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Praying against the Enemy: Imprecatory Prayer and Reformed Identity from the Reformation to the Early Enlightenment
French Historical Studies
Contrary to the rule of charity but having some biblical basis, imprecatory prayer and the practice of asking God to act against enemies has always been controversial. In sixteenth-century confessional conflicts, however, any reluctance to use such prayers faded. During the Wars of Religion, the first theological justifications appeared and cursing prayers were provided to worshipers. Alongside other practices, these prayers shaped the collective identity of the French-speaking Reformed people. They clearly discriminated the faithful from God’s enemies, expressed the hope that divine providence would act against these enemies, and led people to identify their fate with that of Old Testament Hebrews. Yet from the end of the seventeenth century, such prayer was gradually rejected, above all by learned Reformed people who saw tolerance as a new characteristic feature of Reformed identity.
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