Steven R. Houck is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches in Modesto, California.
Prayer is a very important part of the Christian life. Every Christian is to be a praying Christian. The apostle Paul exhorts us, “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17). It is the calling of every Christian to take care that he does not neglect to pray. But the Christian must also take care that he prays proper prayers. If our prayers are not proper prayers, we pray in vain. Our prayers are meaningless. In this regard, there is one very important aspect of proper prayer which is sometimes neglected. We do not pray for God’s vengeance. We do not pray that God will judge; the wicked and thereby avenge the cause of His kingdom and His people.
This is understandable because such a prayer is contrary to all that is generally taught in Christian circles today. We are told that God loves everyone and wills the salvation of everyone. The Christian, therefore, is also to will the salvation of every individual person. That means that we are not only to be “soul winners” who seek to save everyone, but we are to pray for the salvation of everyone. If someone even suggests that we are to pray for God’s vengeance, he is accused of being cruel, uncaring, unkind, and unloving. Such a prayer is considered to be unchristian. It is condemned in the name of love.
The Bible, however, teaches us that it is the calling of every Christian to pray for God’s vengeance. We must be careful. I am not saying that the Christian is to avenge himself. It is not right for a Christian to take things into his own hands and avenge his own cause upon his enemies. Vengeance does not belong to us. It belongs to God. God says, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompense . . .” (Deut. 32:35). We read, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). God is the one Who takes vengeance upon His and our enemies. We must leave that to God.
Nevertheless, we are to pray for God’s vengeance. The Bible makes it very clear that proper prayer includes praying for vengeance. The Psalmist prayed, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Life up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud” (Ps. 94:1-2). The Psalmist prayed for God to show Himself. But notice that he referred to God as the God to whom vengeance belongs. Obviously he was praying that God would come and take vengeance upon the wicked. He asked God to render a reward to the proud. Jeremiah prayed the very same prayer. He prayed concerning the wicked of Judah, “But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause” (Jer. 11:20). The prophet addressed God as the One Who judges righteously because he was praying that God, in judgment, would take vengeance upon the wicked.
This prayer for vengeance may even contain some very strong language. In Psalm 58 the Psalmist prayed concerning the wicked, “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord. Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun” (Ps. 58:6-8). The Psalmist prayed that God would hit the wicked in their mouth so that their teeth would fall out. He asked that God would cause them to melt away as water flows away and that they would not see the sun, just as a stillborn baby does not see the sun. I have never heard a prayer like that in all my life. No one will dispute the fact that this is strong language.
Lest someone think that the Psalmists, Jeremiah, and others were wrong in their prayers of vengeance, we must go to Revelation chapter six, and consider the prayer of the souls under the altar. We read, “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? (Rev. 6:9-10). When the fifth seal is opened, we see souls in heaven. They are the souls of those who died because of persecution. They were martyred by the wicked. That their souls are in heaven means that they no longer have a sinful nature. They are sinless. Therefore, their prayer must also be sinless. It is a perfect prayer, pleasing to God in every way. What is that perfect prayer? They pray for God’s vengeance. They pray that God will avenge their blood upon the wicked.
This prayer is not only proper, but it is proper to pray this prayer on a regular basis. We learn this from the parable of the unjust judge recorded in Luke 18:1-8. The purpose of the parable is to teach us that we are to pray regularly. We read, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). But what is the content of this prayer which we are always to pray? Notice that the woman goes to the judge, that she might be avenged. “And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary” (Luke 18:3). The woman cried out to the judge that vengeance might be executed upon her adversary. Thus Christ teaches us that we are always to pray for God’s vengeance. He says, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily . . .” (Luke 18:7-8). We are to pray for God’s vengeance day and night.
This does not mean, however, that we are to pray for the avenging of our own personal causes, which are not the causes of God. We al1 have our own little causes. Others hurt us. They say and do things to us which we do not like. Our flesh would like to see God get back at them. Some even pray that God would do so. This is sin. It is not a proper prayer for God’s vengeance. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). In all of our personal relationships with our neighbors, we are to show love and kindness. Even when our enemies hate us, we are to do good to them. We are not to repay evil with evil, but evil with good. We must be very careful about this. We must not mistake our own little personal causes for God’s cause.
The prayer for vengeance is a prayer that the cause of God will be avenged. The wicked hate us, but ultimately that hatred is a hatred of God. The rebellion of the wicked is a rebellion against God. They seek to trample under foot God’s truth. They seek to destroy God’s kingdom. Even their attacks upon us are attacks upon God’s people. All their raging is against the Lord and His Anointed (Ps. 2). Thus when God comes in vengeance, He comes to avenge His own cause. He comes to avenge Himself. Nahum declared, “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies” (Nahum 1:2). When we pray the prayer for vengeance, we pray for our cause only insofar as it is included in the cause of God. God certainly avenges His people. That is why the souls under the altar pray that their blood will be avenged. Jesus very plainly declares that God will avenge His elect people speedily. But that is true only because the cause of God’s people is the cause of God.
We pray for vengeance, then, because we love God and His cause. We love God’s Zion, the Church of Jesus Christ. We love God’s Truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ. We love God’s covenant and kingdom. Today everyone is concerned about loving his fellow man. We have to consider carefully all that we do, because we dare not offend our neighbor. But who cares about loving God and His cause? It seems that the cause of God is forgotten for the cause of man. Yes, we must love our neighbor, but that love of our neighbor is possible only when we love God. Our greatest concern must be for God and His cause. Our prayer must always be, “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” Out of love for God and God’s cause we pray for vengeance.
The prayer for vengeance is a prayer for the coming of Christ, the complete salvation of God’s people, and the perfecting of the covenant and kingdom of God. The salvation of God’s elect people is dependent upon the vengeance of God upon the wicked. God’s vengeance and God’s salvation go together. In Isaiah 35:4 we read, “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.” God is coming with vengeance. He is coming to recompense the wicked for all their wicked deeds. But that coming in vengeance is also a coming to save God’s people. God’s vengeance upon the wicked is the salvation of the elect. Thus Israel was saved from the bondage of Egypt only through the destruction of Egypt. Noah and hi family were saved from the wicked world only by the flood which destroyed that world. Thus this prayer is not merely a prayer for vengeance, but a prayer for the salvation of God’s people and the coming of God’s kingdom.
It is only when we see that the prayer for God’s vengeance is motivated by the love of God and a desire to see the coming of God’s kingdom, that we can understand the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 58. He says, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Ps. 58:10). Rejoice! That is what he says. Rejoice in the destruction of the wicked. Walk upon the spilled blood of the wicked and rejoice in the vengeance of God. Yes, this, too, is our calling. We rejoice in our God. We rejoice in the truth of God. We rejoice in the church and kingdom of God. Therefore, we rejoice in the vengeance of God upon His enemies. We, too, are jealous for the cause of God and truth.