Men, did you know that a third of the palms are laments or complaints to God. (Here is a good sampling: 3, 6, 13, 16, 22., 31, 57, 56, 102, 142). They are a cry from the heart. I want to highly recommend praying the laments. Laments give expression to some of deepest, most personal and most wrenching of human emotions. I have found the praying of lament Psalms beneficial as I try to make sense of my journey in our confused and rebellious culture.
Over the years I have come to realize the Psalms are prayers I can pray, giving me inspired words to express from my heart. I join the company of believers who have prayed these laments for centuries. I am able to get disappointment “off my chest” and leave it with God. For many followers of Jesus, lament has been a heartfelt and honest way of walking with God through the struggles of life. “My heart longed for the minor-key tune of lament,” declared pastor Mark Vroegog, “a song for when you’re living between the poles of a hard life and trust in God’s sovereign care.”
David and the other writers of the Psalms were secure enough in their relationship with God, giving them permission to ask hard and even disturbing questions, as they poured out their hearts. But they clung to their trust in God even when he seemed distant and uncaring. Instead of remaining silent before God, either in despair or denial, lament gave them words to express their struggles so as to reaffirm their trust in him.
“The Lament Psalms,” notes Richard Foster, “teach us to pray our inner conflicts and contradictions. They allow us to shout out our forsakenness in the dark caverns of abandonment and then hear the echo return to us over and over until we bitterly recant of them, only to shout them out again. They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed, “There is in the Psalms no quick and easy resignation to suffering. There is always struggle, anxiety, doubt…..But even in the deepest hopelessness God alone remains the one addressed.” The goal the Psalms Bonhoeffer believed was to, “proclaim Jesus Christ to be the only help in suffering, for in him God is with us.”
The Psalmist begins by stating his situation is hopeless. My favorite lament Psalm is Psalm 13. It begins with a heart felt cry. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” But after his complaint, David ends up declaring trust in God. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (v 5).
Here are some simple steps to take as you read the laments prayerfully, making them your prayer::
First, when you have questions and pain created by struggles, pray the lament as a way to talking to God. Allow yourself to be honest and open before your heavenly Father.
Secondly, express your complaint. Lament are prayers given to us by God, allowing us to ask questions, voice our fears, and express our frustrations.
Thirdly, ask boldly. Remember your lament is addressed to God in trust. We dare to hope in God. Leave the outcome in his hands as you express your heart felt concerns.
Fourthly choose to trust God. Gut-level, honest prayer is a means of moving through our pain to a new trust in God.