In this session we delve into the prayer of lament – bringing our complaints and cries of pain to God. Amy Boucher Pye interviews Tola-Doll Fisher to understand her experience of this kind of prayer.
Tola-Doll Fisher is a writer, speaker and is the editor of Premier’s Woman Alive magazine. Among other writing, she is an opinion columnist for The Independent Voices and HuffPost UK. Not afraid to shy from difficult topics, Tola spoke about faith and sexuality at a panel talk hosted by Scarlet Ladies, interviewed controversial influencer Chidera Eggerue on boobs, books and black girls and delivered a TEDx Talk called “Debunking the Myth of Success”. Tola was listed as one of The Voice newspaper’s women to watch for their International Women’s Day special in 2018 and an Inspirational Christian Millennial in Keep the Faith magazine.
While reflecting on the prayer of lament, we may wish to remind ourselves that with God, no matter what the season, we can bear fruit. But often in life we face struggles, pain, disappointment and heartache – and that is where the prayer of lament can help.
As Amy mentions, in her chapter on this way of praying, the four stages of lament from the Psalms are address, complaint, request and an expression of trust. But these four steps are more messy than linear; on any given day we might experience any of the four stages and perhaps may feel more than one at the same time. Life is a journey, with ups and downs, so we shouldn’t be surprised by this. At times we may face different, and sometimes multiple, complaints.
Although the world isn’t as God created it, and we suffer in our daily lives, God desires that we run to him with our cries of the heart. He doesn’t want us to press the mute button on our complaints. Because God is good and loves us unconditionally, he welcomes us to present them to him. We might find that as we encounter Jesus as a person and remember that he experienced human emotion, that we grow in a deeper level of faith in our Christian walk.
As we read in chapter five of 7 Ways to Pray:
We believe in a God who is both loving and almighty, one who could intervene if he desired. Perhaps he does – maybe he stops us from enduring a whole lot more pain than we do experience. We just don’t know how much he saves us from. Yet when we encounter grief and bereavement, we often wonder where God is in the midst of it, since we know he’s a good and loving Father. Has he abandoned us? Is he allowing this to happen – and if so, why? We may struggle to hear his voice and know that he’s near.
During these times, the biggest leap of faith we may have to take is to cry out to God. When we do, when we share with him our pain and confusion, our anguish and heartache, we worship him through lament. Instead of backing away from God in bewilderment, we come before him face-to-face, approaching him with our pain. We offer this act of love and sacrifice as a prayer.
Perhaps we think that lamenting shouldn’t be called prayer, for the word means ‘to complain, grumble, question and protest’. But the Bible is filled with lament. God’s people don’t shy away from complaining before him, as we see especially in the books of Job, Lamentations and the Psalms (and note the obvious reminder of lament in the very name of the book: Lamentations). God welcomes our cries and doesn’t tell us off for expressing our pain. We, in contrast, might have to give ourselves permission to let it out.
Either take some time to work through the practice of lament individually and then reconvene as a group or engage in one of the exercises in the book. We recommend the exercise ‘Praying with the Psalms’ starting on page 93, where you are guided through the four stages. How was the experience for you – how did God meet you? How did you respond? What surprised you? Receive the offerings without judgement but with gratitude.
This week, ponder and pray through whichever stage of lament you may be experiencing, spending time with God in this moment.