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Lamentation, A Spiritual Practice For The COVID-19 Crisis

Responding well to the Coronavirus demands spiritual resilience. Father Richard Rhor reminds us that one practice Christianity has developed over the centuries to nurture resilience is “lamentation.” Prayers of lamentation arise in us when we speak to God and one another about how stunned, sad, and silenced we are by the tragedy of human events, such as the COVID-19 Crisis.  

Noted preacher, writer, and theologian, Walter Brueggeman, points out that even though almost one third of the Psalms are psalms of “lament,” these have been the least used by Catholic and Protestant liturgies, readings, and sermons. Maybe because we think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, or show a lack of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving. We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5) and that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of “Lamentation.”

In this spiritual practice, Reverend Aaron Graham reflects on the elements found in prayers of lament. His words and the text of Psalm 22 are a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear. 

Lamentation As A Spiritual Practice

We need to be reminded that our cries are not too much for God. God laments with us. In fact, God wants us to come to His Divine Presence in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion.

Each lamenting Psalm has a structure;

  • They begin with a . . that things are not as they should be.
  • They turn to a request. God, do something! Rescue me! Heal me! Restore me! Show mercy!
  • Laments end with an expression of trust. Laments end with the reminder that God is setting things right, even though it often seems so slow. It is right for our laments to turn towards a reminder that God is in control and about the business of righting all things made wrong. [1]

Consider praying these words found in Psalm 22, or choose another passage of lament. Before you pray, ask God to speak to you.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:1-5). 

 

[1] Aaron Graham, “Lament,” An  American Lent Devotional, eds. Jacalyn Barnes, Amy Leonard, Robert Mackay, and Irma McKnight, 3rd ed. (Repentance Project: 2019), 12-13.

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Posted on May 5, 2020
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5