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May We Pray Against Our Enemies?

We have received a query about a previous article.  Our correspondent writes: “I have a question about the article ‘May We Pray Against People?’ in an earlier issue.  On the basis of passages in the Psalms such as Psalm 69:28, why is it wrong for Christians to pray that their enemies be cut off from the grace and mercy of God?”

There is a point here that needs clarification, we believe.  Psalm 69:22-28 is indeed a prayer for the most horrible judgments against certain persons.  There are several things that need to be noted, however, about this prayer.

Note, then, that the prayer of Psalm 69 is Christ’s prayer first of all.  That in itself, of course, is no answer to the question, since it is also our prayer.  Proof that it is ours is found in the fact that Christ prayed it in the first place through David, and that Paul also prays it in Romans 11:9-10.  But, it is important to remember Christ here.

Those who are prayed against in Psalm 69 both by Christ and His people, are those who crucified Him (and who crucify Him afresh), never repenting of their wickedness, and thus perishing everlastingly (vs. 28). Against these same people the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 139:21-22, revealing a holy hatred as the motive for such prayers.

Nevertheless, there is a difference in Christ’s praying this prayer and we praying it.  Christ must have had specific persons in mind when He prayed the prayer of Psalm 69:22-28 for their damnation.  He had perfect knowledge of who God’s elect were and who were not God’s elect.  We do not have such knowledge.

Thus, we can only pray such prayers generally.  We cannot pray them against specific persons, since we do not know whether those persons will in fact be damned eternally.  They may well be among those who shall be saved, and so we dare not and may not pray that they be damned, as Christ prays in Psalm 69.

There is another aspect of the matter, however.  We must also be careful that we pray against God’s enemies and not our own when we pray such prayers.  That is not to say, of course, that the two are not often the same.  God’s enemies reveal their enmity against Him by hating and persecuting His people, and show that they are God’s enemies by their attitude and actions in relation to us.

Nonetheless, that it is God’s enemies we pray against (though only generally), is a reminder that such prayers must not be motivated by personal animosity or hurt, but by the love of God and His glory.  Personal feelings are not a proper motive for such prayers.

We must and can and do pray against the wicked, even though it is a general prayer which does not think of specific persons, not because they are our enemies – that does not really matter – but because they areGod’s enemies.  They hate Him and rebel against Him and trample His glory, which we love under their profane feet.  It is our love for Him, not our desire to avenge ourselves that motivates such prayers.

Insofar as they are our enemies we must pray for them.  When Scripture speaks of them as our enemies and tells us to pray for them, it is reminding us that we do not know their eternal state.  They may, in fact, manifest themselves as our enemies as well as God’s, but nevertheless be among those whom God, by election and by the atoning work of Christ, counts not enemies but friends.  And we are to pray that they may, according to God’s purpose and grace, be brought into the friendship and fellowship of God.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 25
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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