“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?…You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry…”
— Psalm 10
At times, praying is hard to do, especially when we are hurting, feeling disillusioned, or questioning the goodness or even the existence of God. We live in a sinful, broken world where pain, suffering, and injustice thrive. We see evidence of this every day, and sometimes it impacts us personally, which can cause us to become overwhelmed and want to cry out to God in sorrow or even anger.
God can take it! There are many examples of people in Scripture pouring out their hearts to God with prayers of lament. They prayed deeply emotional prayers, questioning if God cared, why He was allowing bad things to happen, and asking if He were really there! “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me?” (Psalm 13:2). The Old Testament book of Lamentations is a collection of poetic laments expressing deep despair over the destruction of Jerusalem. “Arise, cry out in the night…pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19).
Yes, God has heard intense cries of despair from His people, and He welcomes it.
Individuals who have grown up in a church tradition that did not practise prayers of lament in corporate worship often don’t use them in personal prayer. Yet, prayers of lament can be extremely helpful in our spiritual journey. As we release our hurt or confusion, or offer profound questions to a Sovereign God, His Spirit comforts, heals, and renews our perspective. He provides us with hope as we come to a God who is all-powerful, who is actively reconciling the world to Himself.
Offering prayers of lament is actually an act of worship. Instead of turning away from God, letting our hearts get hard, we, as an act of faith, acknowledge our pain, our sorrow, and doubt to the One who is the only source of hope in this world!
1. Write your own prayer of lament, identifying the difficulties and challenges with which you are struggling that are causing you to question the goodness or even the existence of God.
2. To counter any feelings of despair, list 10 things that you can thank God for today.
Joanne Beach serves the C&MA as the Director of Alliance Justice and Compassion.