the unique language of lament
Lament Around 1/3 of all Psalms are sung prayers of lament written for community worship The Jeremiah collection contains 6 laments and elements of many others The book of Lamentations contains 5 poems of lament (4 are acrostic) Laments are found in Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel and in Revelation Jeremiah is perhaps our best guide.
What is a lament? A lament is a prayer expressing profound distress or pain usually at some event of loss or destruction. It is directed to God in the form of a question or complaint – but it is not disrespectful or faithless. It takes pain seriously and also takes God seriously and tries to find a pathway between the two when it appears there isn't one.
Lament is born out of silence Extreme pain is an alienating experience, it cuts a person off from others. Pain is often carried in silence. Pain and suffering when extreme, take people over, there is no room for anything or anyone else. And there are simply no words for some experiences. Much of Jesus' experience on the cross was carried in silence.
Friends in the dark Sometimes the only thing we can do for each other in times of deep pain is to “be there”. It is not helpful to seek to push others to turn their pain into words until the time is right. When the time is right, it does help to have ways to talk, ways to express things, and a community in which to share the pain.
Shaping suffering into speech Lament is much more than raging, blaming, letting it all out (a catharsis). Neither is it dismissive of pain through simplistic platitudes of reassurance Lament is an action of the faithful, not the faithless, in that the call is to the God who makes covenants of faith. It brings the brokenness of human experience into the heart of God and demands that God respond.
Shaping suffering into speech Lament is usually communal prayer Lament actually assists us deal with pain and suffering because it gives language, structure and shape to its expression. It tells us what is appropriate and what is not. Laments are composed and this takes time Many of the lament psalms have been used in times of deep distress
The Structure of Lament Call to God (Usually second person) Complaint or description of distress often in question form Expression of trust, submission to God Plea for help and assistance
____________________________ Assurance of being heard, relinquishment Vow of praise Praise and thanksgiving
The Structure of Lament Calling upon God Naming our distress, asking our question, making our complaint Expression of trust in the character of God Appeal or petition for help Expression of faith in God's answer Vow of praise
Our relationship with God needs to be close and robust enough to carry the weight of unexplained pain and suffering. We need appropriate forms of expressing this both personally and communally – lament is one of these. There is a place for lament in Christian worship especially within the context of small groups who know and care for each other.