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Imprecatory prayers

Wiley Drake is a Southern Baptist pastor in California who recently appeared on The Alan Combs Show and made some shocking comments about praying for President Obama's death.

In response, our state convention president Walter Price had this to say:
Imprecation is, in essence, putting a curse on someone or asking God to curse them. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians encouraged to curse anyone, especially those with whom we disagree or those who would do us harm. In fact, we are commanded not to do so and to do just the opposite.
You can read more of Walter's excellent response here.

How, then, do we approach the "imprecatory" prayers found in the Bible? Does God intend us to do the same toward our leaders? Commenting on Psalm 58, Steve Lawson explains:
Government leaders are appointed by God for the good of the people. They are to serve as his agents through whom he works to provide law and order for society (Rom. 13:1-6). But leaders often become corrupt, and they minister injustice to good people. What are God's people to do in such a situation? The Bible calls them to leave vengeance with the Lord in the face of wicked leaders. They are to pursue peace with all men, submitting to those over them as much as possible. They must not take matters into their own hands. Ungodly leaders is an issue with which God must deal. But we can pray that the Lord will rebuke and remove such people." (Holman Old Testament Commentary: Psalms 1-75, p. 298)
To this we should add the prayer for repentance and salvation. No leader, regardless of the amount of wickedness and injustice he has committed, is beyond the reach of God's amazing grace. Just look at the king of Ninevah (Jonah 3:6). Or Ahab (1 Kings 21:27-29). Or Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:11-13). Or Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:34-37).

This is a far different response from the comments made by Pastor Drake. Thank you, Dr. Price, for speaking up on this issue and not letting Drake's interview represent all of us in the convention.


  1. In response to this post, someone asked me this question as part of a separate email,

    "...And when we pray for justice, are we not -- in some cases -- also praying for death? It seems a small step from there to saying "God, here is a man who has murdered others, and I know that if you do not intervene, he will continue murdering others. I know you can change his heart, and I pray that you would. But if you choose not to change his life, please take it, for the sake of those others who would have the chance to hear your word."

    Here's my reply:

    I think we have to stick with praying general prayers that we know reflect God’s will in this area (justice, peace, repentance, protection of the afflicted), and leave the specifics up to Him. When we pray for justice, for example, we are praying that God will use whatever means He sees fit. We are not praying for someone’s death. God may choose to use death as His means to bring justice, but that is His prerogative.

    (As a side note, it is also dangerous for Christians to start saying, “So and so’s death was a direct act of God’s judgment on America.” How do we know that? It may have been, but God is very longsuffering and we deserve a lot worse than He gives us. We can’t read God’s mind and don’t see the whole picture).

    I believe when a person prays an imprecation for someone’s death, they are praying for something that only God has the wisdom and prerogative to give and take away.

    I believe the reason the imprecations in the Bible are OK and ours are not is because David (or any other psalmist) was directly revealed God’s will toward those wicked people. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the psalmist knew God wanted them to be killed and judged, so the psalmist was essentially praying, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

  2. Stephen,

    Very insightful. thank you for the research.


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