Learning How to Pray a Psalm of Lament
We’re going to learn together how to pray a psalm of lament. We’ll start with the first Psalm of Lament, which is Psalm 3. This is an individual (rather than a community) lament. In a classic lament, there are three parts:
- The lament - the honest complaint or cry of your sorrowing, fearful heart
- The remembrance - the remembrance of God’s goodness in the past. The Spirit brings to the psalmist remembrance of God’s faithfulness to Israel, or to him or her as an individual. The Spirit also brings remembrance of God’s character. The Spirit does not explain the why of the circumstances, but instead explains the heart of God.
- The prayer - based now on faith in God. This part is also known as the resolve (based on faith in God).
Now, try it for yourself:
- Find the three parts of the classic lament in Psalm 3. Which verses correspond with each of the three parts? My prayer journal entries from the close of Chapter 1 of The God of All Comfort basically shows just Part I of the lament. Find a few examples of your own. Pour out your sorrowing or fearful heart. Do it for God. If you are not in a time of pain, pray for those who are.
- Now--and this is crucial--warm your heart at the fire of God’s love by meditating on Part II, the part where the psalmist remembers the heart of God. If one of the verses sparks something in you, then God has spoken to you. Stay there, meditating, warming yourself, letting your heart catch fire.
- Write your request, or resolve, if you can, as in Part III. Don’t hurry. Meditation takes time. Your heart may not be quickened at all, or it may not be quickened until days later—but keep meditating, asking God to dialogue with You. You see, prayer is—in part—pouring out your heart. The Psalms allow prayer to be a two-way conversation...a dialogue.
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