I recently visited a wonderful prayer space created by Louise Carr a highly creative Methodist Minister who created a number of quilts to reflect different aspects of Lament; the photo above is titled Chaos and is one of my particular favourites.
Lament is also the theme we are taking up on October 11th this year as we in PXI (Parson Cross Initiative Projects) take part in the local launch of End Hunger UK 2019 week of action. Louise Carr talks about Lament in these terms: “Lament is the other side of prayer. There’s a strong sense in churches that God is someone to be praised but in many ways, in the Christian church, we’ve lost the lament capacity and we’re not so keen to say to God ‘it’s not working as it should.” and so in many ways it feels like Lament is the perfect way to approach an issue like poverty related hunger.
Others have also spoken about the power and importance of lament; we worship God even in the midst of pouring our difficulty out before Him. Instead of backing away from God during a hard time or a dark night, we face the pain and worship God with it, placing God in it, in love we offer it all to God.
Of course everyone is free to pray in whatever way, and use whatever words they choose – but for those of us who are maybe unfamiliar, or wanting guidance in our prayers of Lament, here’s an offer of a kind of structure we might use and follow.
- Invocation (very brief and sometimes omitted) or to call on God.
- Description of the situation that is the focus of the lament/complaint.
- Confession of trust or confidence in God, or willingness to wait for hope.
- Listen in quiet and peace for God’s response to your cry in your mind, heart, scripture or image.
- Petition for God to act in justice and righteousness.
- Offer the sacrifice of praise to God even in the midst of suffering.
There is much in the world today, as there has ever been, that is a source for Lament and prayer whether personal or collective. Indeed there is a real sense in which Lament allows us to move back and forth between both those personal and communal spheres of our lives, calling out to God our struggles whilst understanding that those are rarely our struggle alone.
And so, here is my Lament:
Where have you been, are you not listening?
Haven’t you seen the people hungry whilst others are living it high in their golden towers?
Haven’t you heard the cries of children separated from their mothers and fathers, the desperate pleas of the refugees?
Are you just happy to watch us as we destroy your creation, filling the oceans with plastic, and the air with poison?
Our children want a future, they want their hopes and dreams back, they want a planet that is safe and filled with peace – and oh my God so do I!
I will wait, and I will hope, and I will trust in you God.
“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Likewise all Empires and things of men will fall but your Kingdom will last forever.