Not a few Christian denominations teach their followers to pray “dangerous” prayers aimed at neutralising enemies, by unleashing curses and “Holy Ghost fire” upon those who oppose them. How valid are such prayers in the light of the Gospel? What did Christ and his Apostles teach about the treatment of enemies and people that hate us? How should we respond to curses, revilings and persecution in general? We shall revert to the Apostolic writings to understand what is expected of New Testament believers in the face of opposition.
Matthew 5:43 You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.
From our Lord’s sermon on the mount, we observe some seismic changes on relationships with enemies vis-a-vis the Mosaic Law. Under the Law of Moses, one was expected to love one’s neighbours and hate one’s enemies. Now, the Lord is radically altering the relationship with enemies: we are no longer to hate our enemies! In addition to loving those who love us, we are also to love those who hate us! Christianity’s radical departure from Judaism is in Christ’s demand to extend God’s love to all men, irrespective of their feelings towards us. As born again children of God, we are to reflect God’s love to all people, even as God shows love to all, including those who hate him. Christianity commands that we be like our Father in heaven!
Matthew 5:45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same?
Matthew 5:47 And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Matthew 5:48 Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
A Christian has been called unto blessings, and he/she is to bless at all times and never curse.
1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
Romans 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Even when others curse us, we are not to curse back. The “back-to-sender” prayers we hear in a lot of churches, whereby Christians decree evil to people who wish them evil, are not Christ-like prayers. They may be alright for Judaism, where tit-for-tat and eye-for-eye apply. Judaism teaches immediate retaliation and avenging of oneself. However, Christianity teaches unreserved forgiveness, as well as allowing God to judge and avenge all wrongdoings.
Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord.
Romans 12:20 Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
The doctrine of retaliation or “fire-for-fire” is what the natural unregenerated soul practises by default. It is a natural human instinct to want to hurt those who have hurt us, and seek the down fall of those who don’t wish us well. However, for the regenerated believer in Christ whose heart has been conquered by the love of God, a new law governs his impulses and actions. The believer in Christ is controlled, not by the Law of Moses, but by Christ’s Law of love. True love does not only love those who love us, it inspires us not to think evil of others, and to even love those who hate us.
1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Corinthians 13:5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
1 Corinthians 13:6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Jesus Christ amply demonstrated God’s love to mankind by dying for people that hated him, inorder to redeem them back to God. He loved us even while we were his enemies!
Romans 5:8 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Colossians 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled
Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and unreproveable in his sight:
While he hung on Calvary’s tree, nailed to the cross and in excruciating pains, Jesus neither railed at those who nailed him unjustly to the cross, nor did he curse or threaten them. Rather, he prayed and asked God to forgive them!
Luke 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Jesus lived and died to set an example for us his followers on how we should live and comport ourselves in this present world. He came to show us an example of how we should manifest God’s love to men on earth. We, as his disciples, are to take up our own cross and follow him daily.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16:25 For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps:
1 Peter 2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
1 Peter 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously:
Our Lord did no evil. He was unjustly accused and crucified. Yet on the cross, when they reviled him, he did not revile back. He didn’t return cursing for cursing. He blessed those who cursed him instead. He prayed for mercy for his murderers. Rather than lash out at them in hateful vengeance, he committed himself to God the righteous Judge, to whom vengeance belongs. That’s the example Christ set for us his disciples to follow!
Someone might say, ” well, that’s Jesus. He’s God, so he can forgive all wrongs. But I’m not God, so don’t expect me to act like Jesus”. I don’t want to prove here that Jesus acted purely as a man while on earth, not making use of his Godhead for once. However, let me show us a man like ourselves who behaved the same way Jesus did, when he was being unjustly stoned to death for preaching righteousness.
The Acts 7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
The Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
The Acts 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
The Acts 7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
The Acts 7:58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
The Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
The Acts 7:60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
While Stephen was being being stoned to death simply because he believed and preached Jesus as the Messiah, he cried to God to have mercy on his murderers! He didn’t pray for curses and judgement on the people who were dashing his skull to pieces. He didn’t pray for those wicked and evil men to die by fire. Rather, he prayed that God would forgive them and not hold their sin against them! This was a man 100% like us, with like passions as we have. What made the difference was that Stephen possessed the same Spirit that was in Christ. He was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love. He could, by the power of the Holy Spirit, bless those who cursed him. He was enabled by the Holy Spirit to love his enemies! Only the grace of God can enable one to love the unlovely, and that grace is available to all in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit fills us with the love of God, to enable us live and behave like Jesus did on earth. That’s God’s goal for us: to be like Jesus!
Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
Ephesians 4:14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
Let’s examine the reactions of the Apostles when they were threatened and beaten for preaching salvation through the name of Jesus Christ. They had a right to be angry and vengeful, to call for divine punishment on their persecutors. But, what did they do? Let’s look at Scripture to find their reactions.
The Acts 4:18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
The Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, judge you.
The Acts 4:20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
The Acts 4:21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.
The Acts 4:22 For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was showed.
The Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.
The Acts 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, you are God, which have made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:
The Acts 4:25 Who by the mouth of your servant David have said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
The Acts 4:26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
The Acts 4:27 For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
The Acts 4:28 For to do whatever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done.
The Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant to your servants, that with all boldness they may speak your word,
The Acts 4:30 By stretching forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child Jesus.
The Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
Rather than call down the fire of God to pursue and destroy those threatening them, they prayed for God to give them more boldness to preach his word, and for God to vindicate the word they preached with signs and wonders. They didn’t call for “Holy Ghost fire” to consume their enemies. They didn’t pray for their enemies to fall and die! Rather, they prayed for more grace to be able to witness the power of God to the people, that the people may be saved! That’s the Spirit of Christ in action! God does not want any man to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He gives men space to repent, and so should we. The sinner today who persecutes us may become a saint tommorow by the grace of God. Saul (who later became Apostle Paul) was among those who killed Stephen.
The Acts 22:17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
The Acts 22:18 And saw him saying to me, Make haste, and get you quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.
The Acts 22:19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on you:
The Acts 22:20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
If Stephen had prayed for the death of his persecutors, and if God had granted his prayers, imagine what Christianity would have lost by not having Apostle Paul, the chief of the Apostles! Those of us who are believers today were all sinners saved by grace. Before we experienced the grace of God, we too had persecuted and abused and spoken evil of those who were Christians before us. Imagine if they had prayed for our destruction! We need to show others mercy because others showed us mercy too! We persecuted them in ignorance, and so do those who now persecute us. Let’s pray for mercy for our persecutors, so they too will come to the saving knowledge of Christ.
1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
1 Timothy 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
What should be our attitude when we are persecuted for righteousness sake? What should be our response when we are attacked and reviled by unbelievers? Let’s see what our Lord said about this.
Luke 6:22 Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
Luke 6:23 Rejoice you in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers to the prophets.
In the face of unjustified persecution and reproach by evil men, Christians are to rejoice and leap for joy, at the opportunity to suffer for the sake of their Lord. We’re not to lash out in anger and vindictiveness, seeking the judgement of God upon our enemies. Rather, we are to praise and bless the name of God for the opportunity to identify with Him and all righteous men who had gone before us, in the defence of the kingdom of God. This was exactly what the Apostles did when they were beaten for preaching Christ to the people.
The Acts 5:40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
The Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
The Acts 16:22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
The Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
The Acts 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
The Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them.
Rather than stew and curse for being unjustly treated and humiliated, the apostles rejoiced at being treated like their Lord. They considered it an honor to suffer reproach for the sake of their Lord. That was what their Lord and Master had told them: whatever he had passed through and experienced, they would and should expect to experience the same.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
John 15:21 But all these things will they do to you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
There was a time during Jesus’ ministry when the apostles still had the mentality of some of us today. When faced with opposition and resistance to the preaching of the Gospel, they sought to invoke judgement on those who opposed them:
Luke 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
Luke 9:52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
Luke 9:53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
Luke 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
Luke 9:55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of.
Luke 9:56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
The apostles James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven, like Elijah did, to destroy those Samaritans who did not receive Jesus. However, the Lord rebuked them sharply and made them understand they were under a different dispensation from Elijah: Elijah operated under the law, with its instant judgement and lack of mercy, while Christ came to bring God’s grace to men. Jesus did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And, his disciples today have the same mission: to save men’s lives by all means possible. We are not to revert to the Old Testament ministry of Elijah when confronted by opposition, rather, we are to implore the mercy of God upon our opposers! We are called to be saviours who are to bring the Gospel of peace to all men, not to destroy their lives!
A fovourite passage of Scripture often quoted by those who pray destructive prayers for their enemies is the portion of the law that commands witches to be put to death:
Exodus 22:18 You shall not suffer a witch to live.
This portion of Scripture is used to justify praying for the death of those who possess the spirit of witchcraft. However, let us remember that this was part of the expired Mosaic Law which is no longer applicable to the New Testament Church. The same way we are no longer required to stone to death those who commit adultery or blaspheme God, the New Covenant in Christ does not mandate us to kill anybody to enforce God’s Word, including witches! Rather, the Gospel of Christ empowers us to deliver people from the powers of darkness, including the spirit of witchcraft, and liberate them from the bondage of Satan, so that they can come to the knowledge of God. If witches oppose the preaching of the Word or attempt to attack us, we are to bind and render their powers useless (for those who refuse to be delivered). We have the power to trample on all the powers of Satan, without praying for people to die!
Mark 16:17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
Mark 16:18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through your name.
Luke 10:18 And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luke 10:19 Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
It is important to realise the enemy we are fighting is not the flesh and blood of man. The real enemy of God and of the Gospel is Satan and other evil spirits that work under him, which blind people to spiritual truth, and possess, manipulate and use them for diabolical means.
2 Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
2 Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ephesians 6:13 Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
By understanding the real enemy, we see that neutralising Satan and his subordinate spirits is what we need to do to silence their human agents. We don’t have to pray for the human agents of satan to die for us to put down their opposition to the Gospel. We just need to take authority over the evil spirits controlling rebellious people and cast them out, by the power of God!
Finally, let us understand one important fact about curses: no one can curse the person whom God has blessed. The ultimate authority to effect blessings and curses is God. If God has not cursed you, no amount of curses laid on you by people will stand!
Proverbs 26:2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
Lamentations 3:37 Who is he that said, and it comes to pass, when the Lord commands it not?
Numbers 23:7 And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.
Numbers 23:8 How shall I curse, whom God has not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD has not defied?
Numbers 23:20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he has blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
Because no curse can stick on a child of God and prosper, Christians should not be bothered about the curses and revilings of men. We should be confident that God has blessed us and no power can reverse it. We are called unto blessings, therefore let us bless and never curse. It is an aberration to use the same mouth we bless God with to curse people made in God’s image:
James 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not so to be.
James 3:11 Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
James 3:12 Can the fig tree, my brothers, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
May God help us to tame our tongues so that only blessings can proceed from us always, towards all men and women, that we may be like our Father in heaven.
God bless you all!