In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls on his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.
His Sermon on the Mount, which famously asks followers to turn the other cheek, inspired Martin Luther King Jr. and Jehovah’s Witnesses in their pursuit of nonviolence. It also conjures images of faithful Christians praying that their adversaries see the error of their ways.
Recently, though, a Christian leader encouraged a rarely used form of prayer, the imprecatory prayer, in which believers invoke or call down evil or curses upon the “enemies of God.”
USE AND PRACTICE
Imprecatory prayer is seen as a prayer of righteous indignation that calls for vengeance or wrath against people considered to be in opposition to God. Information about imprecatory prayer is limited, but it is not considered a popular or normal practice in Christianity or any major world religion.
In August, Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., called for supporters to engage in imprecatory prayer against the leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The group had accused him of improperly using his pastoral role to endorse Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.
Drake referenced the Old and New Testament of the Bible as well as the teachings of John Calvin and Martin Luther in support of his call to imprecatory prayer.
In Psalm 109:8-12, one of the sections Drake cited, King David prays, “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.” Other Biblical passages considered examples of imprecatory prayer include David’s prayer against Joab in 2 Samuel 3:28-29, portions of several Psalms and 1 Corinthians 16:22, in which the apostle Paul calls for a curse on anyone who “does not love the Lord.”
Sources: Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, Christianity Today, Christian NewsWire, Orange County Register, Associated Baptist Press, Biblegateway.com, Nave’s Compact Topical Bible, Dictionary.com, Beliefnet.com