Should We Pray the Imprecatory Psalms?

| March 17, 2015

In light of the recent execution of 21 Christians and capture of hundreds more in Syria, perhaps it’s time to ask, “Should we be praying the imprecatory psalms against ISIS?” Written in the theocratic context of Israel, when God himself had a throne on earth, these psalms (e.g., Ps. 58; 69; 109) invoke God’s judgment upon Israel’s enemies in terrifying terms (see Ps. 58:8). While we profess that all Scripture is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), we must carefully consider the ways in which that is true of these psalms.

After all, we were once enemies of God (Col. 1:21-22), but are now redeemed and called to love our neighbors (Luke 10:27) and pray for our persecutors (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:14). May we identify an enemy for divine destruction as the imprecatory psalms do? Can we do so in specific terms or only general ones? Are we not to expect persecution in this age and turn the other cheek (Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; Matt. 5:39) as we wait for Christ’s return (2 Cor. 1:5; Col. 1:24)? These are complex questions.

I want to explore how Scripture supports praying the imprecatory psalms in a personalized way, provided we exhibit a specific attitude. To pray for God to execute his righteous…

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