Can I Pray Imprecatory Prayers?

In Hebrew Wisdom Literature, lament psalms are the individual and corporate cries of God’s people.

At root, an imprecatory psalm is an invocation of divine cursing. Examples of these imprecations include Psalms 5, 6, 35, 69, and 109, all of which are cited in the New Testament. Curse pronouncements are interspersed throughout the biblical canon. For example, Jesus calls down woes of judgment on religious leaders in Matthew 23.

 

Yes. And you should. As difficult as that answer might be to swallow, it best accounts for the biblical record. Let me explain.

An imprecatory psalm is a type of lament. In Hebrew Wisdom Literature, lament psalms are the individual and corporate cries of God’s people. The imprecatory psalms in particular vocalize Israel’s tears in the face of injustice and suffering. By praying down the curse of God on His enemies, Israel sought to hold up the goodness of God’s law for His people.

At root, an imprecatory psalm is an invocation of divine cursing. Examples of these imprecations include Psalms 5, 6, 35, 69, and 109, all of which are cited in the New Testament. Curse pronouncements are interspersed throughout the biblical canon. For example, Jesus calls down woes of judgment on religious leaders in Matthew 23. Paul pronounces an anathema on anyone who preaches another gospel in Galatians 1:8–9. And the martyrs in heaven petition God to avenge their blood in Revelation 6:10.

The consistent witness of Scripture affirms the legitimacy of God’s people making use of imprecatory prayers in their individual, family, and corporate prayers. Underlying this assertion is a basic assumption that the prayers of God’s people should be rooted in all of Scripture. The Psalter is God’s divinely inspired prayer book and hymnal. It gives us the language of petition and praise. The imprecatory psalms help give shape to the hurt and outrage that the people of God at times experience in a world desecrated by sin.

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