Curses & Word Curses
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IV. Curses and Word Curses--What They Are and How to Break Them


It was one of those dreary Saturday mornings when the sun just wouldn't come out. I had been up early, and I was feeling depressed. I'd say one thing to my husband, and then another. Sometimes he'd respond. He was trying to read the paper, and I was trying to put the kitchen back together after the night before. There was nothing remarkable about that morning, except that the Lord spoke to me.

He spoke into my heart in that still small voice. He asked me to start labeling everything I said that morning as either positive or negative. Just that. I wondered, but decided to obey. So for the next two hours I started listening to myself. Negative, negative, negative. Everything I said was negative. It was then I noticed that every time I made a negative statement or observation, my dear spouse's shoulders would slump down a bit further. He was listening, and it was affecting him, too.

I began repenting. I asked the Lord to forgive me for being so negative. I decided to start throwing in some positive statements. I realized that this was something I would have to work on.

As I prayed for further understanding, the Lord showed me something that I still think about today. When I spoke so negatively, I was releasing a negative confession spiritually. A dark atmosphere came over my home, something you couldn't see naturally, but that was definitely there spiritually. It looked like dark clouds, darker than anything outside. The Lord took me to the book of Proverbs and asked me to keep track of scripture about speech. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit, Proverbs 18:21 said. There were many others. I began pondering how the tongue could bless or curse, and thought about the scripture in Proverbs 14:1 where it says, The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands." Would I build my house, using positive speech, blessing my husband and children? Or would I pull them down with my negative words?

It was a battle, my old self didn't want to obey. But for the next six months I kept track of my speech, asking myself the question, was that positive or negative? Then the Lord spoke to me again and gave me a further challenge that I'm still trying to master today. He asked me to start labeling my thoughts. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, Jesus told us in Matthew 12:34. I needed to catch those thoughts before they came out of my mouth. And I needed to be more vigilant about what kind of stuff was going into my heart. This is still a challenge!

But I learned, and am still learning. As Christians, we have tremendous power with our words. A parent can break a child or build them up, just by words. A mother can color her family's whole day, just by her attitude and words. She is the heart of the home. She can make a difference to everyone.


A. Curses caused by words we or others have spoken.

Curses are negative words we speak about ourselves or others. These words may seem innocuous and harmless at the time, but they are not, for Scripture is clear about the power of the spoken word:

Prov. 15:4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit

Prov. 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Just as positive words can build up, comfort and encourage, leading to life, negative words can tear down, discourage and destroy, leading to death. In James 3, we are told that a perfect man has perfect control of his tongue. Would that we were all perfect! But why does James emphasize the power of the tongue in this passage? Obviously because of the damage that can be done by it!

James 3:2, 6 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body…And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity! The tongue is so set among our members that is defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

Many Christians agree that we must guard our tongue. And Scripture agrees:

Prov. 21:23 Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.

What seems less clear to Christians is the power of the tongue to curse others, and even put a yoke of oppression on them. Look at the link between cursing and oppression in the following Scripture:

Isaiah 58:9(b) If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk (NIV)

Ps. 17:8-12 Keep me as the apple of Your eye, hide me under the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who oppress me….With their mouths they speak proudly….As a lion is eager to tear his prey….

Ps. 10:7-8 [The wicked] is full of cursing and deceit and oppression, under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.

Ps. 12:3-5 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own, who is lord over us?” "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord,“I will set him in the safety for which he yearns."

Ps. 55:2-3 Attend to me and hear me, I am restless in my complaint and moan noisily, because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked, for they bring trouble down upon me, and in wrath they hate me….(see also vv. 9-11)

Curses cause oppression. Oppression is not like depression. Depression comes from within, and is often based on anger. Oppression comes from without, and can feel like a thick cloud of spiritual darkness. It can make you feel sick, isolated and cut off from God.

These curses can be broken:

Prov. 11:9 The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.

Prov. 12:6 The words of the wicked are, "Lie in wait for blood," But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.

Prov. 14:3 In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.

Notice that the curses are broken through knowledge, and by the mouth of the upright. We break these curses in Jesus’ name.

Sample prayer: In the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break all curses against me and my household and family. I declare that no weapon formed against us shall prosper
(Is. 54:17), and nothing by any means shall harm us (Luke 10:19). I declare that the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped (Ps. 63:11).

The tongue of any person, Christian or non-Christian can curse. But these curses can be broken, as stated above, by knowing about them, by speaking against them and by breaking them in Jesus' name.

On the positive side, the tongue can bless. There is a story a pastor told my church about a man who spoke blessings over his family from day to day. Apparently, he not only blessed his immediate family, but his seed as well--the generations in the future. My pastor then read the list of persons who had descended from that man. The list included judges and representatives, doctors, lawyers and other esteemed professionals. It was an astonishing list.

The extent of that list bore witness to the fact that blessings are far stronger than curses. Look at this passage from the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:5 …For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

I experienced this truth, that blessings are strong. I have long been in the habit of blessing the people in schools and other public places as I drive by. One day as I was blessing a school, I became aware that someone had already blessed that place. I told the Lord, this has been blessed, and asked who did it. “You did,” He answered, and reminded me of a time a month previously when I had been praying for that school, its teachers, administrators, students and staff. I was blessed that day, to realize the power of our spoken words!

Given the power to bless, is it any wonder that when talking about being cursed, Jesus told us to bless those who curse us:

Luke 6:27 "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you."

Matt. 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

Jesus’ teaching is consistent with that given to Moses:

Lev.19:1,18 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “...You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Also, we are given David’s example in the Book of Psalms:

Ps. 109:4 In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer.

Paul gives us a similar teaching as well:

Romans 12:14, 21 Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.

Regardless of how badly we are treated, we are told to not take vengeance but rather bless those who come against us.

I believe further, that when we bless others and pray, we can effect good in them, because Paul told us do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good, Romans 12:21. A Christian always has the ability to bless and thus make a difference. But because they have been sinned against, I believe that a Christian who is hurt and prays blessings anyway is praying a more powerful prayer, because God sees their hurt, their obedience and their sacrifice. He knows what it is costing them.

God is just. He hears the heart cry of those who have been hurt, but are determined to pray for those who have hurt them and desperately need Him:

Ps. 12:5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise, says the Lord.

Paul, who worked so hard to preach the Gospel, was cursed, reviled, whipped, beaten with rods and even stoned and left for dead. But here is what he tells us:

1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure, being defamed, we entreat….

Lest we are still tempted to curse, here is our example:

Luke 23:34 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other one the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

B. Curses caused by sin.

A second kind of curse occurs when someone sins and thus opens the door for demonic attack. This is especially true of recurring, habitual sin.

This truth was taught by Moses in the Old Testament when he told the people that if they obeyed God’s laws they would be blessed, but if they rebelled they would be cursed, Leviticus 26:3-46; Deuteronomy 28. He told them that they would have a choice:

Deut. 11:26 ”Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse; the blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”

Deut. 30:19-20 "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…."

The power of the blessing that comes with obedience--and the curse with disobedience--is illustrated by the story of Balaam, a prophet of God who was hired by a heathen king to curse Israel. In the book of Numbers (chapters 22-24), we see him repeatedly try to curse Israel--to no avail. Every time he opens his mouth to curse, a blessing comes out instead. In exasperation, the king berates him. Later, however, we are told that Balaam told the king how Israel could be cursed. Get them into sin, he counseled, Num. 31:16. So the king sent his temple prostitutes into the midst of Israel, Num. 25:1-3. The men fell for the ploy, joining themselves with a demon, Num. 25:3; 1 Cor. 10:20. The blessing over them disappeared. Instead they were cursed because of their sin, and a plague broke out. 24,000 of them fell that day, Num. 25:9.

Sin opens the door for Satan. By sin, we are joining ourselves with this enemy of our soul, and giving him legal right to attack us:

Psalm 94:20: The throne of iniquity [Satan]…devises evil by law…

The idea that obedience leads to life is also delineated in the Beatitudes where Jesus says, Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers…those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, Matt. 5:3-10. Their reward, we are told, is that the kingdom of heaven is theirs, and they will be comforted, inherit the earth, be filled, obtain mercy, see God and be called the sons of God, Matthew 5:3-10. Nor are these the only blessings for those who go on with Christ. There are many more blessings they will enjoy, both here and in eternity. True, they will suffer, John 16:33, and they will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12. But overwhelmingly they will be more than conquerors, Rom. 8:37, and overwhelmingly they will be blessed, Rev. 19:7-8.

By contrast, in Romans 6:23, we are told that the wages of sin is death, and even in the New Testament, a sinful lifestyle is recognized as cursed, Matthew 25:41 and 2 Peter 2:14.

Therefore we see that obedience, in both the Old and New Testament, results in blessing, and sin in death. Those who sin against the Lord open the door for demonic attack--for Satan to come to “kill, steal and destroy,” John 10:10.

Especially when sin is habitual, its deadliness is evident. Sin results in a lifestyle that is leads to death, and is cursed.

The curses that are caused by sin can be broken by doing three things:

(1) Repent of the sin
, (Lev. 26:40-42; 1 John 1:9)
(2) Break the curse. Do this out loud in Jesus’ name;
(3) Be obedient to Scripture: Walk against the sin, and practice the exact opposite behavior. For example, practice humility instead of pride, compare James 4:6 to 4:10.

How to Overcome Sin

We can strengthen the hold sin has on our lives, or we can weaken it. An anecdote related years ago by one of my pastors, Rick Merrill, is that of an old Native American who had gotten saved and complained that ever since he got saved felt like he had a dog fight going on inside of him. He said he felt like there were two dogs, one evil and one good, and they were ripping at each other. “Well,” his pastor asked him, “which one is winning?” “The one I feed,” the Native American replied.

This is so true for sin. You get what you feed. The more you resist sin, the stronger you will get at resisting it. The more you give in, the stronger sin’s hold on you will be. Look at this:

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

Who wants to be a slave of sin, which leads to death? I’d much rather be a slave of obedience, leading to righteousness--even though it costs me something at the time.

I have found it useful to use James 4:7-8 to help me get rid of sin in my life. When there is habitual sin, it seems there is always some demon attached to it, tempting me to fall into it again. So I apply the steps in these verses: first, I submit to God by confessing the sin, then I resist the sin out loud, saying something like, “You demon of (name the temptation), I resist you now in Jesus’ name and command you to flee!” Then I do the third step, and draw near to God by praising, worshiping, quoting Scripture, or even just thanking God for His goodness and for His love for me.

Something else I do when tempted is quote Scripture. A good place to quote are several passages in Romans 6, and especially these ones:

Romans 6:6. 11, 12, 14, 18 [My] old self was crucified with Christ….[and so now I am] no longer a slave to sin…[Therefore,] I reckon myself to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus [my] Lord….Therefore, [I will not] let sin reign over my mortal body, that I should obey its lusts…for sin shall not have dominion over [me]…[for I have] been set free from sin, [and now I am a] slave of righteousness!

By the way, notice the context of the Roman 6 passage. It talks about our ability to overcome sin because we have been baptized into Jesus’ death, Rom. 6:3. This is one of the reasons I believe that we should get our new converts baptized as soon as possible.

How long does it take to break a sin habit? This will vary. I do know this: the more you walk with Christ, the less hold sin will have on you. You will sin less often. You will hate sin more. You will know how to attack the demon that comes with the temptation. And finally, you will have the wisdom of knowing when to run, 2 Timothy 2:22.

Breaking Curses in Intercessory Prayer

I will be going into more depth on intercessory prayer later, but I am going to give the intercessory application for breaking curses here. If you don’t understand this application, then wait, I will explain more fully later.

Because of sin in previous generations, demonic oppression, possession and attack can be passed down in a family, a group, or a church from one generation to another. These generational curses (e.g., Ex. 20:5), can be broken by first asking for forgiveness for the group or family, similarly to individual repentance and prayer.

See for example Nehemiah 1:1-7. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem had fallen, and Israel taken captive. In about 445 B.C., (141 years later) Nehemiah prayed to God, confessing Israel’s sin. He was heard. Also look at Daniel, who was taken captive in about 605 B.C.. Some 60 or so years later (around 545 B.C.) he says, “I was. . . confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel,” Dan. 9:20. An intercessor can confess the sin of a group of people who lived even generations before them. In Jesus’ name, and by the prompting and power of the Holy Spirit, you can intercede this way as well.

Remember, Satan only has authority if there is unconfessed sin, Ps. 94:20. If that sin is confessed and covered by Jesus’ blood, then he no longer has authority in that area of your life, or the life of your family, group, or church.

However, it takes three things to break the curse that comes because of sin: First by prayer, confessing the sin. Second, breaking the curse in Jesus’ name. Third, the intercessor must obey God and walk against that sin, especially practicing the behavior required by Scripture that is opposite the sin. If, for example, the sin of a people has been pride, then humility must be practiced by that intercessor, even when--especially when--Satan uses the people they are praying for to come against them. Fighting and divisions are broken by peacemaking (without compromising the Word of truth), slander by blessing, stealing by reimbursement and generous giving, and so on. The teaching for this is in James 4, as I taught earlier.

Also, pray for God to save that person or people and fill them with the Holy Spirit so that there will be no room for ungodly spirits to return, and no legal hold:

Matt. 12:43-45 [Jesus speaking] “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then He says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first….”

So then, when curses are broken, always pray blessings, and especially the blessing of being turned away from iniquity and turned to God, Acts 3:26.

One last word: God loves His intercessors. They are blessed. Someday others will come to you and say, "I'm here because you prayed." Be blessed!

Diana Clancy
Copyright October 2007