In a broken and sinful world, we are bound to be wronged. There are people who are clear enemies of the church and of righteousness. While we might really want to pray for their destruction, we wonder exactly what the Bible says about that. That’s what I want to look into today.
Can I pray against my enemies? The Bible does allow prayers against our enemies but only at very specific times. This type of prayer should not be common and should always be prayed with godly intentions and a godly heart. You cannot pray against your enemies out of hatred.
We do see numerous biblical examples of what are called ‘imprecatory’ prayers. Imprecatory prayers are prayers for divine justice or punishment to come for someone who is practicing evil.
We do have to also consider the Bible’s teaching on love and patience toward our enemies. When Jesus told us to “pray for your enemies”, he seemingly did not mean that we should pray for their destruction (Matthew 5:44). He was telling us to pray for their deliverance.
So, when should I pray against my enemies? What are the appropriate times and ways to do that? And what prayer examples do we have from the Bible? These are a few questions I want to find answers to here.
Should I pray against my enemies?
There are times when we should pray against our enemies or even to wish that justice would be done.
It’s important to recognize that when we are asking for the Lord to judge our enemies, we are not asking God to be unjust. Our enemies deserve the wrath of God. All people deserve the wrath of God. For God to judge them is not an injustice.
For this reason, there are times when our heroes of the faith would pray against their enemies. For example, the apostle Paul says of anyone who preaches a distorted gospel, “a curse be on them!” (Galatians 1:9).
The great King David wrote many imprecatory prayers which are canonized in the Psalms. For example, he asks God to “pour out your wrath on nations that don’t acknowledge you” (Psalm 79:6).
So, we do see that there are times when we should (or at least can) pray against our enemies. It is not necessarily wrong are asking God that he would bring judgment or wrath. The question that needs to be asked next is what times are appropriate to pray against our enemies?
When should I pray against my enemies?
There are only some times in scripture when people pray against their enemies. It would be wise for us to not go beyond those situations because of the difficulty of this subject.
We see David frequently praying imprecatory prayers when his life is being threatened or the people of God were being threatened. Especially remembering that David was the King of Israel who were the people of God.
We also see Paul pray against and curse those who threaten the gospel of Christ. We know that the gospel is of first importance and is the power of God to save (1 Corinthians 14, Romans 1:6).
The gospel is very important and many people will attempt to change it to meet their own needs and desires. This is because of their sinfulness. Scripture constantly points to the importance of the gospel and holding to the message that has been passed down.
For example, Paul’s address to the elders that the Ephesian church includes him begging them not to fall victim to savage wolves who would come and lure the disciples away. He even says that he warned them for 2 years with tears (Acts 20:31).
Outside of this, there are few situations that I can find in scripture where imprecatory prayers are prayed. For this reason alone, these prayers should not be very common in our prayer life. Our first response should not usually be anger or wishing destruction.
How should I pray against my enemies?
So, what should our first response be? Grace. Because of the mercy and grace and God toward us, it should be easy for our first response to also be mercy and grace toward others. This is evident in the “fruit of the Spirit” that you see in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruit includes love, patience, and kindness.
The Christian life should be marked by love and grace. It is not our responsibility to take vengeance on our enemies (Romans 12:19).
Remember the words of Jesus in this situation because they are very important. He told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). This should be the rule for our prayer life.
However, in the situation in which we can pray against our enemies, we should make sure that our hearts are in a godly place.
Even when someone else has sinned against us, we can still be sinful in our response. This is why the apostle Paul tells us to “Be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). It would be easy for our anger to become unrighteous and to cause us to sin.
You should not be praying against your neighbor out of hatred for them. And you should never pray imprecatory prayers against fellow believers. They are not your enemies.
What should I pray against my enemies?
In the biblical examples of these kinds of prayers, we do see somewhat of a pattern. There are aspects of these prayers that we can identify which we can use as well.
When biblical authors pray imprecatory prayers, they are praying that God would be glorified by stopping people from actively working against him and his people. They are asking that God’s purposes will prevail.
This is a humble approach to prayer and is how Jesus taught us to pray as well. When he gave what is sometimes called the “model prayer”, he told us to “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). This emphasis is usually modeled even in the prayers against enemies.
The Lord is wiser than you. And vengeance, mercy, and salvation truly do belong to him.
You can also pray for justice to be done. Justice is specifically that people get what they deserve. People truly do deserve the wrath of God. They do deserve punishment for their sin.
Just understand when you pray for this that you also deserve wrath and punishment. It is only by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that you have been forgiven of your wrongdoing. There is no one righteous, including both me, you, and our enemies (Romans 3:10).
Examples of Prayers Against Enemies
There are numerous examples of actual imprecatory prayers in the Bible. Some of the best examples are from the Psalms. Here are some biblical examples of prayers you can pray against your enemies if the situation allows it.
Rise up, Lord! Confront him; bring him down. With your sword, save me from the wicked. With your hand, Lord, save me from men, from men of the world whose portion is in this life: You fill their bellies with what you have in store; their sons are satisfied, and they leave their surplus to their children.Psalm 17:13-14
Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them ofall by their own counsels, because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.Psalm 5:10
Cover their faces with shame so that they will seek your name, Lord. Let them be put to shame and terrified forever; let them perish in disgrace. May they know that you alone—whose name is the Lord—are the Most High over the whole earth.Psalm 83:16-18
These are just a few examples of portions of imprecatory Psalms. Other imprecatory Psalms include chapters 7, 9, 35, 39, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 129, 137, 140. While this may seem like a lot, it is only about 10% of the book of Psalms. These examples can serve as templates for these kinds of prayers.
The Biblical Summary
When there are difficult sections of the Bible, it’s our sinful inclination to avoid them or try to ignore them. I want to focus on what is easy for me.
In reality, when passages in the Bible are difficult, it is often because we have wrong presuppositions. We should pray imprecatory prayers (prayers against our enemies) because they are in the Bible.
Though they should not be common for us, it is a practice in following the biblical example before us. It should be done carefully, wisely, and lovingly. It should not be capricious or thoughtless. But it is an example that we can follow.
You should pray against your enemies when they are prayers that you believe truly align with the plan of God. Remember, God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). You can just as easily pray that God redeems a person than that God pours out his wrath on a person.
The ultimate question always comes down to whether or not you are obeying God, praying for the will of God, and praying from a godly attitude of the heart.