Praying For The Politicians Who Infuriate Us

Almost everything she posted on Facebook swelled with her hatred of President Trump, though she never really explained why she felt such animosity toward him. Her relentless vitriol seemed unbecoming to a Christian. Her disagreement with his policies, though confusing to me, didn’t bother me too much, but the intensity of her anger certainly did. After weeks of scrolling though her rants about him, I finally asked if she prayed for him.

“Yes,” she answered. “I pray daily that he’ll be removed from office!”

Now we have a president that I dislike. Most of my friends share my feelings about his socialist agenda, his support of abortion and his mishandling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I noticed an increasing number of Christians admitting to praying imprecatory prayers since his inauguration.

Imprecatory prayers are prayers for God to exercise curses or judgment on our enemies, as in Psalm 35:4-6, Psalm 55:15, and (most germane to our discussion) Psalm 109:6-20 with the particular emphasis on verse 8.

Let his days be few;
Let another take his office. (NASB95)

I’ve seen several Christians lately argue that the current administration calls for imprecatory prayers, just as my Facebook friend believed the last administration called for them. I must admit that praying that way has sounded more tempting in these last 8 months. But I have to step back from my emotions and seriously question whether or not Christians really ought to use this method of prayer.

Let’s begin by remembering that David and Asaph wrote the Psalms under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These prayers are God’s words, not just human wishes for vengeance. Thus such praying was reserved for that specific time in Israel’s history; the New Testament presents no such pattern for Christians to follow. explains:

Using imprecatory prayers from the Psalms today should only be done against our spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6:12). Praying imprecations on human foes is unjustifiable, as it would require taking these prayers out of context. In the New Testament, Jesus exhorts us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44–48; Luke 6:27–38), but praying for their death or for bad things to happen to them isn’t what He meant. Instead, we are to pray for their salvation first and foremost, and then for God’s will to be done. There’s no greater blessing than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and that’s what Jesus means by praying for and blessing those who curse us.

As the writer of the Gotquestions article mentioned, Jesus explicitly commands us to pray for our enemies and in so doing to bless them. Such a command surely must have scandalized First Century Jews who had memorized the imprecatory psalms and adopted them as models for praying against the Romans who oppressed them. Bless the Romans? You’ve got to be kidding!

But that’s precisely what Jesus said.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~~Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB95)

Does the context of the Lord’s command to pray for those who persecute us allow for praying Psalm 109:8? Not if I read it correctly. Rather, He encourages His disciples to pray for the well-being of even those who persecute us. He’s even clearer about the matter in Luke.

27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ~~Luke 6:27-36 (NASB95)

Verse 28 sets the context — instead of wishing harm to our enemies, Jesus commands His followers to bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us. How can we bless anyone by praying imprecatory prayers about them? We can (and should) pray for their repentance, and even that God would confound their evil policies. We can (and should) pray for them to hear the Gospel and consequently come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I prayed those prayers for Donald Trump and I now pray those same prayers for Joe Biden. I also pray them for my U.S. senators and congressional representative, state and local leaders and even the managers of our federally subsidized apartment complex.

Praying for leaders I wish had never been elected isn’t exactly pleasurable. I understand that praying for the Lord to bless politicians who advance agendas which blatantly oppose Biblical values is often deeply disturbing. When someone demands abortion rights without qualification (as if any reason could justify taking the life of an unborn child), for instance, my gut instinct is to cry out for God’s wrath to fall on them. So I well understand the temptation to pray imprecatory prayers.

But I also understand the commands Jesus makes. Praying for the well-being of politicians who legislate against Biblical values may be distasteful, yet I’ve shown you how to pray for them in obedience to the very Lord Who gave us those values in the first place. If we claim that our political views honor Him, our attitude toward the people He allowed to hold political office should also honor Him. They may do all the wrong things. As Christians, however, we have a responsibility to do the right thing.

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