Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal likes to be seen as a praying man. His respect for the office of the Presidency is such that his current prayer for the President has been making the rounds–but it's not the type of prayer meant to support the President in office–it's the type meant to get rid of him. Imprecatory prayer is prayer asking God to kill, maim, curse, send into eternal damnation or otherwise harm an enemy. O'Neal stated in an email according to the Topeka Capital-Journal:
"At last," O'Neal wrote in an email he received and passed to colleagues about Psalm 109, "I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president."
Critics of the House Republican leader's application of Scripture, however, contend he inappropriately attempted to exploit the Bible for political advantage. They pointed to content of his email highlighting the phrase "let his days be few," which was interpreted as O'Neal's desire to have Obama suffer premature death.
O'Neal has denied this was his intent, stating that he only demonstrated a desire for a new administration in November, nothing more. Regardless of his intent, 21,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that O'Neal resign from office.
This is the gist of what Psalm 109 says:
6 Set thou a wicked man over him:
and let Satan stand at his right hand. 7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned:
and let his prayer become sin. 8 Let his days be few;
and let another take his office. Acts 1.20 9 Let his children be fatherless,
and his wife a widow. 10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:
let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. 11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath;
and let the strangers spoil his labor. 12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. 13 Let his posterity be cut off;
and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
How do theologians respond to the idea of imprecatory prayer? Bob Deffenbaugh at Bible.org states in his commentary on Psalm 109 that:
Imprecations such as those found in Psalm 109 have caused some Christians to question the value of the imprecatory prayers of the Bible for New Testament believers:
It is surely a debatable question as to whether the church should retain the whole Psalter in its worship, including these troublesome passages, or whether the Psalter should be censored at those points which seem to be inconsistent with God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. It would be interesting to check the responsive readings included in modern hymnals or books of worship, to see the degree to which the Psalms have been edited for Christian worship.185
However, the writer comes to the conclusion that David takes sin much more seriously than we do:
imprecatory psalms are far more relevant and applicable to Christians today than we would like to admit. Why then are we so uneasy about them? Essentially I think the answer is that we have a distorted view of God, perverted by our own sin. We want to think of God only in terms of love and mercy, but not in terms of justice and judgment. We are soft on sin. I think we have become entangled in a satanic conspiracy. We have adopted the thinking summarized by the expression, “I’m O.K., You’re O.K.” If you will pardon me for doing so, I could entitle Psalm 109, “I’m O.K., but You’re Not.” Such was the conviction of the psalmist. Most of us know that we are not O.K. Therefore we respond by going easy on others, hoping our laxity will make things easier on us. Let me tell you that if we had the courage and the conviction to pray as David did, we would be very ill at ease in regard to our own sins. Our greatest problem with imprecatory psalms is that the psalmist takes sin much more seriously than we do.
John Mark Hicks, a pastor, states that praying imprecatory prayer is simply asking God to mete out justice, rather than leaving the delivering of justice in imperfect human hands:
Righteous anger is given to God for his own execution of justice. We do not take the vengeance into our own hands. This balance is modeled in 1 Samuel 24. Even though God delivered Saul into David's hands he refused to kill him (1 Samuel 24:10-11). David would not take personal vengeance even when God gave him the opportunity. Instead, David offered an imprecation. He prays, "May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you" (1 Samuel 24:12). David loved Saul and he respected God's justice. Consequently, he left Saul's judgment in the hands of God, but he trusted that God's righteousness would one day avenge the wrongs Saul had committed against him. Through imprecation, David left judgment in the hands of God and thus modeled the balance to which Paul calls us in Romans 12.
In summary, then, my basic theological framework looks like this (Hicks 1999). God intends to redeem his fallen people and he acts to deliver them, but his holy presence consumes those who do not love him, reflect his mercy, or seek his face (Brueggemann 1985). God has acted in Christ to redeem everyone from the curse (Galatians 3:10-14). His gracious initiative in Christ canceled the debt of our sins and gave expression to his fundamental intent to bless. Nevertheless, in Christ God also condemned sin and triumphed over evil. God rejects those who do not seek his face but have chosen their own way. They will receive the full weight of the curse.
We yearn for the coming of the kingdom, and we pray for it. But the coming of the kingdom means the destruction of the wicked along with the Evil One. To pray the Lord's Prayer is to implicitly offer to God an imprecation against evil. We pray for the destruction of Satan and his kingdom. We yearn for God's kingdom, groan over fallenness, seek love for everyone, trust in the gracious initiatives of God, and yet we also hope in God's righteous judgment against evil. Just as we pray for God's redemption, so we also pray for God's righteous judgment, that is, we offer imprecations.
This is not the first time someone has prayed or wanted to pray, for Obama's death. Chris Rodda, in her article "Psalm 109 Imprecatory Prayer Case to Go Forward in Texas," on March 25, 2011, recalls an earlier case in which T-shirts and other merchandise were circulating stating "Pray for Obama: Psalm 109"and being used to "pray" for others that were not liked by some:
Almost six months before it surfaced that the right wing Christians were promoting Psalm 109 as a prayer for Obama, this same imprecatory prayer was publicly issued by disgraced former Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenshmitt against Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), and Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU). Both MRFF and AU had been contacted by numerous people about Klingenschmitt’s use of the Navy uniform and title of Chaplain on his political website,prayinjesusname.org. To address the issue, MRFF and AU wrote a joint letter to the Chief of Naval Operations requesting an investigation of Klingenschmit’ts use of his image in uniform to solicit funds for political causes…
Barring any further attempts to throw up procedural roadblocks, Friday’s ruling by the Court of Appeals means that the lawsuit against Gordon Klingenschmitt, Jim Ammerman, and the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches will move forward in the Dallas court, and it will now be up to jury to decide if recklessly issuing imprecatory prayers against an individual or individuals, whether it’s a private citizen like Mikey Weinstein or the President of the United States, is a potential incitement to violence or protected free speech.
Mike O'Neal, however, isn't worried. In fact, he thinks an apology ought to fix it, and has said that he didn't read the email completely before he sent it, and that people are misinterpreting what he said:
"My sole intent was election commentary regarding the president's days in office and a desire for a new administration in November — nothing more," he said. "No one who knows me has assumed otherwise."
The speaker said he understood how people might misinterpret his sentiments. He said he respected the president and the office of the presidency.
"I have repeatedly apologized to the extent anyone misconstrued my intent or was otherwise offended," O'Neal said.
O'Neal previously sent a photo of Michelle Obama referring to her as “Mrs. YoMama” and compares a photograph of her to a picture of the Grinch. After his office initially defended the second email, O’Neal later issued an apology, saying he forwarded that email “too quickly missing the text included in the body of the email.”