Lament

Lament is the heartfelt expression of grief, frustration, anger, fear, or complaint through prayer. Instead of just crying when life hits you hard, try "crying out" in a lament. This kind of prayer reaches toward God during your greatest trials and trusts him (by praising His character), even though life stinks. You must believe that God will work all things for good in your life, even the crummy things.

Jn. 16:33 “In this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

How to pray a prayer of anguish

Have you ever felt emotionally raw and desperate? Angry, even? My first response in these situations is to rage at God, to make a pitiful plea for help (if no one else is around, that is) The question, then, is how to pray a prayer of anguish?

Grief, when directed at God, is a prayer. It's a lamentation that expects a response. Anguish can prompt the most beautiful and heart-felt prayers we ever pray.

Maybe you're not sure what to say. That's okay, too. The Holy Spirit hears the groaning of our hearts and responds to us with grace and love (Romans 8:26-27).

I go directly to Psalms when I need to groan. I start at Psalm 3, and I just keep going until I've said enough. I've underlined a lot of verses about anguish and fairness and deliverance in those pages, so I pray those verses back to God. Somehow, reading the Psalms give power to my prayer and assuage any guilt I'd have for expressing my pain and misery.

Praying God's words back to him keeps my prayer a lament instead of a complaint. Fortunately, most of David's Psalms end with the correct theology that God is good, and He will do good on my behalf. In context, these verses have power; out of context, they might seem cliché.

Here are a few of my favorite passages, turned into prayers that you can use during your dark times:

"Lord, I am in distress! Listen to me! Reach down your hand and hold me up!" (Ps. 18:6)

"Lord, have mercy on me! I'm traumatized. My body and soul are wracked with grief. I can't go on! I feel all my strength fading away. I'm not going to survive. Please rescue me!" (Ps. 31:9-10)

"Lord, I am in desperate need. My enemies surround me, wanting me to fail. Only you can help me. I wait for you to work in my life. Please hurry, before I lose everything!" (Ps. 31:15-16)

"Lord, I am watching the wicked succeed all around me. I'm holding my tongue, even though I want to scream that it's not fair. I'm trying to honor you, but my anguish is increasing. Give me perspective, God! Show me how this will end! But until then, teach me to have hope in you alone." (Ps. 39:1-7)

"Lord, I am so discouraged. All my confidence is gone. I have given up hope. Help me to remember your faithfulness. My spirit is thirsty for you. Please come and refresh me!" (Ps. 143)

So take a minute and pray a psalm of agony. Cry out. God will answer you, because that's who he is. He is acquainted with grief. He can't help but respond to the cries of his children!

image by George Hodan


A Mother's Cry

Dear Lord Jesus,

When you lived on earth, you pined for your children--
you said you longed to protect the ones you loved,
gathering them like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
So you must know how I feel about my children.

I feel desperate for them all the time,
but especially when we are separated from each other.
I've found that it doesn't matter how old they are.
Do you feel the same way?

Being separate makes me painfully aware of my insecurities as their mother.
It's not so different than when they were babies, and I held their feverish bodies in the middle of the night, realizing just how desperate love had made me.
I remember comprehending that I was just not equipped well enough for this monumental role--
I was not prepared to shape a life.

It was then that I began realizing how terribly I needed you.
I still do.
Age has not lessened my inabilities or insecurities. Or my neediness.
Age has, if anything, created a wiser understanding of all of it.

I still need more than ever.
As my children grow, I am overwhelmed with the rush of time
and the realization that I am still growing myself.
And in many areas, I have failed to grow.

Please, Lord,
make me a mother who still gathers my chicks, who makes them feel safe with me.
Make me a mother who listens instead of lectures,
who encourages instead of interrogates,
who supports instead of criticizes.
Make me a mother who's patient, understanding that a life isn't finished learning and growing until it dies--
until our eternal perfection.
Make me a mother who's respectful of my children's decisions, personalities, fears, and triumphs, who doesn't try to make them like me,
and who rejoices that they are not me.
I pray they are the people you created them to be.

Make me a mother who points my children toward you.
I cannot be a perfect representation of you.
(That's pretty obvious by now.)
But perhaps, my failings will show my children to depend on you.
That none of us will ever achieve perfection.
That the Christian life is about striving, failing, and striving again.
That it's about relationship,
just like mothering is primarily about relationship.

That's my cry, Lord,
I ask you to hear it and somehow empower me to do it.
Or at least work around me and perform something miraculous.

In Jesus' loving name,
Amen.

A prayer to find answers

Dear Lord God Jehovah,
I'm having a heavy heart kind of day.
I've been remembering sad things,
things that make me feel disappointed and hopeless.
I want to crawl into a corner and shut out life.
That's where You come in.
You've showed up many times during my life when the joy of living has vanished and memories haunt.
And You feel what I feel, at the moment when I feel it.
Even though I feel alone, You are with me.
I must remember who You are and what You
do--
what You have always done for me.
You fill me with unexplainable comfort.
You cradle my heart with warm hands and soothe the heavy space inside that hurts.
You're the reason I pray.
I don't pray because I want answers.
I pray because You are the only Answer.
Thank you for doing Your work in me,
through pain, through confusion, and through thanksgiving.
Thank You for the memories of You.
Amen.


Praying the "Turnaround Prayer"

Today has been especially hard for me, for no particular reason except that I'm grieving, and today I'm grumpy and unsettled about it.

I am not a perky Christian right now. I feel dried up. Parched like a wind-swept desert, I am unable to quench the emptiness of my heart. My faith is strong enough not to rage at God or question His sovereignty; I'm just unhappy, lost even. How selfish that sounds! 
After a sad, scrolling-through of social media posts, I ran across my friend Bob Hostetler's blog on Guideposts, dated yesterday, Sept. 20, 2016. I appreciate his perspective on praying through hard times. Here is an excerpt from his blog "Pray for Blessings from Disappointments"--


"Most of us, when misfortune occurs, pray for relief or deliverance. That is natural, and it’s a good way to pray. 
After all, the psalmist David prayed, “Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me” (Psalm 70:1, NLT). And “Please, Lord, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me” (Psalm 40:13, NLT). . . 
I pray those kinds of prayers a lot. But sometimes I have the presence of mind—and the faith—to pray differently. 
I may start with prayers like those, but I continue in my praying to say something like, “God, turn this whole situation around. Where there is now confusion, bring understanding. Where now there is only pain and suffering, turn it into an occasion for amazement and joy and bring glory to Your name!” . . .
'Turnaround' prayers do more than ask God to fix something, they ask Him to turn a situation on its head and bring beauty from ashes, blessing from disappointment, glory from gloom. 
So try it. Don’t just ask God to heal you, ask Him to turn your affliction around and make it an occasion for rejoicing. Don’t simply request relief, ask for a 180-degree reversal of the situation, one that will bring glory to God. . . .
Pray 'turnaround prayers' and see if your faith and God’s faithfulness combine to do something special in answer to your prayers."


You can read Bob's prayer blog in its entirety (or any of his previous blogs on Guideposts) by clicking on this address:

Praying my mother into eternity

Dear Lord of heaven and Lover of our souls,

My soul is grieving, my heart is heavy.
My tears are many.
Yet you stir the truth in me.
You urge me to have perspective about life and death.
Death is not the enemy; it's the pathway into your presence.
Give me the faith to not lose heart.
while my mother's earthly body wastes away;
help me feel your renewal day by day.
Our present troubles are light and momentary compared
to the greatness of living eternity in your presence.
Your glory outweighs the heaviest of earthly pains!
Show us your glory by leading us through this valley of longing and loss.
I will fix my eyes on the unseen because it is eternal,
rather than on the things I see here:
the pain, the deterioration, the separation.
These are temporary;
they are joy-robbers and faith-robbers.
I was not made for this earth,
and neither was my mother.
Eternity calls her, and she deserves to go there.
Give her peace, joy, and eternal satisfaction.
There she will radiate your glory,
even more than she did here on earth.
Give me the courage and faith to believe this process is glorification, not destruction.
You are merely completing your master plan.
You crave her company, as I do.
But she was made for your company, not mine.
You may have her.
I will praise you in all things.

Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

The Gift of Suffering?


Phil. 1:29 "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him."





Nothing is as isolating as true misery. It's why we must look up instead of in, why we must cry out instead of cry, why we must endure suffering instead of resist it. Paul explains in Phil. 1:29, that God grants us suffering. The word grant is charizomai in Greek, meaning "to give freely, to forgive, to do something pleasant or agreeable." Giving us the opportunity to suffer for Christ is a GIFT.



Wow! That seems like a real oxymoron, doesn't it? In the same way that good parents give their children chores and responsibilities to mold and strengthen their character, God gives us trials to mold and strengthen our character. We can choose to respond like immature, selfish children--complain, resist, or rebel--or we can respond like "little Christs" (i.e. Christians)--believe, hope, and endure, knowing that God is working something bigger in us and around us.



Don't isolate. Draw close to God. Share with the body of Christ. Believe, hope, endure. God is overcoming evil, not causing it. Follow Him, and you will overcome evil, also.



Jn. 16:33  "In this life you will have trouble. But the heart! I have overcome the world."



image from
Lord, my heart is heavy. A rock sits on my shoulders, a weight presses against my chest. But you already know that. You feel it with me, the pressure of success, the fear of failure, pain, and loss. But I choose to trust in your will and your way--at least, I'm trying to trust you! Carry me through this time of heaviness. Lift my arms. Support me in the strong circle of your embrace. Maybe you could even carry my burdens for me--just a few steps--as I realign myself to follow you. I know you'll protect and provide. Help me to trust your process, because it will not feel trustworthy. I love you, Lord. I believe you, and I praise your goodness! In Jesus' name, Amen.

image from www.radroadtrips.com

How to Complain the Right Way

I know how to complain. You do, too.
This isn't fair.
I will never dig out of this.
Nobody appreciates me.
I wish I had nicer things!
Why can't I make any more money?
I don't have any friends.
Why is this happening to me??

It's all really pathetic on paper yet pretty important in our heads and hearts. We want to give credence to our feelings, so we express them to a friend, a spouse, social media, or some unsuspecting car at a stoplight. Does it help?

Some. Verbal statements seem more accurate than fleeting thoughts, so it's nice to express how we feel. The hard part comes next--how to be positive. So we give our complaints the respect they deserve, and we speak them out. We're frustrated that God's not doing a better job of meeting our needs, and we don't see any escape routes.

In times like these, I turn to the Psalms. David wrote at least 20 specific laments, and he's a doggone good complainer. But here's the interesting thing--David complains to God. Before his declarations settle in to his psyche, he responds to his own complaints with faith. He gives himself the answers that seem hard to believe. Yet he knows they are true:

God is good.
God loves me.
God will protect me.
God will avenge my enemies.
God has a plan for my life.
God will use this hardship for good in my life.
God has blessed me a hundred times before; He will bless me again.

David let those words sink in, and he believed them even more.

So don't just complain about your issues. Turn to God for help. Make your laments and believe that He cares. Plain ol' complaining is just a waste of time.

image from jesusplus.org

How to Have a Good Pity-Party

Some days are meant for pity-parties. I mean it. Some days, you just need to throw something or cry into a pillow because life is too hard. You know how to have a good pity-party. Just let somebody try and stop you. Two boxes of tissues, 2 candy bars, and maybe some uncontrolled behavior.

The downside to a pity-party is the aftermath. On top of feeling overwhelmed, pitching a fit provides very temporary relief; it might even reinforce your feelings of desperation.

I love reading the book of Job on those occasions when life seems unfair because you can't read about Job's life without feeling a little bit of relief. You just can't. Job had it worse than anybody I know, and it happened in one fell swoop. Talk about unfair.

Let me share one of Job's laments with you, so you can feel at least justified in having Biblical tantrum. I must point out one interesting fact, however. What makes this lament usable is that Job is taking his frustration to God. He's really not taking it out on God or on anybody else. He knows that only God can help him, and when the big complaint is over, Job sits and waits for God to intervene. (And he waits a really long time. And throws a few more tantrums. And has more pity-parties. But who wouldn't?)

Here's how this one went, in my modern paraphrase (Job 3):

"I should never have been born! Or I should have died in childbirth! At least now I'd be sleeping peacefully instead of never sleeping.
Why bring me into this world and let me experience joy, and then snatch it away from me? Who does that? That's just cruel!
I want to die, but instead, you're killing everyone I love! I have to live on in misery alone!
What kind of God are you?
I've always been afraid something like this would happen, and now it has! I can't believe I trusted you. I thought you loved me.
I will never be happy again."

Ever say anything like that? I have. It doesn't feel spiritual at all--and certainly not prayerful.

Except that it is. It's a lament. It's crying out to God instead of just crying. It's looking up instead of looking around.

And that's a good place to start when life stinks.