How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 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?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6, New International Version)
Rev. Alan Van Hooser has had an impact on my life that he may not even realized. I attended a pastor’s retreat, it had to have been at least ten years ago. Alan led a workshop on prayer beads. It wasn’t something I had ever done or really given much thought. Alan led a great session and it wasn’t long before I was making strings of beads and looking for more. My more was spiritual directors’ training and prayer ropes. I am pretty sure, if it was not for Alan Van Hooser I would not have those things and they have become important parts of my ministry and I am grateful to him for his work and ministry. I am also grateful that when I came to him again, Alan again agreed to help my ministry again as a guest post but you can also follow Alan’s own blog at thethoughtfulpastor.com Alan has served as pastor in several places including Cheatham Memorial UMC, in Edgewood, Texas. He currently serves as pastor at Friendship United Methodist in Porter, Texas.
God has been good to me. There have been rough places made both of my own choices and things beyond my doing. BUT, a faithful and loving God, who holds me in the name of Jesus Christ and lives in and through me with the Holy Spirit has used them all to my growth in faith. Yes, I have whined and that has not been fruitful. There must be a more spirit led way to share my pain and disappointment with God. Maybe you are there too.
We are in a crisis that has challenged the faith of many. The rough places of isolation, loss and uncertainty have created a crisis of faith much larger than the threat of physical illness. Yes, yes “All things work together for good” but what do we do in the meantime. Can we complain to God in our anger, doubt and fear? The short answer is yes. The Bible is full of faithful whining called prayers of lament
Scripture has famous laments from the Psalmist, the Prophets and even Jesus. (My God, why hast thou forsaken me!) Our God of grace has big shoulders and allows us to speak of negative things. How does this work?
Below is a teaching/learning element, a “formula” for a lament created in your own words. This guideline is a help, a starter that forges faith from the depths of our pain and grows our relationship with Christ. How are you praying from your pain? Try writing a prayer like this.
- Sit quietly and write your deepest pains. Just or unjust. Put them in words and write a prayer in this way
- Address God in a personal way. (Example: Almighty, Father, Faithful God-whatever has meaning for you)
- Thank God for ALL things. (Example: Lord you gave given me good, bad and ugly. Thank you for being able so see me through them all)
- Complain! (Example: I am all alone, my job is uncertain and I am losing hope)
- Confess your own sin ( I confess things done, undone, attitudes and letting fatigue look like doubt )
- Pray for HELP! ( I don’t know how to pray-HELP ME LORD. Pray Psalm 13 or other scripture with YOUR NAME in place of the “I’s” and “me’s”)
- Trust God. ( God, I am wounded-but even so I will trust you. (Psalm 51:8)
- Finally, offer this lament as a praise (Psalm 51:8. “Let me be happy and joyful! You crushed my bones, now let them celebrate” )
Write this on a card, carry it, revise it, pray it until the “formula” is simply your honest response from your pain to our God. Watch your relationship bloom through the negative things in your day!
Lament and be healed, pray and be strengthened. Let others see your witness of faith in the rough places. By being stronger in your relationship with God, you create a healthier community.
Peace be unto you! God is near. (Many thanks to Smith and Schoenfeld in “Growing through Disaster” for the outline)