What is a Prayer of Lament?
The prayer of lament is that unsettling biblical tradition of prayer that includes expressions of complaint, anger, grief, despair, and protest to God. Many of us have never been taught this way of praying and it is often missing in the worship of many congregations.
As Samuel Balentine describes it, “The church taught me how to pray and, more subtly, how not to pray. One was to praise God, but not protest; to petition God, but not interrogate; and in all things to accept and submit to the sometimes incomprehensible will of God, never challenge or rebel. Yet when life’s circumstances would not permit either such passivity or such piety, this advocacy of a rather monotonic relation to God seemed destined to silence if not exclude me. ‘You must not question God.’ If one cannot question God, then to whom does one direct the questions?”
The prayer of lament is a place to begin as we seek to respond to the sin, the brokenness, and the complexity of our life together as human beings. It is tempting to rush to problem-solving and fixing when the situation is so dire, but I hope we won’t.
Let us stop, at least for a moment, and lament together. Let us stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters who continue to experience such tragic loss; let us mourn with them the loss of another black male and affirm that black lives matter. Let us grieve for the law enforcement officers who lost their lives while trying to keep the peace. Let us acknowledge complexity, that we don’t have answers, and cry out to God together for the peace and justice that seems to elude us.