“And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant.”
As much as there are times when we might wish it so, Imprecatory Prayer is not like a Mafia contract killing. God is not a Killer-For-Hire. “He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” “He does not wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Imprecatory prayer is maybe… just my thought… our final (but oft repeated) step toward relinquishing an untrustworthy, vexed heart and confusing circumstantial desires to a wise and holy Father who sees all and knows all and can righteously fulfill His purpose in glory indifferent to the acts of ungodly men or well-meaning saints. That would be my heart that is vexed and needs be handed over to the King once again. And again. And again.
Imprecatory prayers have multiple bases that are as varied as they are broad as they encompass the glory of God and the purpose of God in the lives of individual saints who are collectively engaged in the Body Corporate revelation of God that always touches eternity. Here in Psalm 143 we see the Psalmist essentially prays for God to clobber his enemies as he appeals to his servant relationship to God, with a reminder of his perpetual need for God’s mercy demonstrated by God acting to clear the solitary path to heaven.
Answered imprecations do not always imply immediate deliverance from or annihilation of all enemies. We are granted assurance that God does answer all prayer by His standing offer of tender mercy and tangible comforts to the seasoned warrior-saints who cry and pray. Joy is the expected Biblical norm indifferent to current impoverished circumstance or ongoing prosperity of enemies. We are to discover joy in God alone, not in the answer of deliverance; or in the non-answer. God may not purpose deliverance or a change in circumstance. That is no justification for embittered complaint. “Mumble, mumble…” Although when we mumble, we best mumble to God. I distinguish between a mumble and a grumble. (I hope that is not rationalization…)
I just read again this morning the story of Joseph’s initial revelation of his identity to his brothers as they stood before, arguably the most powerful man in the universe : “You sold me as a slave, but God actually sent me to preserve you as a remnant.“ Oops… big boo-boo. (Knees probably grew weak and a few murmured 4-lettered words likely escaped the lips as the guilty victors become humbly victimized.) Their logical understanding of these events was about as elusive to them as my understanding how my youngest son has juggled as many as 8 balls simultaneously. It’s beyond the normative of ordinary human experience. Or is it? Does not God have the capacity to animate dead dust formed into live Man by the breath of His mouth? How does dry dust hold together anyway? Ever wondered that?
Joseph likely had passed through frequent periods where his pleasure, comfort and hope were derived from reminding God of the injustice of his current imprisonment, yet he probably never anticipated an answer to this prayer by a reunion with both his brothers and father. This unlikely reunion was occasioned by Joseph being a faithful steward of God’s purpose, and his adaptation to his role as a servant with an enlarged heart to meet the need of the masses in general but his brethren in particular. Answered imprecatory prayer may lead to restored relationships. Don’t be aggravated if God lets your enemy off the hook. Didn’t He do the same for you? You better answer, “Affirmative there, Ghost Rider.”
“Run the way of His commands and He enlarges your heart.”
I suspect this is the bottom-line, glory-of-God ideal we should call up on our personal rangefinder when we fire off salvos toward heaven loaded with ammunition intent on importuning God with appeals for calamity upon adversaries. “God remove them… but I guess, save them if You must.” I know we as Christians ought be careful for we gravitate toward the natural shade under the juniper tree where we can sit around swapping fish stories with a strange bed-fellow, (who is just about drip-dried), who still speaks of being eaten alive by a monstrous fish.
God has a very large paint brush that details an answer to our prayers, and we need to be sensitive and open to the signed portrait He presents to us. As an example, consider that those beautiful rolling thunderheads rushing over the horizon toward me actually hold wind, hail, floods and potential death hidden underneath their majestic beauty. God’s destruction upon our enemies may mean that in proud prosperous arrogance they succeed today as they literally get away with murder and their life may have temporal beauty. Their hearts may be hardened with ungodly blind indifference as they blissfully enjoy temporal blessings beyond measure so that “their portion might be in this life…” All questions of right and wrong, of justice and mercy will be ultimately revealed and equitably balanced in powerful, comforting clarity granted on The Final Day. An honest current Judgment Day perspective is crucial for contentment today, and helps a struggling, afflicted believer to currently see wisdom and find joyful peace and contentment through a Psalms 73 worldview. This is our one reconciliation of the apparent incongruences that result as we pray for the restraint of God upon our enemies or the removal by God of the wicked… yet in answer they prosper as never before. “Thanks a lot God!”
Just remember, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Let’s end this in search of agreement with the Psalmist at the end of Psalm 73.
Psalms 73:25-28 (NASB)
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For, behold, those who are far from You will perish;
You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
“And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world!” (Hymn)
“I have learned the secret of being content in any circumstance.”
Final statement and I’m sticking to it:
Imprecatory Prayers are thoroughly Biblical and need to be routinely prayed… I suppose daily to seek deliverance from an embittered heart. God’s answer to imprecatory prayers may not always coincide with my desire, intent nor agenda and ultimately require my thanksgiving. This reality only serves to reinforce why we pray, as prayer implies a Wise Sovereign who has our times, and the times of God’s enemies… my enemies… in His hands. Prayer has both temporal and eternal application. When the Psalmist requests his “enemies to be cut off” it carries with it the consequential final outcome of being shut out of the Covenant Community. This is serious business but the reasonable and logical outcome of habitual running in darkness from Light. Pray brethren, but pray in wisdom and pray in love with Eternity in your heart and the Glory of God in your sight.