There are passages in the Old Testament where godly Jews prayed for the death of their enemies. Psalm 74 is a good example of this, for the Psalmist Asaph had this to say (as he prayed to the Lord) about the enemies of Israel: “The enemy has damaged everything in the sanctuary…Your enemies roar in the midst of Your meeting place; they set up their banners for signs….they break down its carved work, all at once, with axes and hammers…they have set fire to Your sanctuary…they said in their hearts, ‘Let us destroy them altogether’…they have burned up all the meeting places of God in the land (verses 3-9 NKJV). This led Asaph to pray for their death in verses 10-11, “O God, how long will the adversary reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand? Take it out of Your bosom and destroy them.” In Psalm 79 Asaph continues to pray for the death of his enemies, “How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place.”

There will also be those in the future who will pray, like Asaph, for the destruction of their enemies. In Revelation 6:9-10 we read, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been 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, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth’?” Those praying for the Lord to avenge them had died as martyrs for their faith in the word of God and in righteous indignation they ask God how long it will be before He judges their persecutors. The Lord responds by telling them that “they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” The time that this occurs is the “Great Tribulation” and the Lord is informing them that there will be other martyrs before God judges their enemies.

It seems clear from these passages that it is, at times, quite proper to “pray for someone to die.” Yet it is equally clear that these are “godly Jews” and NOT believers who are living today. So, we must ask, “Is it good to pray for someone to die TODAY?” I believe the answer is NO! Listen to the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and HATE YOUR ENEMY.’ But I say to you, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES bless them who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and PRAY FOR THOSE WHO SPITEFULLY USE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU.” In these words the Lord is essentially saying, “In former days it was okay to ‘hate your enemy’ but now I want you to ‘love your enemy.’ Instead of praying for them to be destroyed I want you to pray for them to be blessed.” Why the change, you ask? Ah, because the Lord had come to bless men with God’s salvation! Remember what the Lord Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). In love and grace Jesus prayed for their salvation! And this, dear fellow-believer, should be the words that come from our lips as well. You may recall another prayer in the Bible that echoes the words of the Lord Jesus. I’m referring to the prayer of Stephen in Acts chapter 7. He was being crushed to death with stones by his enemies and just before he breathed his last breath these precious words were spoken, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (verse 60). Like His Master before him, Stephen was filled with love for his enemies and instead of praying for their death, he prayed for their salvation.

In closing, the inquirer may have been wondering if it is ever okay to pray for a loved one who is suffering terrible pain to die. I could not think of one example of this in Scripture, but we know that our God is a merciful God so we could pray for the Lord to release our loved one (who is a believer in Christ) from their suffering by taking them home to glory. Yet we should always add, “Thy will be done.” (286.9) (DO)