O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock! (Ps. 137:8–9)2
What nasty person would say such things? Well—a pretty angry psalmist! This portion of Psalm 137 is one of various “imprecatory psalms” (Pss. 7, 12, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139). “Imprecation” is the calling down of curses or divine judgments on someone. Imprecatory passages have shocked some modern editors into performing “psalmectomies” on psalter hymnals, excising these verses altogether!3 Biblical poetry contains prayers that God break the arm of the wicked (10:15), scatter their bones (53:5), or slay His enemies (139:19). C. S. Lewis calls them “terrible,” “contemptible,” “devilish,” “profoundly wrong,” and “sinful” prayers.4 Shouldn’t we love and pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48)? How can we make sense of these harsh-sounding passages? Perhaps the following acrostic (I-M-P-R-E-C-A-T-I-O-N) can offer guidance.