Katelyn Paxson, LMSW, Living Well Counseling

For so much of my life, I thought that I had to have prayers that sounded put together. Prayers needed to have a “grin and bear it” mentality that made it seem as though everything would be okay, even when things felt like they were falling apart. At times, I tried to hide from God that I was falling apart on the inside. 

Today, as I have grown in my walk in Christ, in my own life circumstances, and as a mental health therapist, I know that prayer often feels like empty words when we feel as if we are not able to express our true pain. 

When doctors confirm a diagnosis, when the church hurts, when one mourns the pain and sin of this world, when one loses a loved one, when grief is overwhelming, when the heavy feelings of depression or anxiety speak into one’s mind, then, anger and sadness can flood the soul. 

How do we express to God genuinely, humbly the way that we feel? The answer is lament. 

What is lament? 

Lament is the act of a “passionate expression of pain and sorrow.” John Mark Comer, author of the book Practicing the Way, explains that the practice of lamenting is “talking with God about what is evil in your life and world.” Lament is found all through scripture, and nearly two-thirds of the Psalms are written as songs of lament, not to mention the entire book of Lamentations, where lament is the central theme. 

Even Jesus modeled lament. Jesus laments over Jerusalem’s sin in Matthew 23:37-39. On the cross He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), which was a reference to a lament in Psalm 22. Jesus shows us that expressing our emotional pain with the Lord is a healthy act of a spiritually healthy person. He shows us that it is okay to express our pain to the Lord. 

Why is lament good? 

Lament is an emotionally and spiritually healthy way of processing your emotions, life, and world with God, rather than to others, or bottling them to ourselves. Our good Father, whom scripture says, “understands [our] thoughts from far away” (Ps 139:2, CSB) knows, and wants to hear our thoughts and emotions. Psalm 56:8 states that He “puts [our] tears in His bottle.” When we do not tell the Lord about our pain and suffering in this world, it can grow into bitterness towards Him, or harden us towards life. 

God wants to hear about our pain as a parent with a child. When the world tells us to turn away from God in the midst of pain, He hears our pain and draws us close to Him, and He reminds us of His hope and promises. 

“Lament is a cry of belief in a good God. A good who has set his ear to our hearts. A God who transfigures the ugly into beauty.” -Ann Voskamp 

How do we lament? 

The Lord shows us through the scriptures how to lament well. The book of Psalms is a beautiful example of how to lament, according to David. We will use Psalm 6 for this example: 

  • Turn to God. 
  • Lamenting is not turning to our circumstance, our spouse, or our emotions. The prayer of lament is turned to God in pain. “Be gracious to me Lord, for I am weak (Psalm 6:2).” Call Him by name and direct your prayers toward Him. He can and will hear you and your pain. 
  • Tell Him your feelings.
  • “I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my bed and drench my couch every night. My eyes are swollen with grief” (Psalm 6:6-7). David shows us that even though the Lord knows our thoughts and feelings, He wants to hear us tell Him the way that we feel. The writer of the psalms does not shy away from telling God the messy, ugly, painful truth; he expresses his pain vulnerably to the Lord. 
  • Ask for God to hear and respond.
  • “Turn O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (6:4)” Part of the cry of lamenting is a plea for the Lord to hear and respond to you. Here in this Psalm, David is asking for the Lord to deliver his life from the situation that he is currently in. 
  • Respond in trust and worship 
  • Despite his circumstances, David chose to respond to the Lord in trust, not in his own emotions. He worships God based on the promises that he knows and remembers the truths of what God has done before. “The Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea for help, he has accepted my prayer…” (Psalm 6:8-9). Dwell on who He is, His character and promises which are unchanging in our circumstances.  

Final thoughts 

Lament is a beautiful gift from God to His children, because scripture states that His children are able to approach the throne with boldness (Hebrews 4:16) and accept grace and mercy when they need it. Because we are a part of the family of God through salvation, lament is a way that we can come to the Lord in the midst of our pain. He wants to hear our hurt and be near to us. 

So, lament through praying the Psalms, Lamentations or other words of Scripture for guidance. Pray through your own lamenting prayers, say it out loud, don’t hold back. He will hear your prayers in the midst of pain. 

Resources & lamenting prayers

Practicing the Way by John Mark Comer

Dark clouds, Deep mercy by Mark Vroegop Suffering by Paul David Tripp 

Psalm 6. 13, 10, 42, 44, 60 

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One Response

  1. Katelyn, thank you so much for educating me on lamenting. I knew very little, but now I have the understanding and the freedom to lament.

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