One of the many gifts of the Hebrew Scriptures are the expressions of lament which are given voice throughout. The Psalms record many of these — with cries of of “how long O Lord?”, “Why Lord?” … “when Lord?”
Note these words from Psalm 6:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;Psalm 6.2–7
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.”
This Song of David, along with many other Psalms, provides us with examples of how the ancients prayed when trouble overwhelmed them. There is a brutal honesty here, creating a space to give voice to the pain and sorrow, and bought into the presence of God. Space for our dis-integrated selves be broken and poured out, laid bare before God.
What are your songs of lament? Do you find the stirrings of your soul in these Psalms of sorrow? Perhaps you hear your laments echoed in contemporary poetry or popular song. Perhaps you have been able to write your own poem loaded with honest, heartfelt emotion.
Last month as I sat down to pray I became aware of a deep sorrow and tiredness in my soul. I was reminded of a song I’d not heard for many years—as if it was singing within me. “Van Diemens Land” (sung by the Edge of U2) became my prayer of lament to God that day. And dwelling in that place the words and feelings became a prayer, integrating my whole self; and hope emerged amongst the sorrow and tiredness — I was not alone.