As believers in Jesus Christ, we ought to feel a righteous indignation when we see injustice. Does that mean we should pray for God’s judgment on wicked leaders? Specifically, should we pray what the Bible calls the imprecatory psalms?
In the biblical book of Psalms, the writer sometimes prays for God’s judgment to rain down on his enemies. In these heavy-duty songs, the psalmist cries out to God, and says, “Let them have it!” Well, we’re called under the New Covenant to love our enemies. So is it ever proper for us to pray these curses on the enemies of God?
In 1 Timothy 2:1–4, the apostle Paul says, “I urge that supplications prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
So, we’re encouraged here to pray for all people—in particular, political leaders. We should pray for their salvation. We should pray that they would repent of their sins and follow Jesus Christ. That’s very clear.
But at times in the New Testament, the disciples of our Lord call out for judgment. In Revelation 6:9, the martyrs but beneath the throne of God cry out to the Lord: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the witness that they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” They’re crying out for God’s justice. They’re asking God to judge those who persecute the church and put Christians to death.
It’s important to understand the context of prayers like this. In the imprecatory psalms, for example, those prayers for judgment were made against the enemies of God’s covenant people at a particular time in the history of redemption. So, is it ever appropriate for the New Covenant church to pray like this? When people are coming against the gospel, persecuting the church, can Christians say, “God bring justice”?
Yes, I think it’s appropriate at times. That’s what you see in Revelation 6:9. But we’re also called to pray for mercy and for the salvation of the Lord to reach such evil people. Think of Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church who converted and became Paul, this mighty apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray that would happen to authorities that persecute the church today. You can do so confidently knowing that God calls us to pray this way in 1 Timothy 2:1–4.
This article is part of our Frequently Asked Questions series. Listen to Pastor Adriel answer this question on Core Radio here.
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