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Learn to Lament

If your prayers are only happy and upbeat, you are missing a great blessing.

Learning to lament in prayer can be a blessing.

Things don’t always turn out as we would like. Sometimes gravely so. At such times, one biblical way to pray sure would come in handy: Lament. A big problem with that, however, is that most of us don’t know how to lament. We pray only happy and hopeful prayers, because we think that’s what God wants from us. But that is a mistake, and it is an error that can actually make us less happy and hopeful in the long run.

The Bible records many prayers of lament, such as Psalm 13, which begins:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

    How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

    How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2, NIV).

An entire book of the Hebrew Bible is actually called “Lamentations,” for crying out loud. It begins:

How deserted lies the city,

    once so full of people!

How like a widow is she,

    who once was great among the nations! (Lamentations 1:1, NIV).

Each of us has family and friends who struggle and stress. So pray for them, perhaps using Psalm 67:1 as a guide:

God, be merciful to us and bless us;

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    look on us with kindness (Psalm 67:1, GNT).

King David, after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, ordered that the people of Judah be taught the lament he wrote for the occasion (see 2 Samuel 1:17).

Read More: OurPrayer Prays for Millions All Over the World

Lament is not only a sound biblical way to pray; it is a wise way to pray on all sorts of occasions, because practicing lament prepares us for those times when we might otherwise lack the words to express the deepest, darkest feelings of our hearts. Prayers of lament provide healthy, godly ways for us to cry and complain and even scream before God, rather than stuffing our feelings and letting them fester.

The biblical pattern of a lament usually includes the following (which are therapeutic, by the way):

  • The address to God
    “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament,” (Psalm 5:1, NIV)
     
  • The complaint
    “You have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies,” (Psalm 44:9, NIV).
     
  • Affirmation of trust in God
    “But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth,” (Psalm 74:12, NIV).
     
  • A petition
    “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen,” (Psalm 22:19-21, NIV).
     
  • A vow and/or expression of praise
    “Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise,” (Psalm 79:13, NIV).

Like any skill, learning to lament takes time. But it pays rich blessings. It will increase your honesty and openness in prayer. It will deepen and broaden your relationship with God. And—especially if you practice lament in both good times and bad—it will equip you to face defeat, disappointment and grief in healthy ways.

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