Imprecatory Psalms have as a major element a prayer from the Psalmist to afflict and punish his enemies as they deserve.
Four Views dominate the perspective on how imprecatory Psalms should be handled in the church age.
- Imprecatory Psalms express evil emotions that should be suppressed as sin.
- Imprecatory Psalms are utterances consonant with old covenant morality but inconsistent with new covenant ethics particularly because of the distinction between Israel and the church.
- Imprecatory Psalms amy be appropriately spoken only by Christ in relation to his work on the cross and only by his followers through him.
- Imprecatory Psalms should not be distanced from being legitimate prayers of God’s people today.
Considerations and conclusions for how imprecatory Psalms apply to the church.
I think that perhaps a “middle-way” combination of the last three views is appropriate.
- We must remember that not every imprecatory Psalm is as appropriate for God’s people today to be praying because the language is clearly specific to one particular enemy for one particular time under the old covenant (cf. Ps 137).
- We must remember that we are incapable of a sinless hatred like God is. Therefore, we should use the language of the imprecatory Psalms very cautiously in the power and name of Christ with submission to Christ (cf. Ps 69; 139).
- We can and should pray for justice recognizing that sometimes justice includes the destruction of the wicked because this is what is deserved for sin (cf 7; 35; 58; 59; 69; 83; 109).
- We can pray for God to be known in all his glory either through us or others who see God working (cf 7; 35; 58; 59; 69; 83; 109).
The following resources were invaluable in helping my drawing of these conclusions: