upon God.
  2. Pray with genuine emotion before the Lord. Some Christians like to hide their true feelings or approach God with kid gloves like he can’t handle our true emotions. We are afraid to express volatile emotions before him like fear, anger, and contempt. But God can handle it. He gave us these emotions. Sometimes they are justified and sometimes not. But we will feel them and who better to go to in these times then God? He understands how we feel and can help us with these feelings.
  3. Prayers against the wicked and unrighteous in general. Though we don’t fight against flesh and blood people, we understand the wickedness that is in the world. As we are on God’s side in the spiritual realm, there’s nothing wrong with praying that God will do what he is going to do. God is patient in this time of grace but he will rise up against the wicked, judge them, and punish them. As long as we are not praying as David did specifically against this person or that one, we can address general wickedness and pray against it, that God would judge it and vindicate us.
  4. Prayers against the devil and his demons. Our battle is with spiritual forces of wickedness. Praying against the devil, demons, and other forces of spiritual wickedness is well within the realm of the imprecatory Psalms. These evil forces are not on our side and they are against us completely. Praying against these wicked forces of evil in the spiritual realm is within our right as God’s children. He will deal with them in the end as well.

How do New Testament Christians deal with their enemies?

  1. Pray for them. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. It’s hard to be angry at someone if you are praying for them. Pray blessing upon them instead of cursing. Pray that they will begin to understand that you are not their enemy and that you love them in Christ.
  2. Love them. In the same verse, Matthew 5:44, Jesus calls us to love our enemies. This is exactly the opposite of what the world does with its enemies. Many times when they see that we do not hate them, they will lose incentive to hate us and make themselves enemies of us. We need to live at peace with everyone as long as we are able.
  3. Wait on God. The Bible tells us that God will avenge all of his enemies (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). It is not up to us to be the judge or jury, and especially not the executioner. All of these are God’s jobs and he will judge the world at the proper time. All of the people who are against us will be dealt with by God. We must leave the judgment and vengeance up to him.

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