A Prayerful Heart: Embracing God’s Justice to Forgive Our Offenders

Imagine this scenario: a robust hole punctures the door of my childhood room, shaped like an angry fist. This hole was a silent indicator of what my stepfather was capable of. Despite the passing of over two decades since I escaped this abode, the fear still resides within me.

Ironically, my stepfather held the esteemed position of deacon in our local church. He had a reputation for leading people to the Lord, and yet his anger, like a silent beast, was confined to our home. Our church leaders seemed unable to perceive the true man behind the facade of religious devotion. They regarded me, the victim of his outbursts, as a rebellious teenager seeking to defame a ‘godly’ man.

The call of Christ reached me shortly before I began college. Although my heart was heavy with the anger borne from my stepfather’s mistreatment, I was far from ready to offer him forgiveness. Over the years, my spiritual journey with Christ taught me a surprising way to love my enemies: through praying the imprecatory Psalms.

In case you’re wondering, “Imprecation” is a fancy term for “curse,” and an imprecatory psalm is essentially a “cursing psalm.” We encounter such prayers repeatedly in the Bible, like when Nehemiah, Paul, and even Jesus, uttered prayers against those who turned away from God or defied His people. However, contrary to popular belief, these imprecatory psalms are not petty vengeance prayers but call for justice.

Reflect on Exodus 22:21–24, where God expresses His unyielding concern for the vulnerable—sojourners, widows, and the fatherless. He promises to hear their cries for justice and respond with righteous judgment. This law established Israel as a society that protected the weak. And God declared His commitment to defend the oppressed if His people failed to uphold this law.

In the grand scheme of God’s design, praying for justice is rooted in the Scripture. It is a reflection of God’s just character, demonstrated throughout the Bible. It invites the weak to voice their grievances, assures us of God’s judgment on wrongdoers, and ultimately, allows us to bask in the redeeming justice of the cross.

The question then arises: How do we reconcile the imprecatory Psalms with Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies? Praying for justice, as the imprecatory Psalms teach us, allows us to surrender our right to revenge and trust in God’s righteousness. In my own life, it was these ‘cursing’ psalms that led me to entrust my grievances with my stepfather to God, freeing me to love him without holding onto bitterness.

In conclusion: Yes, Christians today can—and should—pray the imprecatory Psalms. They serve as a guide for unfiltered prayer, expressing complete trust in God, the one who is both just and the justifier. God hears these prayers, and He promises to answer them, either in this life or the next. The realization that justice is simply a matter of time allows us to view the wrongs committed against us from a new perspective, one of faith and forgiveness.