The “Rev.” (and I use that term sarcastically) Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, California, has asked his church’s members to pray for President Obama’s death. When discussing this with Alan Colmes, here is what he said (click on video below):
A transcript of the above, as well as a few additional comments follows (courtesy of the web site “Crooks and Liars”):
Colmes: …you then said, I asked for whom else are you praying in that fashion and you said President Obama. Are you praying for his death?
Colmes: So you’re praying for the death of the president of the United States?
Drake: Yes. Are you concerned that by saying that you might find yourself on some secret service call or FBI most wanted list. Do you think it’s appropriate to say something like that or even pray for something like that?
Drake: I think it’s appropriate to pray for the will of God. I’m not saying anything, what I’m doing is repeating what God is saying, if that puts me on somebodies list then I’ll just have to be on their list.
Colmes: You would like for the president of the United States to die?
Drake: If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around I am asking God to enforce in imprecatory prayers throughout the scripture that would cause him death, that’s correct.
Later, Drake would go on to say, “Imprecatory prayer is agreeing with God, and if people don’t like that, they need to talk to God. . . . God said it, I didn’t. I was just agreeing with God.”
Now the purpose of this post is not political. I have sworn off most political posting on my blogs. Rather, I would point out the nonsense that is imprecatory prayer and the idea that this is a prayer form Christians should use. I would also like to point out that not only is Pastor Drake wrong to pray in such a way and to instruct his followers to do the same, but that he is just one more example of a Christianity that is hurtful to people and damning to the Church as a whole. First a couple of definitions:
Imprecation: A curse or denunciation that conveys a wish or threat of evil.
Imprecatory prayer: To pray for evil or misfortune to fall upon another.
Now while the Old Test Testament has several examples of imprecatory prayer (including those listed below). It is important to note that there is, to my knowledge, not a single example of imprecatory prayer in the New Testament.
The closest that Jesus come to such a thing is found in Matthew 10:14-15 (and similar verses in Mark 6:11ff, Luke 9:5ff and Luke 10:11). These verses read: “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” Please note, however, that any judgment to be brought will be done so only by God, and that these instructions are not a prayer for such judgment to be wrought.
There is also a reference in Romans that is important to note as well. In Romans 12:19-21, Paul writes:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Note that this passage is in direct contrast to advice given by some, including Drake, to use imprecatory prayers. Once again, any judgment is left up to God, and as is pointed out by many scholars, the reference to “heap up burning coals upon his head” has to do with trying to get the person to repent, not to burning him or her alive.
In fact, a Christian point of view is espoused by Jesus several times in the gospels, including in
- Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
- Luke 6:27 "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
- Luke 6:35 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
So what are we to make of the references in the Old Testament, particularly the numerous ones found in the Psalms? I find Walter Brueggemann’s thoughts especially helpful here. Brueggemann, one of the world’s foremost Hebrew Bible scholars, compares imprecatory prayers to venting sessions with a divine psychotherapist. They are, in other words, honest words that function as a safety valve against harmful action. And they are not to be taken literally or a model for our own prayers.
People like Drake, who do just that, should be ashamed of the witness they make to the world. Instead of praying for judgment and death upon those whom they see as enemies of God, they should pray for their salvation.