Lament as Worship: A Prayer Over Our Hurting Nation
This past spring we went through the book of Lamentations together. Lamentations tells the story of Israel—the destruction of the Jerusalem, the temple and the mass destruction of most of the Jewish people. Some were spared and carried off in exile, some were left in the rubble and the ruins. Lamentations acts as a memorial to the people’s suffering and their experience with God. The book has a lead lamenter, a worship leader, who leads the people to lament, which happens in the last chapter of the book. The worship leader, Lady Zion (the suffering city personified), and the people don’t pull any punches. They don’t pretend. They are honest before God. It is raw and painful. I want to turn away and not look, but the lead worshipper won’t let this story be forgotten.
I revisit this, because lament is to be a regular rhythm of our worship. We are to be a people who know how to lament. In our lament there is a pattern. The first stage is one of disorientation. Everything was settled. Life was good. When you enter this season our confidence and security is taken away. So lament expresses this chaotic disorientation when nothing makes sense. In the second stage we are moved from the tough place of disorientation into a new normal, one that was different from the original. This move comes from an assurance that having voiced the pain of disorientation, God has now heard us, and we can rest in the assurance that God is in control of this new normal.
If this doesn’t accurately describe the week that was, what does? Nothing seems to make sense…what has gone wrong…so we lament. We lament in the middle of our disorientation and chaos. We mourn and grieve and cry out.
We also lament to shake us from apathy. Right, it so easy to just go, “enough.” I don’t want to hear anymore, read anymore. We want to think we are so past racial sin, so we ignore it and strike out at others who think it is still a problem, as those who are just stirring the pot. Lament instead awakens us to the realities of our worlds…the disorientations of our life. It doesn’t pretend.
This past week has seen violence and revenge along racial lines. It won’t be done away with by a quick prayer. But lament hears from this long line of dead bodies, and it hears the disorientating voice from the suffering, the marginalized, the broken. It remembers and repents. It cries out to the only One that can help. It places us back into the story of God and reorientates us. He is on the throne. We cry out to Him. We are roused to keep believing that Jesus will indeed make this sad come untrue, but in the meantime, we lament, we listen and look honestly at what is real and true now, because of the real and true behind it all. We can be honest about our racist, vengeful, violent hearts…we can cry out about the racist, vengeful, violent world, because God hears our cries and invites us to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. Jesus calls out to all the weary and heavy laden that He might bring them rest.
On Sunday, we lamented the actions of the past couple of weeks in our country and world. The prayer is listed below and was written at least in part by Dan Herron, a PCA pastor in Bloomfield, IN. If you weren’t with us on Sunday, take some time to pray this prayer of lament to be roused, to reorientate you, to just pray for our black brothers and sisters and our police brothers and sisters. If you were there, keep lamenting and keep praying. I am praying for you. May God have mercy, may Christ have mercy on all of us.
Jesus, you call weary people to come to you.
You bid the heavy laden to find rest in you. Today, we bring our restless souls to you.
We name the
that rage against us and within us.
Help us to stand in vulnerability
with one another,
Help us to stand in vulnerability
before you, our Savior.
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
Lord, from where we stand,
from what we have seen
we feel forgotten,
our world appears abandoned by you:
from a peaceful protest turned violent and murderous in Dallas, Texas,
to a car in St. Paul, Minnesota,
to outside a convenience store
in Baton Rouge,
to protests in all of these cities
to a busy mall in Baghdad,
to an airport in Istanbul,
And outside a US embassy
in Saudi Arabia
to attacks on police in San Antonio, Valdosta, Georgia
and Balwin, Missouri
to homes of lonely, confused and
hurting people in Albuquerque,
those whom you created to bear your image,
have been marred,
and we cry out to you in dismay,
how long, O, Lord?
How long must I take counsel in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
The offenses against your human creatures
seem to increase day-by-day,
yet, we know that there has been
arrayed against humanity for eons,
I also have felt the opposition, pain, injustice.
Sometimes I also have been
a perpetrator of it.
How long must this persist?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes
lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say,
“I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice
because I am shaken.
Our longing for justice must surely mean
that it exists?
Our desire for healing must mean
that it’s possible?
Our need of rest must mean a refuge awaits?
Why would we have an appetite
if only evil were meant to prevail?
You must supply this goodness, O God,
You must show us the culmination
of our longings,
for, if the darkness of what we see,
is all there is,
if darkness is the culmination
of redemptive desire,
we are utterly alone,
those who abuse with violent power
are not enemies,
they are merely winners,
those who long for redemption
are not hopeful,
they are merely fools.
O Lord, give light to our eyes,
respond to our hope
with your redemption.
Yet, I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully
Left to the natural inclinations of our hearts,
we would have looked within ourselves
and would have found nothing trustworthy.
This same steadfast love that we praise,
is the very steadfast love that
redirects our vision
away from ourselves
and onto you as our hope.
Our hope cannot be in ourselves,
but only in you,
In you, is the culmination of our longing.
In your mercy and grace,
you use even our pain
to drive us into the loving
and saving arms
of Jesus Christ.
And, because this Jesus
has received our pain of sin
and given us his rest of salvation,
we can rejoice,
even in sorrow,
May we see the lavishness of your love
And may this move us to be
a people of lavish love
in this world of hate.
O Lord, in your humility and love,
you have invited us to be vulnerable
by becoming vulnerable to us first.
In the life of Jesus Christ,
you have bared your heart
to the pain of this world,
In the cross of Jesus Christ,
you have born the afflictions
of your people,
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
you have bestowed real hope of life
to your people.
And, darkness is not the destiny
for your people.