How to Pray for Those who Hurt You

Someone maliciouslenemy1y and publicly ruins your reputation. You are deeply hurt and pay a heavy price for something that isn’t true. Everything in you wants to pray like David:

May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!  Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! (Ps 109:9-15)

Ouch! It hurts just to think of it. Your conscience cries out “No! Don’t go there! Trust the Lord. Don’t be a fool!”

Many have weighed in on the subject of a Christian’s relationship to the prayers of David that call down fire and hail stones on the heads of those who wound us. Sometimes they are unbelievers and we might be willing to let them off the hook. But sometimes they are sitting next to us in church    Can we use David’s “imprecatory prayers” when we are deeply wounded by betrayal, lies or bullying of others? The answer is “yes” and “no.” The “no” part goes like this: remember that the substance of an imprecatory prayer contains wording that calls down curses on our enemies. You may feel like that will bring about the justice you deserve but it won’t. To this Jesus says us to love those who persecute us and to pray for them and even do good to them (Matt 5:44).

Can we use David’s “imprecatory prayers” when we are deeply wounded by betrayal, lies or bullying of others? The answer is “yes” and “no.” The “no” part goes like this: remember that the substance of an imprecatory prayer contains wording that calls down curses on our enemies. You may feel like that will bring about the justice you deserve but it won’t. To this Jesus says us to love those who persecute us and to pray for them and even do good to them (Matt 5:44).

The “yes” part is this: there is a legitimate way to pray about what’s happened to you. Here are seven things I’ve noticed about David’s approach to God in prayer about his enemies:

  1. It’s perfectly legitimate to pray for vindication from God.
  2. It’s perfectly legitimate to pray that my enemies are frustrated in their plans.
  3. It’s perfectly legitimate to plead my innocence with God (if I am!) and make the case for vindication.
  4. It’s perfectly legitimate to tell the Lord what I know and think about the characters and spiritual condition of my adversaries. (believe it – he already knows!)
  5. It’s perfectly legitimate to pray that my opponents become ashamed of their work. An awakened conscience might lead them to repentance.
  6. It’s perfectly legitimate to promise to rejoice in the ways God answers.
  7. It’s perfectly legitimate to tell others afterward of the marvelous thing God has done for you so they can join the chorus of praise. (Do this without trash talking your enemy in the process).

In contrast, here are five illegitimate things:

  1. It is illegitimate to go first to others and tell them about your enemy’s hurtful actions or words. First, to God and leave it with him.
  2. It is illegitimate to be disappointed in the way God answers.
  3. It is illegitimate to renege on the promise to praise God.
  4. It is illegitimate to get impatient with God; so, admit it and ask for help!
  5. It is illegitimate to gloat when the answer comes; be ready to pray for them the way God directed Job to pray for his “counselors.”

For your own further reflection check out Pss 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 140. Then pray for them the ways you would want others to pray for you.

 

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