Praying an Imprecatory Psalm as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 Approaches

Psalm 137 is a notable imprecatory psalm. It reads like this:

1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
In a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget its skill!
6 If I do not remember you,
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation!”

8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
9 Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

Here’s one attempt to pray through a Psalm like this that on the surface appears to teach things quite contrary to Jesus’ teaching on loving your enemies and doing good to those who persecute you.

Prayer: Great God and Judge of all, You are the sole source of power when we are powerless. You are the sole source of hope in the midst of our hopelessness. You are a God who welcomes the anguished cry of Your oppressed and exiled people for justice. How comforting it is to know that You will establish justice in this world and that You will judge all those who practice evil. Lord, all of Your enemies are “doomed to be destroyed” (v.8).  May all of Your enemies receive the degree of suffering that they have imposed upon Your people, especially the devil and his minions.

But Father, the same evil in the hearts of the Edomites and Babylonians and Islamic Jihadists is just as much in our hearts. Thank You Father that Jesus drank the cup of Your wrath against our evil and sin. Your justice has been fully satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Thank You that even while we were yet sinners and your enemies, Jesus died for us so that we might become your friends (Romans 5:8). Therefore, as Your dearly loved children, may we heed Jesus’ counsel and pray for our earthly enemies while praying against all the principalities and powers of darkness that threaten us.

May our sufferings in this present world ignite in us the same desire to see and enter the heavenly Jerusalem even more than these exiles desired to see and enter again their home city of Jerusalem!  Their city was destroyed by the Babylonians “down to its foundations” (v.7). We like Abraham are “looking forward to the city that has [permanent] foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Lord, we pray for justice for our brothers and sisters who suffer under the brutality of evil regimes and terrorists today. Give grace to believers whose families have experienced rape, murder, mutilation, and enslavement. May they not fall prey to the temptation to ‘forget’ their heavenly home (Ps.137:5). Give them strengthening grace to not abandon the faith knowing that “vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Utter and total defeat will come by Your hand to all Your enemies. This is pictured for us in the graphic “dashing [of] the little ones against the rock.” As we await that day when Your perfect justice will be dispensed, show all believers now who suffer how to overcome evil by doing good (Romans 12:20-21). Galvanize Your church for deeds of love and mercy so that Your heavenly kingdom might come among us with greater fullness until that day  when we see the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and Messiah. And He shall reign forever and ever, AMEN.

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