Pain, sorrow, and disappointment are part of the human experience and have been since the fall. The world is not as it should be, and the sting of this broken world is felt by Christians and non-Christians alike. Nowhere does the Bible suggest that once we have started following Jesus we will no longer feel such things. This will not happen until Christ returns, and in Jesus himself, as well as many other heroes of the faith in the Bible and in history, we see examples of how to walk and pray through such things.
There is a type of prayer that is common in the Bible that has been largely neglected in the Western church today, and that is the lament. A lament is a guttural cry that faces up to the reality of a desperate situation, and does so in a way that is infused with hope in the Lord. There is a whole book of the Bible given over to prayers of lament (Lamentations), and many of the psalms are also laments.
This sermon will be based around Psalm 13, which contains some of the main ingredients of a lament.
Coming to God – The Psalmist begins by addressing the Lord. This is important. Often when we experience tough situations and feel pain, we can retreat from God or even blame him. A lamentation is a spiritual act of faith, and involves the deliberate decision to come to God, even with all the pain and struggle, and to deal with it in prayer.
Praying the Pain – The Psalmist’s prayer is not polite or formal. He pours out his heart, in verse 2 we see him expressing what is going on and how he feels about it to God. Learning that God can handle raw emotion in prayer is key to lament. This is not done out of anger or an attempt to blame God, but is being real and honest about what is going on.
Asking God for Help – In verses 3 and 4, the Psalm turns to petition. The Psalmist prays for God’s help in his situation. Whilst we recognise that pain and sorrow is part of the fallen world, this should not lead us to become fatalistic as though God is incapable or unwilling to help. Bringing our requests to him for the situation to change is a good and appropriate part of praying in painful times.
Trusting God – The lament finishes with an expression of trust in God (v5-6). Even when circumstances are tough, God is good. The purpose of the lament is not to find an easy fix to the problem, but to bring the heart to the point of trust in God even through the challenging times.
- This would be an appropriate service to offer prayer ministry. For those going through tough times at the moment, having others who can stand with them and lament together is an incredibly powerful thing.