The Rev. Peter J. Peters’ short-wave broadcasts from his Colorado church is on my list of favorite radio shows. He sometimes gives his Sunday sermons or more often sits in his office and shares his views of the Bible.
One of his strong beliefs has the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims as the true Israelites. They fled Europe like Moses fled Egypt. America is the Promised Land now. He takes a dim view of Martin Luther King Jr. and I don’t know what he believes about the American Indians. (The Mormons see the Indians as the Lost Tribes of Israel, but that is another story.)
Bro. Peters always has an “imprecatory prayer” somewhere during his broadcast. I had never heard of the term. I guess I should have learned it somewhere along the way. After hearing it, I wondered what it meant.
Then not long ago, the press reported that Rev. Wiley Drake, a pastor, radio crusader and Baptist gadfly, had issued a statement calling for an “imprecatory prayer” against two communications staffers for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The story took away my ignorance and explained the meaning of the phrase “imprecatory prayer.” This prayer is used mostly in the Bible’s Old Testament to describe prayers the righteous (i.e., Israelites) used to call down God’s wrath against their enemies.
Americans United have long advocated the Constitution’s ban of government support of religion. Wiley Drake was the Southern Baptist Convention’s second vice president and is the pastor of a church in California. (He has used his church stationary in supporting Mike Huckabee of Arkansas for president. His church-supported radio show also endorses Republican candidates. The IRS law prevents churches from endorsing political candidates or particular parties.)
But back to “imprecatory prayer”–Drake’s press release also called for God’s wrath on the organization Americans United. Not only does he pray for the destruction of his enemies (whom he supposes are also God’s enemies) but he sends it out as tax-free religious propaganda.
When reading portions of the Old Testament I have been concerned with passages that call down God’s wrath on Israel’s enemies. They just did not sound like the sort of thing God would respond to, much less condone.
The records of calling for the destruction of Israel’s enemies in the Old Testament were written hundreds of years after the events in question. Hence the writers could have been a bit over-zealous in the oral traditions they had heard. I am of the opinion the writers of such a God of wrath gave a bit more credit to Jehovah God than he really deserved.
These traditions and teaching were common knowledge in the New Testament days when Jesus walked around Nazareth or Jerusalem. This may be the reason so few Jews could accept Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. The people of his day were out to murder their enemies, not love and pray for them.
So often Jesus began his parables with the words, “You have heard it has been said…” and then went on to say, “but I say unto you”–pointing to a better way of life. He never brought down fire and brimstone on anyone, even when his disciples asked him to do so.
Britt Towery is a retired Baptist missionary, pastor and teacher living in Texas.