Prayer Requests and Learning How to Pray

Pouring Out Your Heart in Lament to God

Pouring Out Your Heart in Lament to God

“It seems to me that we do not need to be taught how to lament since we have so many models in Scripture. What we need is simply the assurance that it’s okay to lament. We all carry deep within ourselves a pressurized reservoir of tears. It takes only the right key at the right time to unlock them. In God’s perfect time, these tears can be released to form a healing flood. That’s the beauty and the mystery of the prayer of lament.” - Michael Card

Dear intercessors,

Did you know that even in sadness you can worship God in prayer? 

You can worship Him in the midst of difficulty through a prayer of lament. There are many of these kinds of prayers in Scripture. All the major Bible characters poured their hearts out to God in lament. This is a type of prayer that we rarely hear about, yet at times, it is a necessary part of each one of our prayer lives.

When experiencing the dark night of the soul, prayers of lament are so helpful. We live in a broken world where things do not always go right. There are times when we don’t know what God is doing or which way to turn. Bringing before God a prayer of lament can make all the difference in the world, because God actually changes us during these times when we pour out our hearts to Him.

Prayers of lament are a form of worship and faith. We worship God even in the midst of pouring our difficulty out before Him. Instead of backing away from God during a hard time or a dark night, we face the pain and worship Him with it. As an act of love, we offer it all to God. We lay everything before His Throne.

“Lamentation is a powerful, and meaningful, form of worship because it places our love for God above even the worst of circumstances in our life… God does not ask us to deny the existence of our suffering. He does want us to collect it, stand in those things and make Him an offering. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, helps us to do this: He aligns Himself with our will and says, 'I will help you to will to worship God.' The glory of the majesty of God is that He helps us will and do.” - Graham Cooke

The following is an example of a song of lament that has touched many of us throughout the years. The Spafford family lost everything they owned in a fire. Making plans to rebuild, they moved from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford carefully planned the trip from America to France and booked tickets on a huge ship for his wife and four daughters. He was planning to join them a few weeks later. On the voyage, the ship was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his wife and four daughters to the bottom of the ocean. All his plans suddenly were crushed. 

In grief and lament as his ship passed over the watery grave of his wife and four beloved daughters, he wrote this famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul”. Many of us know that hymn and have been touched deeply through the words expressed in every verse. Horatio Spafford knew the power of the prayer of lament in that instant. His words have helped multitudes face their own sorrows. 

He refused to let God go in the midst of difficulty and grief.

Prayers of lament may look like prayers of complaining, but they can still be prayers of faith, because this type of prayer refuses to let God go even in the hard times. God may seem absent, but He is not. Prayers of lament are honest before God and bring us face to face with Him as we try to understand what is going on in our heart. Job was one who prayed deep prayers of lament. He had lost everything—his family, friends, home, and health. Yet he wrestled through with God and clung to Him as he sought for meaning to his struggles. He held onto His faith in God and turned to Him with all his heart. He wanted to see God in the midst of his pain. Job did not let God go. He said:

I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eye—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! - (Job 19:25-27)

In the end God gave him back so much more. Job was able to see God in a far deeper way than before his trial. Not letting go and bringing our heart to God in the midst of pain is an act of faith. Well-known musician, Michael Card tells us how we can learn faith from Job’s prayer of lament: 

“Finally, we see in Job one of the most fundamental lessons we can learn from lament: that protesting and even accusing God through the prayers of lament is, nevertheless, an act of faith. The lament of faith does not deny the existence of God. Rather, it appeals to God on the basis of his loving kindness, in spite of current conditions that suggest otherwise. Job simply would not let go of God—in spite of death, disease, isolation, and ultimately, a fear that God had abandoned him.”

How to Write a Prayer of Lament

Habakkuk 3:17-18 is a well-known example of a prayer of lament. Habakkuk was living in difficult circumstances but through a prayer of lament, he was brought to a place of peace. In chapter one his prayer was prayed in frustration; he was asking God “how long” and “why” regarding his circumstances. He was not denying the existence of pain. He was bringing it before God. Perhaps the situation sounds similar to our day. 

“Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” - (Habakkuk 1:3-4). 

Through Habakkuk’s prayer of lament, God changed his heart. He didn’t immediately change his situation. God had directed his attention to His long-range plans and not the present circumstances he was facing. He told Habakkuk to wait and to live by faith. By the last chapter he prayed:

“LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” - (Habakkuk 3:2). 

Though his circumstances were difficult, God met with Habakkuk in his prayer and changed him on the inside. He began to see from a new perspective. He began to put his faith in God’s eternal hope, and his prayer of lament was a form of worship to God. In lamenting, you actually worship God with your sorrow. We read in Habakkuk 3:17-18

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

You may want to write down your own prayer of lament using the words “though” and “yet” to begin to phrase your lament. Do this when you are facing difficulty. Save this exercise in prayer for the hard moments in your life.

  • Find a quiet place with God - Being alone with Him is a necessity for this kind of prayer.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you - He will lead you in a prayer of lament. He will open up your heart to God.
  • Be in God’s presence - We are often so much in a hurry but a prayer of lament takes time spent in God’s presence. Give yourself wholly to God.
  • Write down the “though”circumstances in your life - What difficulties and challenges are you right now facing? What pain or grief do you feel? These are the “though” circumstances.
  • Offer these things to God - Offer God the hard things as a sacrifice. Don’t ask for anything.
  • Worship God by completing the phrase - “Though these things have happened, yet _________.”Worship God in a series of yet statements. Bless and praise Him even in spite of the difficult things.

I guarantee that this will have a great effect on your life. 

I had some very difficult moments in my life nine years ago. I was facing cancer, several surgeries, and a lengthy recovery. I learned that through pouring out my heart to God in prayers of lament, my heart was changed. I began to look at things in a much more positive light.

Praising God in the midst of difficulty is so powerful because God stands in the moment with us. The thing that I can testify during those moments of difficulty—when I brought my pain directly to God and walked with Him through it—was the reality that God was really there, and He gave me a deeper revelation of Himself.

Watch the following video and let it speak to your heart. See how this father lovingly sacrifices and cares for his beloved son. Know that Your Redeemer Lives and lovingly cares for you every moment in your pain.

“If you are in mourning, you have the opportunity to worship in the most powerful way possible: lamentation. This worship isn’t done in order to have God remove the pain. It simply recognizes that God stands in the moment with us. Lamentation elevates God in the presence of our enemies. It brings out a side of God that other forms of worship simply cannot touch.” - Graham Cooke

Together in the Harvest, 

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff