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Can We Pray For God to Punish or Harm Someone?

By Michael Lane, Executive Director, Delve Christian Ministries

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This type of prayer has a special name - it's called imprecatory prayer. There are many examples of this in the Psalms, especially 58, 59 and 69. David writes in Psalm 69, "May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever. Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents."

We need to be very careful with this type of prayer for it's a very fine line between appealing to God's perfect sense of justice and lashing out because our pride has been hurt.

Are we not to love our enemies? If we are going to pray for God to punish, curse or harm someone, we need to examine our motives. What are we hoping will be the result? If we want revenge because that person hurt us, then our motives are not honest. We should be asking God to help us to forgive that person, for the desire for revenge is not holy and it will end up causing our hearts to harden.

An important clue to watch for is that we are asking God to harm or punish someone in the same way they hurt us. This is an indication that we want revenge, not justice. If you've been hurt by a boyfriend who was unfaithful and you find yourself asking God to make his new girlfriend cheat on him so he knows how it  feels, that's a pretty strong indicator that your motive is not pure. Forgiveness and healing should be your priorities.

On the other hand, if we are seeking for God to be glorified, then we may be right to ask for God's righteous punishment. In particular, when someone is doing something unholy such as worshiping the devil or persecuting Christians, then it is right that we should ask God to punish that person so He would be glorified. It might be right and even loving to ask God to harm the person in order to get their attention and stop what they're doing. We are not asking for our own gain, only that justice would be done and God would be rightly worshiped and obeyed.

Finally, we should remember that justice belongs to the Lord alone. When we pray for justice or punishment, we should be certain to make sure that we ask the Lord to deliver it in His way at His appropriate time. We should never seek for permission to deliver it ourselves unless we also happen to be part of God's appointed institutions, such as an officer of the law or a judge. It may be fine to ask God for justice, but we must be patient and allow God to work through the means that He has determined.


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Isn't David really seeking revenge in the Psalms? And doesn't God seek revenge on occasion in the Bible? You said revenge is unholy but I'm sure I could find references to God seeking revenge....something about revisiting the sins of the father on the sons for generations. I'm not sure we can say that revenge in "unholy"
7/4/2007 10:25:25 PM - tom, Member of Delve into Jesus since 4/26/2007

I think it is more important to pray to ask God to give you the right heart and motives with everything you do and in every prayer you pray. You can't go wrong with that.
7/19/2007 5:25:01 PM - Pete L., Member of Delve into Jesus since 7/19/2007

I thought this article was AWESOME - I completely understood where you were coming from. But, if I may, I would like to assist in creating a little more clarity in what you have written and responded to on this subject. A person who wants "revenge" just to merely "GET BACK" at someone who has hurt or angered them, without question, is WRONG!! It is out of "PURE EGO" to pray for the Lord to punish another person WITHOUT wishing (praying) that this person (who has hurt them) will learn a valuable lesson from the punishment and to become a better person due to the "wake-up" call of the punishment (and ultimately bring this person closer to the Lord if (s)he is not walking with Him).
Desiring that a person is punished and to inflict suffering on a person (even if it's only through prayer) with absolutely NO DESIRE to have this person grow, learn and heal from their mistakes, but instead, to ultimately see the person suffer for their own "muse" IS WRONG!!!!
To instill or pray for a person to be punished for their actions because you want this person to learn from their actions and to turn over a "new leaf" so they will become a better person in God's eyes - NOW WE'RE TALKIN'!!!
The Lord may seek revenge - The Lord may punish...
BUT his "MOTIVES", unlike the person with the self-absorbed, shattered ego, is NOT to watch this sinner crumble and break for His own amusement - The Lord's "EVER-CONSISTENT" good intentions are to "TEACH" valuable, positive lessons to the sinners. When the Lord does punish one of his children he has a heavy-heart and a genuine hope that the person he punished will learn from their "poor choice(s)" and find their way back to the Him
I also think it is worth mentioning that, unlike the person who just wants to get back at their enemy with no positive outcome in their hearts, the Lord also suffers when He must punish one of His children. Just as a parent suffers when they must punish their child in order to help guide and teach them the right way. The parent does not want to "hurt" their child, they want to make the child's world better and richer in spirit. (Please note: I am aware not ALL parents punish with a positive outcome in mind - that is abuse and that is not what I am talking about...)

Sorry so lengthy - I just thought it was worth detailing!
God Bless you!
1/15/2008 11:05:32 AM - anonymous

I think things are easier said than done ! Depending on the offense it is not always easy to forgive immediately and show love for the offender. This is an area of the heart God must deal with on our part. It is also an area I honestly must grow in. When someone hurts me I don t go to God and ask for him to send fire and brimestone into that persons life, however, I do remind him of his instruction to leave place for wrath and expect and believe he will handle the matter. I have learned not to take matters into my own hands
3/5/2008 11:40:24 AM - anonymous

My husband just passed away Tuesday March 25, 2008 after a long suffering battle with cancer. He was just 38 years old and we have 4 children with their ages being 13, 8, 8, and 20 months. I am having a terrible time with anger, grief, and feeling completely lost. He was my best friend. I asked him to send me a sign that he was watching over us, but I have yet to see anything. Maybe I am looking too hard or maybe I am looking for something too deep. I find myself being curious about the dying process and wonder what he went through. I know he didn't want to die and begged God not to let him die the very day he died. Does anyone have any words of support for me? I am full of questions and I do not like feeling this anger, betrayel, and loss of faith.
4/2/2008 12:20:46 PM - anonymous

I praise God for this article and for Delve Christian Ministries.The information provided in this article has been very beneficial to me. The article itself is scripture based and easy to read, which is excellent for a person who desires to know truth but does not always have the desired time to spend on a long drawn out article. I pray that God will continue to Prosper Delve Christian Ministries as you all continue to bless the body of Christ.

10/25/2010 1:04:48 AM - slcams1, Member of Delve into Jesus since 10/25/2010

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