Is it okay to pray for the destruction or punishment of someone who has done something hurtful to myself or a loved one? I've heard people pray those kinds of prayers.
If we were all to tell the truth, most of us have, at the very least, muttered something under our breath wishing punishment on people who have hurt us or others. Those feelings can come from a good place, a hatred for evil or a sense of wanting things to be righted. Sometimes we are angry over the desecration of God’s name and ways.
When we read the psalms, we see the Psalmist calling down curses on unrighteousness. “May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame,” he writes (Ps. 35:4). And again, “Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them (Ps. 69:24). Even more vivid: “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes” (Ps. 109:9–10). As I noted in a recent column, these psalms, called the imprecatory psalms, while not a model for how we are to think and pray, are an example of moral indignation. And moral indignation is better than amorality that is indifferent to hateful behavior.
Nevertheless, Romans 12:19 is plain when it reminds us that we should not take matters into our own hands. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” As Christians, we are uncompromisingly called upon to forgive others. Forgiving others is one of the hardest things we ever do. I have wrestled with forgiveness myself until I was tired in spirit and soul. Forgiveness demands profound trust in the Lord who sees and whose justice is far more complete than any course of action we long for.