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Lament as Prayer

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

In the Bible, there are many examples of lament. We find them in the Psalms as well as the prophets. A lament is not just a complaint or feeling bad about the way something has turned out. Lament is a deep and passionate groan or complaint that comes out of a place of grief, despair or sorrow. They express feelings we rarely wish to share with others unless it is within a close or intimate relationship. Prayer is a time when lament can be voiced to God without judgment. It may feel wrong to complain in prayer about how God has been handling things or to express our doubts, but God is great and strong enough to take it! As Romans reminds us, nothing we can say or think can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

When I served in the military or even when I worked in a corporate office, the prevailing rule said that it was wrong to bring up complaints or problems without a solution to offer. Yet there is something cathartic about voicing a lament or complaint even when there is no solution to offer. It may not be acceptable in the military or in business, but lament is wholly acceptable in prayer. It is okay to voice lament about current circumstances in prayer. If you have not spoken words of lament in prayer, I encourage you to try. If we don’t have our own words, we can use those we read in the Psalms. Jesus himself spoke words from Psalm 22 as He was dying on the cross, “ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? ” (Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1)

And remember, even in the laments in the Bible, the writer usually concluded on a word of hope, a reminder of the truth of God. We speak words of lament and then, having given voice to those feelings, we gently remind ourselves of the hope we have rooted in the love of God given us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Lisa D. Neilson
Associate for Pastoral Care and Women's Ministries