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August 24, 2007

When a Blessing is a Curse

Mark Galli has just published an article in Christianity Today called "When a Blessing is a Curse" that tackles those pesky imprecatory prayers in the Bible, and asks why we are so often uncomfortable with them. What sparked his musings was a recent call by a California pastor (Wiley S. Drake) for his followers to pray for the "deaths of two leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State." 

While Mr. Galli comes to the conclusion that "Rev. Drake appears to have no love for his enemies but merely wishes them cursed," he nevertheless believes that some types of imprecatory prayers need to be in our repertoire, as in this case: "Love always seeks the other's good, to be sure, but seeking the other's good is a complicated thing. How many parents have wished and hoped that their drug addicted son would hit bottom, would come to the point of complete misery and hopelessness -- so that he would see God was his only hope? If this is not an imprecatory prayer, I don't know what is.... [Is] there not a way to pray for consequences, for pain -- for judgment! -- that leads to redemption?"

I know there is since I have uttered such prayers on several occasions and I have (thankfully) seen God's gracious and merciful answers as He worked to "turn around" His prodigal children. Sadly, I have rarely heard pastors teach the necessity of this kind of prayer, perhaps because it flies in the face of the dangerously impotent "let's just love everybody" version of Christianity that exists in our country.

Mr. Galli shows us a better way: "...[We] are a naive and sentimental people if we equate love with mere social grace and think that niceness will successfully confront the massive and intransient evils of our day, individual and corporate. Redemption -- personal, social, and cosmic -- comes only through suffering. The paradox is that while we should not wish pain on anyone, it seems to be a perfectly love and realistic act to pray for it." 

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