I was given an Intercessors for America Prayer Letter at a recent prayer meeting, and was a little taken aback by one of the articles. It was titled Praying Everywhere, Without Wrath, by David Kubal. Here’s the meat of the section that got me going:
If people would have told us a year ago that the country would be in its present state, very few of us would have believed all that has occurred. There is a disturbing trend in the midst of all that is unfolding: some intercessors are so discouraged, frustrated, and angry that they can’t force themselves to pray for the leaders that are in place. This is a more troubling reality than the current dire conditions!
. . . It is easy for us to complain, become overwhelmed by the pace of moral decline and negative change, and become bitter. Scripture warns that we must guard against this. (Heb 12:15) Instead of becoming beleaguered, bitter and passive, we need to continue to pray for our country’s leaders. (1 Tim 2:2) We need to pray that God blesses them beyond present realities and past what we can even imagine. We need to pray that they experience the same redemptive grace that each of us has experienced—it is only the love and grace of God that can truly transform their hearts and minds.1
Now I don’t want to malign IFA or Mr. Kubal, neither of whom I am very familiar, but I do want to take to task something here that is not constrained to either of them. It is the “you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar” mentality that has clouded our view of evangelism and even our view of God. We must be sweet, like honey, to the lost, in order to be used as instruments of bringing them to salvation.
David Kubal seems to imply that our prayers for our enemies should never include any harsh sentiments. However, another David, the biblical king of Israel, did not share those convictions. There are many Psalms that he penned that are considered “imprecatory” prayers to God. An imprecatory prayer is one calling on God to execute his righteous judgment upon those who rightfully deserve such. Here is one example:
The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies . . . . Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! . . . He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, As in His living and burning wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, So that men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely He is God who judges in the earth.”
I do not question Mr. Kubal’s Christianity. Surely his concern for prayer indicates that he is one of the
“righteous.” However, it seems that he would recoil rather than “rejoicing when he saw such vengeance.” Would the thought of “washing his feet in the blood of the wicked” be anathema to him, even though it is Scripture?
Kubal prefaces his article with two Bible verses:
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, loud quarreling, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice …. Pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” —Eph 4:31; 1 Tim 2:8
While these are qualities that every Christian should posses, David Kubal is intimating that it is never okay to use harsh language, and that such talk is the overflow of a bitter heart. King David, a “man after God’s own heart,” was not speaking out of vindictive wrath. David was consistently gracious towards and respectful of King Saul when he was hunting him. While David was willing to refrain from repaying the offenses against him, he fully expected God to recompense these same offenses due to their affront to Heaven’s throne.
Is Jesus’ admonition to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44) incompatible with imprecatory prayers? Many people think that Jesus was preaching something new here, casting off the “inappropriate” harshness of the Old Testament. It is more likely that Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders of his day that had forgotten that the Old Testament contained similar encouragements to mercy as well:
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you.
All of Scripture is a record of both great mercy and awesome judgment. These ideas go together, but many in today’s church do not bother to search the Scriptures to find out how. Instead, the paradox troubles them, so they substitute unbiblical ideas that are more palatable. God is reinvented sans judgment, and only mercy. This was illustrated as I handed out gospel tracts one day outside a local pornography store, preaching God’s judgment to the patrons. A woman toting an armload of flowers walked in, and then came out minus the lovely bouquet. She then introduced herself as a fellow Christian, but proceeded to berate us for the harsh way we were doing our ministry. She said that she had come in Christian love to give flowers to the ladies behind the counter of the porn store. She told us that this was the right way to get people saved, since Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness leads [people] to repentance” (NIV).
This sounds very similar to David Kubal’s plea to pray blessings upon our enemies, “that they experience the same redemptive grace that each of us has experienced—it is only the love and grace of God that can truly transform their hearts and minds.” Love is how to get people saved, right? However, one can only believe this way by reading Romans chapter 2 with an X-Acto knife in hand, ready to cut out those pesky verses that speak of judgment. Let’s look at Romans 2:4 in context:
3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”
Here we see how God shows his “kindness” or “goodness,” as the NKJV states, above. It is shown through his forbearance and longsuffering. He is patient with the unrighteous, who are “treasuring up wrath” for themselves. Though they already justly deserve God’s judgment, he bears with them a while longer in order to give them time to come to the knowledge of the gospel, and come to repentance. If we hide the great truth of the judgment-to-come from people, it is doubtful, that they will experience anything but a false salvation.
Preacher and teacher Ray Comfort has done yeoman’s work in combating the dubious evangelism message of reaching people with love and kindness only, while eschewing the law of God and conviction of sin. He says that a person entering into salvation in joy has experienced a false conversion.2 He points out that there is no parallel in Scripture for joyful conversions. The appropriate response is to enter into salvation in sorrow and contrition over your sin. After all, how can we receive forgiveness for our sin if we are coming to Christ only for a more fulfilling life? To illustrate this, let me give you a modern parable:
There was an emergency room where the doctors and nurses were in a state of burnout. They were tired of all the negativity of the sickness and injury that they had to deal with every day. They decided to transform the ER into a welcoming, joyful atmosphere, and in that way bring much more happiness to everyone that crossed the threshold, and themselves as well. They installed a wet bar, festooned the place with decorations, and replaced their white coats with colorful costumes. The party atmosphere caught hold, and before long, became preeminent. One day, the ambulance roared in with a man with a compound fracture in his leg. The man was wheeled in on a gurney, writhing in pain. The doctors and nurses sprang into action. They quickly started an IV of narcotic pain killers, and pressed a martini into his hands. They threw a blanket on his leg to hide the garish site of the bone protruding from his leg, and plopped a party hat on his head. All was well until the man’s brother came in the next morning to find the man curled up in a corner, “sleeping it off.” He was aghast that the injury had not been treated, and insisted on transferring him to another hospital. The injured man, when roused, would have none of it though, as there was to be a comedy show in five minutes, and a lovely nursing assistant was freshening up his drink. The brother left in deep grief, wondering how the hospital could have let this situation come about.
Though King David’s imprecatory words sound harsh, can a Christian faithful to Scripture deny that God’s Word teaches an everlasting torment in Hell for those who die without Christ? The end of the wicked is harsh. Would we rather prop the sinner up in a corner and keep him happy, or should we perform the painful task of setting the bone (his sin) and letting true healing take place?