“Prayers for Vengeance?”Categories: Meditations
A couple of weeks ago, I paraphrased Psalm 94. It was certainly a journey into the darker side of Psalms. If the first line of the psalm is, “O Lord, God of vengeance,” you pretty well know how the rest is going to go! Indeed, Psalm 94 is a powerful prayer to God to punish the wicked, particularly those who use the machinery of the law for wicked ends.
This is something God did 2500+ years ago, and it’s still something He does today. He brings every act to judgment, whether good or evil. Of course, the scope of the day of judgment is universal, but even before then, a high percentage of the wicked are going to suffer for their wickedness in this life. It’s true of individuals, and it’s true of nations, which is why many Christians are gravely concerned about the future of the United States.
God certainly punishes unrighteousness, but are Christians allowed to ask Him to do that? There’s certainly plenty of Scriptural evidence that says, “No.” Most notably, in Luke 6:28, Jesus says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” By this, Jesus does not mean praying, “O God, please turn the people who abuse me into grease spots!” We are supposed to pray for their good.
However, neither does that mean praying, “O God, please give these evil people many years of life and prosperity, so that they can continue to treat others as shamefully as they have treated me!” Continued evil isn’t good for anybody. It isn’t good for the victim, and it isn’t even good for the practitioner. What we really want is for that evil not to continue.
This should begin with prayer for God to forgive our tormentors. My favorite New-Testament example of this appears in Acts 7:60. Fascinatingly, among Stephen’s murderers was the young Saul of Tarsus. Stephen’s prayer for Saul was answered in Acts 9:18 when Saul was baptized. We should likewise want everyone who troubles us to repent so that they can be forgiven.
Sadly, many evildoers never repent. In such cases, we may well echo the cry of the martyrs under the altar in Revelation 6:10. Even though we often use it generically, the cry, “Lord, how long?” is not generic. Instead, it is specific, asking how long God will take to avenge the blood of the righteous. In Romans 12:19, God promises us, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.” As with all His other promises, we have the right to ask Him to keep that one.
Some might see this as inconsistent with our calling to love our enemies. However, even though it can be, I don’t think it necessarily is. After all, God’s perfect love is consistent with His judgment of the wicked. It follows, then, that our love can be consistent with an appeal for that judgment.
God doesn’t want anyone to perish. Neither should we. Prayers for the salvation of the souls of the wicked should always be our Plan A, and we should sincerely desire to see them saved. However, those who reject the mercy of God have only His justice left. If someone who has wronged us will not repent (and God knows whether they will or not), we have the right to ask Him to balance the scales, and we can leave the matter in His hands.