Imprecatory Prayers: Why Are Christians Not Calling Upon God to Stop Their Enemies in Their Tracks?

Have you ever been frightened for your safety? Perhaps you parked your car in the city during daylight hours, only to return after dark. You walk down the street that seemed fine in the daylight, but at night you have a whole different sense of that same street. You look nervously over your shoulder, concerned that this doesn’t seem a safe part of the city. You have a realistic appraisal of the situation without any obvious direct threat to your wellbeing. While this may never have happened to you, can you think of a situation where there was a clear and present danger – a direct and obvious threat to your safety and wellbeing?

I recall one such incident for me. While working my way through graduate school I held a variety of jobs. One was as a gardener in the wealthy community of Cherry Hills. One day the owner of the home had a daylong project for me. As he left in the morning he told me that he had left the back door unlocked so I could use the facilities when I needed to. I did at one point in the morning and went back to my pruning. I was at the top of a stepladder with the pruning shears over my head when I heard a man shouting at me to freeze. I almost fell off the ladder when I saw that the man had leveled his gun directly at me. Talk about a fright.

That man turned out to be a policeman, who responded to the home’s burglar alarm. The owner had inadvertently turned the alarm system on when he left that morning, forgetting that he left the rear door unlocked for me. Well the whole mess was finally straightened out after a few phone calls, and though I was rather shaken, went back to my pruning. I wondered though about the policeman, who thought I had broken into the house and remained behind to trim the trees. That kind of puzzled me. That experience gave me a sense of what the Children of Israel must have felt that day in Exodus 14.

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The Israelites were encamped with the Red Sea on the left and a mountain range to the right, in a cul-de-sac. Someone noticed a cloud of dust in the distance behind him, and as he watched that cloud grew larger and closer till he could finally make out what it was, the entire Egyptian army in full battle array coming after them. They were trapped and they were terrified.

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They desperately needed two things, protection from their enemy and direction, how to get out of the fix they were in. Aren’t those the same two things we need when we are in a bind, protection and direction? Let’s look at how those two needs were met and see how God can meet those same needs for us.

We see in Exodus 14:24, the Angel of God is the Lord Himself, “the LORD looked unto the host.” Israel needed preparation time that the divine light at night provided them. Think of the practical logistics of more than two million people, men women and children breaking camp, packing up all their worldly possessions in preparation to move forward into the dry ground through the midst of the Red Sea. That would take time. God gave them all the time they needed while preventing the army of Egypt from any forward movement.

We need to always remember that God is able to do whatever is needed to defend His people. God is able to stop the enemy dead in his tracks, to prevent his forward movement in any respect. And we are encouraged in Scripture to pray that God would so deal with our enemies. These are called imprecatory prayers; prayers that call on the Lord to do exactly this.

Take for example Psalm 35:4:

“Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.”

Another example is found in Psalm 70:2:

“Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.”

These are but a small sample of the many imprecatory prayers in the Bible, which encourage us to pray against the onslaught of an enemy of God who has chosen a hardened heart.

We also need to train up the people, families, churches and civil government to obey God’s Law in everything. Will you commit yourself to this tremendous task, to be like Moses in his day? That is what is desperately needed in our day, and God is calling us, one and all, to this great work.

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