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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The challenge of lament

Without praying psalms of lament, we miss crucial words God speaks to us

Psalms of lament invite expression of our deepest feelings and experiences to God as honest prayers. They also express deepest trust in God, taking divine promises seriously. They are primal cries to God: How long will you forget me? Why did this happen? When will you do something? Why did this happen given your loving promises to us, O Lord?

While we should welcome opportunities and words that invite such honesty and intimacy before God, we often recoil. There are three major reasons for our reluctance to pray the lament psalms. The laments often call for God’s judgments on our enemies and those who trouble us, a subject with which we are uncomfortable. Second, the laments move from lament to praise, while our normal prayer rhythm moves from confession to praise. Finally, the laments can sound like complaining to God or attempts to test and control God.


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