Lament as true prayer

Some years ago I came across an article written by Dr Diane Jacobson in The Lutheran, July 2005. It is entitled “Lament as true prayer.” Here are some quotes that I really like.

We speak honestly of what we know. God meets us there.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

I often think the sighs of the Spirit are heard most clearly in the laments of the Psalms. Praying the laments is difficult. But so often they are our deepest and truest prayers…

Some say God, in utter grace, allows us to express such lamentation until the time we can return to faithfulness. But I contend that the importance and truth of our laments goes much deeper: To lament is to be faithful.

The lament, more than any other form of prayer, speaks directly to God of the reality of suffering. And God knows when our prayers are true.

Consider the book of Job. Job’s speech is rife with lamentation. He rails against the Almighty, throwing the issue of suffering into God’s face, begging for a relationship that speaks to the truth of his loss and pain. Job’s friends are appalled by his words, which they deem unfaithful. The friends reason that humans should never question God’s motives but, in all humility, should accept suffering as the righteous judgment of a just God…

But in contrast to his friends, Job refused to overlook the depth of his suffering. He refused to protect God from his despair. He refused to believe God wasn’t active in the world. Perhaps most importantly, Job continued to speak directly to God, praying for justice, relief and comfort. True prayer, true speech to and about God, never uses theological platitudes to deny the reality of the world.

The power of the lament is this: We come to God boldly, directly, defenses stripped away, with nothing standing between us and the Almighty. Standing thus, we can do nothing but speak the truth from our depth. This isn’t to say that we suddenly have right understanding, only that we speak honestly of what we know. God meets us there.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. … I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word !hope” (Psalm 130:1, 5).

True prayer, true speech to and about God, never uses theological platitudes to deny the reality of the world.

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