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Imprecatory Prayer

 

By Dr. Richard Ing

January 14, 1996

 

IMPRECATORY PRAYER

 

The subject of imprecatory prayer is another one of those areas that most publishers will not touch.  Apparently, the subject is so touchy that negative thoughts may arise that will affect the reputation of the publisher and consequently its ability to sell books.


The word "imprecatory" means, "to pray to bring evil on someone, to curse.”  It implies a prayer that requests that God curse or brings misfortune or judgment against an enemy of God or an enemy of God's people.  Immediately, we are confronted by the following questions:  (1) is it Biblical? (2) is it witchcraft?  (3) what if we curse someone by mistake and the person is actually a friend of God?

           

Let’s start of by saying that the topic of imprecatory prayer is for the mature in Christ.


When I was in Fiji in 1993, the saints in Labasa spoke of a village chief who persistently chased missionaries out of his village, even threatening death.  This opposer of the Gospel personally chased Christian workers with a bolo knife.  The Fijian brothers prayed and asked God to either get rid of the village chief or convert him.  Within weeks, the chief had a massive stroke and eventually died.  The missionaries converted the entire village.


A prophet/pastor from San Jose, California shared that the first time he received revelation on imprecatory prayer was in 1984 or 1985 when a Korean Airlines airplane was shot down as it strayed over Russian territory.  Hundreds of innocent men, women and children were killed.  As the pastor grieved and prayed over the souls of the passengers, the Holy Spirit said, "Pray that the man who gave the order to shoot the airplane down will die a violent death."  The sudden instruction startled him and he walked out of his prayer closet confused.  He had never heard of such a thing.  He paced the floor and then went back into his prayer closet.  Once again, the Holy Spirit said, "I want you to pray that the man who gave that order will die a violent death."  This time, the pastor obeyed.  Some weeks later, the very man who gave the order at the highest echelon died a violent and painful death.


Some time later, he came home, flipped the TV on and saw live coverage of a MacDonald's restaurant under siege by a lone gunman who had shot and killed many innocent people in the restaurant.  A SWAT team arrived as the man was still shooting and killing people.  On live television, the man was shown shooting and killing an innocent boy riding by on a bicycle.  "My God," the pastor said, "He's a mad dog."  Instantly, the pastor heard God say, "Drop to your knees and pray that the sniper on the SWAT team will kill that man before he kills any one else."  The pastor fell to his knees and prayed that very prayer.  A few seconds later, on live TV, a SWAT team sharpshooter put a bullet in the mad dog's head.


Imprecatory prayers are powerful. 


In Fiji, God's saints brave danger to bring the Gospel into the jungles and islands of the South Pacific.  They are often resisted by witch doctors and tribal leaders.  God's people would pray against witch doctors who threatened their lives and resist the Gospel and God would cause them to be sick, lose their voices, fall into a coma or suffer misfortune.  Resistance would become minimal and the village or tribe would then be converted. 


In one case, a village chief actively campaigned against the Gospel.  After much prayer, nothing seemed to change.  One day, a Christian brother from another part of Fiji came to the main town for rest and to confer with church headquarters.  During his spare time, he decided to go to the local hospital to pray for someone.  As he entered the hospital room to pray for his friend, he found another family tending to a patient sharing the same room.  He asked them if he could pray for their relative who was paralyzed with a stroke.  The family quickly assented.  After prayer, the patient immediately regained use of his limbs and his health was restored.  Unknown to the Christian brother, this was the same man who had earlier chased away every saint who came to his village.  The man wept and asked forgiveness and accepted Jesus as his Lord.  He immediately sent orders to allow the Christians to come into the village to preach the Gospel.  Another village was saved.


Imprecatory prayer is strong meat for the mature.  The babes in Christ may choke on the strong meat or have to regurgitate it.  A prayer to curse and bring judgment on someone is not something to take lightly. 

 

CURSES

 

Curses execute judgment brought by God against disobedience.  The Book of Deuteronomy, especially Chapter 28, outlines many blessings when people obey God.  It also lists many curses when they disobey or break God's commandments. 


God uses misfortunes (evil) and difficult times to chasten and bring people and even an entire nation back to God. 


God judged the entire nation of Israel when they refused to change their ways and return to Him.  The book of Jeremiah warns that judgment was imminent and the people of Israel would be held captive in Babylon if they refused to repent and return to God and His ways.  The whole nation was almost destroyed and a remnant was taken captive to Babylon where the captivity lasted for seventy years.  In the end, they returned to God. 


The book of Isaiah warned of pending judgment against the wicked and wayward Northern Kingdom of Israel.  When they failed to listen, God allowed the entire Northern Kingdom to be taken captive by the Assyrians.  All of the tribes of Israel except for Judah and Benjamin (who made up the southern kingdom of Judah) were led away and scattered to the four winds.  Until this day, people talk about the ten lost tribes of Israel.


There was a time when God gave His prophets the right to curse entire nations.  In the Old Testament, God's prophets could curse and bring misfortune upon people according to God’s will.  In Numbers 22, the king of the Moabites was distressed because of the successes of the people of Israel.  He called upon Balaam, a prophet of God and said:

 

...come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.  Nu. 22:6. 

 

The point is, Balaam had the ability to bless and curse.  When he cursed, something evil happened to the cursed ones.

           

However, when God did not agree with the curse, it was not possible to do so.  In fact, God had blessed Israel and would not curse the very ones he had blessed.  Balaam, the prophet, was enticed by the enemy of God's people to pray curses against Israel, but God prevented him from cursing.  Balaam eventually went over to the side of the enemy because of greed and he eventually resorted to witchcraft when he lost the anointing of God, and was subsequently killed by his own people.  Nu. 31:8.


We find at least four lessons here:  Mature prophets were given the right to judge and curse; Balaam had to have God's consent in order to curse the Hebrew people; even where curses are pronounced, they are neutralized if against God's will; God may punish the person cursing against God's will.

 

JUDGMENT

 

The mature understand judgment and will actually judge the world and angels one day.  Paul said in I Corinthians 6:2, 3, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?  And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters:  Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”  In Revelation 20:4, John says, "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them...."  The martyrs shall judge the world. 


Judgment is indeed given to the mature in God.  The immature use only their eyes and ears and therefore, are not qualified to judge.  The fully mature are given the right to judge because they judge in righteousness and spiritual understanding. 


These scriptures seem out of tune with Romans 14:13 and other scriptures that say that we are not to judge our brother.  But, the word "judge" as used in Romans 14:13, refers to condemnation, punishment and putting down of a person.  We are required to judge or discern good and evil.  However, we are not to condemn, punish or put down a person unfairly or un-righteously.  We will discuss this a little more, further on.


In a real sense, it is God that judges, not the saints.  Jn. 5:30.  The mature in Christ will never judge outside of what God tells him or her.  An immature saint will judge out of his own mind, from what he sees and hears.  It is important that we be within the will of God, especially in this crucial area.  God is not a puppet that we can pull His strings and cause Him to bring evil or curses on people and nations contrary to His will. 


For the mature in Christ, it is the Holy Spirit that directs their prayers:

 

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  Ro. 8:26-27.

 

If we are not guided by the Holy Spirit in our prayers, we run the danger of practicing witchcraft through manipulative prayers to control others.  At the very least, such prayers would be highly improper.  Therefore, the mature in Christ can curse only if it is at the direction of and within the will of God.

 

THE DUTY TO JUDGE

 

The word "judge" has often been misapplied.  It has various meanings:  to distinguish, decide; and by implication, to try, condemn, punish.  It means avenge, conclude, condemned, condemnation, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, sue, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.


As explained previously, Paul says in Romans 14:10:

 

But why dost thou judge thy brother?  Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

 

The Amplified Bible appears to be more precise:  Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother?  Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother?  For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God....”  Verse 13 states:

 

Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one brother, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.  (The Amplified Bible)

 

On the other hand, Paul says in I Corinthians 6:23:

 

Do you not know that the saints (the Christians) will (one day) judge and govern the world?  And if the world (itself) is to be judged and ruled by you, are you unworthy and incompetent to try (such petty matters) of the smallest courts of justice?  Do you not know also that we (Christians) are to judge the (very) angels and pronounce opinion between right and wrong (for them)?  How much more then (as to) matters pertaining to this world and of this life only!  (The Amplified Bible)

 

Paul is actually saying - do not pass judgment on a brother so as to criticize and blame him, despise and look down upon him.  If your intent is to belittle and cause him to be condemned, punished or ostracized, it is improper judgment.  Yet, we are called to judge between good and evil, between what is legal and illegal, proper and improper, right and wrong.  If the thing is evil, get rid of it and the offender if he does not repent. 

           

It is our duty to judge between good and evil.  Hebrews 5:14 calls upon us to be mature enough to discern both good and evil.  Why?  Because we are called upon to destroy the works of the devil.  As Jesus did, so do we.  I Jn. 3:8b.  If we fail to do so, we will be judged instead.

 

In the days of Isaiah, Israel failed to judge between good and evil.  They adopted the evil ways of the world and refused to obey God's commandments.  They were judged.  In the days of Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah failed to judge and reject evil.  They were judged by God.  Sodom and Gomorrah failed to judge sexual immorality.  They were destroyed by fire and brimstone.  If Ninevah had not repented and turned from their evil ways, God would have destroyed that great city.  They had failed to judge or distinguish between good and evil.


There is evil in our land.  Over 1.5 million children are murdered through abortions every year.  Homosexuality is increasing while gay rights are being promoted and homosexuality is being touted as a viable alternative style of living.  A court of law has condoned same-sex marriages.  Politicians are promoting gay rights and forcing people to accept homosexuals or go to jail for gender discrimination.  Now, the Supreme Court of the United States is about to decide whether to make suicides legal.   Are we to sit back and fail to judge?  Society is pushing for the right to commit suicide and to help those who desire to kill themselves.  Are we to join them? or are we to judge and act accordingly?


There are evil nations and evil men on the face of the earth.  There are people who utterly hate God and His people.  There are nations that would annihilate every Christian on the face of the earth if they could.  There are women who hate the Word of God and will never obey it.  There are evil people who will kill Christians or anybody, for that matter, if they could get away with it.  There are blood-thirsty men on earth today.  There are people who will never come to God nor accept Jesus.  These people are enemies of God and of God's people.  God hates them and we are called upon to hate them also.  Ps. 139:21.  We cannot afford to ignore the evil in our land.


We are called upon to judge good and evil that righteousness may reign.  Isaiah 26:9 says, “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

 

HATE GOD'S ENEMIES?

 

For years, the church world has concentrated almost solely on the love aspect of God and has ignored His judgment side.


It's almost like an insecure child starved for love and acceptance.  They can accept a God who is all love, but cannot accept the possibility that He has a stern side and will punish also.  God loves and God judges.  But Christians need not be afraid of judgment when they are walking righteously with Him.  Judgment is for the wicked.  For the Christian, God chastens and allows trials, but does not judge unless the Christian refuses to turn from evil after many warnings.


God loves the world enough to give His only begotten Son (John 3:16), but God does not love everybody or everything in the world.  Proverbs 6:16-19 says:

 

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:  A proud look a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

 

If we are to have the same heart as God, then we too are to hate evil.  David said in Psalms 139:19-24:

 

Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.  For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.  Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?  I hate them with a perfect hatred:  I count them mine enemies.  Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

David's heart held hatred for the enemies of God, yet he was able to ask God to search his heart for any wickedness.  There is a holy hatred that we are to understand and have.  We are to hate wickedness, sin and wicked and bloody men.  Some people are continually wicked and will never come to God.  God will protect His people against the wicked.  David says in Psalm 140:1-5:

 

Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.  They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adder's poison is under their lips.  Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.  The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me.

 

There is an obligation to hate those who hate the Lord.  In II Chr. 19:2, Jehu is challenging Jehoshaphat:

 

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.

 

If one does not judge between good men and evil men, and instead, love, support or tolerate those that hate God, we sin. 

           

We are to hate evil.  "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil...." Ps. 97:10.  But we are also to hate those that are outright haters of God and God's people.  It is one thing to be an unbeliever and unsaved; it is another thing to actively hate God and God's people and plot to harm Christians.

 

TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK

 

Matthew 5:39b says, "...but whosoever smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."  The same is said in Luke 6:29.  Matthew 5:44 says, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."  Lk. 6:28 repeats the message.  Notice, however, that Jesus is talking about those that personally attack and are against you as an individual.  God desires that you not resist your enemies by creating a worse situation - harboring revenge, unforgiveness, bitterness, hostility, anger, and the like in your heart.  Romans 12:19 says, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."  You are not to allow corruption into your heart.  Rather, pray to God who will avenge you.  Cursing your personal enemies creates a heart of bitterness and hatred.  But, hating God's enemies does not mean you should harbor hatred in your heart.  You do not dwell on hatred and allow hatred to color your daily attitudes and activities. 


Cursing impersonal enemies of God and of God's people is a different matter.  Judging abortion, for instance, does not speak of personal enemies who are directly attacking you.  A Christian can judge the evil involved without personally becoming embittered or personally forming revenge in his or her heart towards those that are involved.  To do so would lead to personally killing the enemies of God instead of asking and allowing God handle the situation.

 

WHY IMPRECATORY PRAYERS?

 

God allows trials to come upon His people for the purpose of perfecting them.  It is not judgment, but love.  Hebrews 12:6-10 says:

 

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the preaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

 

Even our Lord Jesus Christ endured sufferings in order to be perfected.  "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered."  Heb. 5:8.

           

God never gives trials that are too much for the individual saint to find a way out.  I Co. 10:13.  God also uses trials to bring unbelievers to Him.  People generally find no need for God during times of prosperity.  They seek God during perilous times or times of personal need when they realize that they have no power or ability to determine the outcome of their life.  Generally, God does not waste time on heathen that will never accept the Gospel of Peace.  Whether they prosper or not is of no consequence or interest to God.  That is why we see many unbelievers prosper and have good fortune in the world and we see the saints going through many hardships.  I've had unbelievers tell me that they don't need God and that only the weak and people with problems need a god - that's why weak humans need a god and go to church.  These rich or famous people are proud of their own accomplishments.  They are lost and condemned.


Judgment is another matter.  It is not chastening or God's attempts to draw men to Jesus Christ.  It is punishment brought about by persistent evil conduct over time.  It is the end of the road, so to speak.  Here, we are talking about judgment against men and women who are so sold out to the devil that they are irretrievable.  They will never come to God.  They are the Caananites of the land, enemies of both God and God's people.  They have engaged in persistent evil deeds against God's people and are incorrigible.  God knows that they will never change and are destined for destruction.  That's why he hardened Pharaoh's heart and commanded that all the Amalekites, their families and animals be destroyed.  They were meant for destruction because God knew that they would never repent and come to Him.


Praying for judgment against these people is not for the sake of personal retribution or revenge.  It is brought about when the Holy Spirit urges the saints to render an imprecatory prayer against an enemy of God.

 

WHY DOESN'T GOD DO IT HIMSELF?

 

God's great plan is to restore and reinstate us to the position Adam had before he sinned.  When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He reconciled us to the Father.  Ro. 5:10.  He restored us to open fellowship with God.  In the Old Testament, God talked to His people through His prophets.  When Jesus was crucified, God rent in two the veil separating the Holiest from the Holy Place.  Previously, only the head priest could come into God's presence once a year.  Now, all saints can walk boldly into the very throne room of God by the Blood of Jesus at any time.  Heb. 10:19.  We have been restored to fellowship with God.


Reinstatement is a different matter.  It involves the return to a prior position of honor or leadership.  A fallen pastor is restored to fellowship when he truly repents and makes restitution.  Reinstatement, however, has to be earned.  There are things he must do in his heart and in his outward conduct that will re-qualify him to be reinstated to his prior position of leadership or honor.


Although we have been restored into direct fellowship with God, we have not yet been reinstated to the lofty position that Adam held before he fell.  There are changes that must take place in our heart and mind.  There is conduct that must take place.   The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, came to make it possible for us to take it back.  Now, our walk, attitudes and hearts must change.  Jesus Christ is our example.


It would easy for God to defeat and dispose of Satan Himself.  After all, He was the one who created Satan in the first place.  But that is not God's plan or intent.  He wants us to accomplish the task and to overcome Satan ourselves.  God does not want us to be mere robots programmed to obey Him.  He desires us to obey because we love and honor Him.  We have a free will and God will not manipulate and force us to do anything against our will.  God does not do many things sovereignly, otherwise, we would be mere pawns and by-standers.  We would not grow.  We would have little reason to strive for mastery, to know God more intimately.  God desires that we learn His ways and grow up into the image of Jesus Christ.  When we determine to obey and be diligent, He helps us.


It's the battle that counts.  There is only one way to victory - through Jesus Christ.  The battle drives us to seek the Lord and to be joined to him.  Everything that He is, we must become also.  A person must choose to serve either God or Mammon, there is no middle path.  One cannot serve both or neither.  The choice is one or the other.  One chooses either to breathe or not breathe.  One results in life, the other in death.  There is no middle ground.  There is no such thing as a half closed door.  It is either opened or closed.  Either you fight or you die.  The Bible is clear that Satan will overcome the saints.  There will be a massacre of the saints and only the elect will make it through.  Mt. 24:22. 


God intends that the saints overcome all obstacles created by the world, the flesh and Satan.  Only then can we retake what Satan stole from us.  The First Adam has been replaced by the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, the firstborn of a new race of people.  In each saint flows royal blood from the King of Kings.  We cannot learn to persevere and grow into His image if God hands it over to us on a silver platter.  Narrow is the path and strait is the gate indeed!  As we get closer to His image, his heart and spirit, all that is His is ours to inherit, including the power to defeat Satan and his evil kingdom.  It is our privilege to war against Satan and to overcome him. 


Imprecatory prayer is one more weapon for the mature sons of God.  It places them in direct partnership with God.  James 5:16b says, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  There is little doubt that the prayers of a spiritually mature saint availeth more than the prayers of a saint who is not walking in righteousness, assuming that the spiritually mature walks upright with God.  I would suppose that an imprecatory prayer on the lips of an immature Christian will not bring the expected results.  This, in and of itself, is a protection against impetuous prayers based on anger or desire for revenge.  The problem is not that the immature will destroy people against the will of God; the problem is the carnality in the heart of a saint who seeks to destroy because of some personal desire for vengeance.


Jehoshaphat entreated God to destroy his enemies.  II Chr. 20:12.  He was already in warfare.  Same with us.  But we need to be in God's favor and within God's will.


In Revelation 11, the two witnesses of God are given power to destroy their enemies.  Verse 5 says, "And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed."  Whether or not it is literal fire, or words that have the effect of destroying like fire, it makes no difference.  These spiritually mature Christians will have the power to destroy their enemies by what proceeds out of their very mouths.


We need all of the weapons available to us and given to us by God.  Imprecatory prayer is a weapon we cannot ignore.  But, as with any weapon, we need to learn how to use it.  We cannot use it indiscriminately.  But used in a proper manner, it is powerful.

 

PRAYING IMPRECATORY PRAYERS

 

Using imprecatory prayers as a church requires much prayer and confirmation.  It must be in the will of God.  Make sure that revenge or personal rancor is not involved.  You must hear from God.  Once it is confirmed, call the church together to pray and ask God to judge and curse the enemy or specific entity or person.  Is the person or entity an enemy of God?  Is that person an avowed heathen doing evil things against God? 


Never do it to manipulate and control others for personal reasons.  For instance, never pray that a personal enemy will die or be removed because that person has wrong doctrine or has spoken against you.  Never pray that the owner of the next lot will die so that your church can purchase that parcel.  Never pray against a person just because he or she is not a Christian.  God may be working to save that person. 


Imprecatory prayer can be a double-edge sword.  One side of the blade can cut your enemy.  The other side can cut the top of your head as you lift the sword up to strike.  Only the mature that can hear God should play with it.  A gun is a powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.  It could be dangerous in the hands of a child.  However, imprecatory prayer can be a wonderful weapon for spiritual warfare.         


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