What does it mean to lament?
This week's message is about seeing and serving Jesus; and also about corporate repentance. I took out part of my sermon as it was just too long. So, I wanted to share some of the great info I found in a couple of articles. As you may know, the book of Psalms is filled with praises and laments, or cries to God in distress. Some are even communal laments. That is not a word we use often, lament. Some see it as synonymous with repenting, but it does not include a change in one's mind and/or behavior like repentance does. I read a blog on N.T.Wright online by Dr. Glenn Packiam, a pastor in Colorado Springs that I will summarize. It is titled Five Things to Know About Lament:
Lament is a form of praise. Some think complaining is the same as lamenting but biblically these are different. The Israelites complaining to God about a lack of food in the wilderness was a way of testing God and making him the villian. But in the psalms, Israel asks God to answer their cries according to his love, justice and righteousness. Therefore, lamenting is an appeal to God based on confidence in His character.
Lament is proof of a relationship. Packiam uses examples of babies in an orphanage that do not cry out after a while as they do not trust that they will be answered with care, and how a child may wake us up to get them food or something due to them trusting that we will respond to their need.
Lament is a pathway to intimacy with God. He discusses the honesty found in the Psalms. They reinforce a bond of attachment, by breaking their hearts open to God. He says the Torah is organized into 5 books of God's instructions and the Psalms is organized into five books guiding us in how to answer God.
Lament is a prayer for God to act. Prayer is not passive, and laments are calls for God to act on their behalf. The New Testament even takes this further, as Jesus teaches his disciples to pray to participate in the arrival of God's kingdom, and for Paul prayer is one of the way God is acting, praying within us for the pain around us.
Lament is a participation in the pain of others. Intercessory prayer, or lament is not just for the suffering, but in solidarity with them. He says we love our neighbor when we allow their pain to become the substance of our prayer.
Such good insights about lament for sure! We used to have a Tue. afternoon prayer meeting held by a dear mentor of mine that taught me so much about peace, and his wife that taught me so much about prayer. We studied intercessory prayer, sometimes using a book or other material. We read Scriptures, sang hymns, we discussed items that needed prayer in our world, our nation, our city, our familes and our church. We met for an hour and a half each Tue. While I know I have a long way to go, I am grateful to have this memory and modeling that changed my relationship with people and with God forever!
Next is an article from Mark Vroegop titled 3 Reasons We Ought to Corporately Lament. While this seems to be reasons for pastors to make sure to do this with your church, there is no reason why parishioners, or any Christians really cannot lament together, and these important things will occur - as Scripture says when two or more gather in His Name. I remember praying with a group of counselors at a Church of the Brethren camp one summer. This was before my call to ministry but as I was choosing to dig deep into following Christ. I immediately felt the Holy Spirit among us. We were doing all of these things, empathizing with each other as well as camper's stories and struggles, it was modeling bold and trusting prayer for me and it created a bond with the people and the camp that will forever be in my heart. Here is a summary of the 3 reasons Mark says for us to lament together:
1 Empathy - Lamenting in pain leads to trust, giving voice to brokenness in our midst. It also communicates that the church cares. It empathizes as we grieve together. This seems to go along with #5 above.
2. Modeling - Lament teaches people how to pray.
3. Unity. Corporate laments help lead the church toward unity. When there is conflict or tension we can lean into this in prayer.
So, lamenting is not just a cry for help, but is a way to get closer to Jesus and to think deeply about pain in the world and also a way for us to remember to be grateful I believe as well. If you start off complaining to God about your situation or pain in the world, don't worry. Keep doing it! God can handle it! And when you spend time with the Lord, even in anger or remorse or complaint, he will work on you.
Lastly, I want to mention that if you do not have the words, or you feel like you don't want to seem like you are blaming God, just be still; know that God knows your heart and your thoughts. Read some laments in the Psalms, when you hear of someone's sorrow, pray about it - God is listening, and he will work on you and your life as you spend time with Him in prayer and study. That's a promise
Stay safe and spend time with God today - praising and lamenting! A great way to start and/or end a day for sure if you have no other time! Take care - Pastor Sue