Revenge as a common human feeling has a long history. Legal scholars, for example, believe that revenge is the basis for all jurisprudence. When Harry first stole a cow from Joe, Joe took two of Harry’s goats. Then Harry grabbed three of Joe’s turkeys. And Joe, seeing where this could lead, mustered the village elders. Thus the first court was born. We seem to have an intuitive sense of justice made right, especially wrongs done against us. Revenge is our impulse to fix injustice. In that sense, praying for revenge may be just another name for praying that God will hear our tort claims, judge wrongdoers for their unjust deeds, and levy a just sentence. Thus we will not need to seek revenge ourselves.
Revenge today, however, also carries the sense of “eye-for-an-eye” get-even politics. Revenge seems mean-spirited, primitive, and adversarial. Surely Christian forgiveness offers a more advanced option than retribution at he hand of a divine judge.
Praying for God’s justice removes our need to seek revenge. When a grievous injustice has ben done, prayer is the only course of action that will quiet the cycle of violence. Imagine how Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda, for example, could ever repair their broken relationships apart from leaving revenge to God alone, whose mercy and justice are both limitless. Better to leave to God the task of righting wrongs than to live with neighbors always notching up the price of being made whole.