“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
A particularly gutsy form of prayer is the Hebrew lament. With the influence of Greek (that would be us.. You and me) thinking on the church, we’ve almost completely lost this form of praying. The Greek mind wanted to keep emotions in check, since they get us into trouble. They wanted stability. In contrast, the Jewish mind reacted to the instability of the world with deeply felt emotional praying. A lament is a powerful, in-your-face, prayer that won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
For example, the Psalmist cries out, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps 10:1). Or, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Ps 13:1). Praying like this feels uncomfortable, as if we are not respecting God. I know I’ve been uncomfortable with such prayers. My husband once had me listening to a certain song by Trip Lee (can’t remember the name of the song) that got me mad. I was like, “Apana, this guy can’t be talking like this to God. He can’t be saying such things!” Over time, though, God has had me see that He takes no offence at such questions (although He seems to have taken offence at Job’s questions/attitude. I want to bridge the gap, see what the difference is, and see where this Trip Lee’s song falls)
Suffice it to say, though, that we find such questions strewn all over the Psalms and the prophets. I see it with Habakkuk, the prophet, who is thoroughly confused by what was happening around him at the time. Even Jesus prayed a lament on the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)
Though appearing disrespectful, a lament is actually filled with faith (maybe that’s the difference I’m looking for). It takes seriously the mismatch between God’s promise and some aspect of the brokenness of this world. Instead of suppressing the dissonance between hope and reality, it transforms it into a prayer. Rather than being afraid of our passion, we can direct it in prayer to God.
That’s what Hannah did when she poured out her heart at the tabernacle. When Eli the priest saw her, he felt uncomfortable. She looked drunk. Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” (1 Sam 1:15). Maybe you have a loved one who has walked away from the Lord. Or has refused to come to Him at all. Don’t shut down the ache that you feel. Pour out your heart to God like Hannah. And keep pouring it out. Don’t let go until He blesses you (Gen 32:26).
Image source: Malek, M. (2021, February 21). Pour Out Your Heart | Daily Devotional | Inspiration Ministries. Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/818881144748918608/