Personal Reflections on Prayer
- Meditation: Who is God? What has God said? What has God done? What will God do?
- Praise – Thanks
How to write your own Psalm of Lament
Lamentation, a prayer for help coming out of pain, is very common in the Bible. When we hurt physically, we cry out in pain; when we hurt religiously, we cry out in lament. A Psalm of Lament is an address to God: a complaint, a request, and usually an expression of trust. Types of complaints include: concerns with the psalmists own thoughts and actions, concerns with the actions of an enemy or prevailing attitude, and concerns with God’s action or inaction. They are cries of despair, anger, protest and doubt. They are the largest class of psalms and were a normal part of Israel’s praise and worship. There are communal psalms of lament and individual ones.
They follow this general structure:
- Address and introductory cry: Identify the Lord as the person to whom the Psalm is addressed.
- Complaint or Lament : Articulate the problem and ask the Lord for help.
- Confession of Trust: Verbalize your trust in the Lord.
- Prayer for Deliverance: Request deliverance, or God’s intervention in the problem.
- Praise: Offer praise and thanksgiving to God for God’s many blessings.
Address and introductory cry
1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
Complaint or Lament
2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Confession of Trust
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
Prayer for Deliverance
4 Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.
6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us.
7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Individual psalms of Lament include: 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142.
Corporate psalms of Lament include: 12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 89, 90, 94, 123, 126, 129.
Take some time and reflect on how the last week (or a time frame of your choice) has been for you. Make note of the predominant emotions you have been feeling during this time, in particular the more negative ones. Reflect on a particular situation or recurring theme that you know has been causing you distress, pain or anxiety and that you feel is beyond your control. Imagine that God is with you and that He has given you complete freedom to lay it all out, to complain fearlessly without judgment, in order to get it all off your chest.
With a piece of paper and pen, invite God’s presence and follow the steps outlined below.
- Address and introductory cry: Identify the Lord as the person to whom you are addressing your complaint. Request for His presence as you express what is on your heart.
- Complaint or Lament: Articulate the problem you are wrestling with. Detail how it is affecting you, the pain it is causing, and ask the Lord for His help.
- Confession of Trust: Verbalize your trust in the Lord. Share your hopes that He will come to your aid, that He will be present with you in your situation.
- Prayer for Deliverance: Request deliverance, or God’s intervention in the problem.
- Praise: Offer praise and thanksgiving to God for God’s many blessings and faithfulness.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, May you be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”
[Mark 5:34 NASB]
23 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 24 The LORD bless you, and keep you; 25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ 27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.”
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
2. …….You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 5:13-15 NASB
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray.
Pray in times of trouble. The kind of trouble is not specified; it is a general verb, kakopatheo. “Is anyone among you suffering?” (NASB). Trouble is the very time to pray.
James 5:13-15 NASB
Is anyone cheerful?
He is to sing praises.
Pray in times of happiness. No single cause for happiness is specified; it is a general verb, euthymeo. “Is anyone cheerful” or encouraged? Happiness is the very time to sing songs of praise.
James 5:13-15 NASB
14 Is anyone among you sick?
Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;
Pray in times of sickness. No particular disease is identified; it is a general verb, astheneo, meaning to be weak or sick. In the context it seems this is an illness that has been caused by a chastisement for sin.
The Anointing of oil was a common medical treatment for illness.
James 5:13-15 NASB
15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
Why Pray For No Rain?
23 “The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron.
24 “The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.
So Effective Prayer is ….
In all circumstances as we seek in meditation upon the scriptures to understand what God is doing and asking for the wisdom to see the kingdom of God in Messiah Jesus come to the earth due to a hunger and thirst to see God’s will done.
Prayer is ……
A very honest and passionate conversation with God guided by faith in the gospel
9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
[Mat 6:9-12 NASB]
14 These all continued with one accord in the prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. [Acts 1:14 KJV]
A Prayer for Daily Examination and Process Before God
Finding God in all things
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (1Corinthians 10:31 ISV)
We should strive to experience, see, feel, and hear God in every aspect of our lives and every all things that we encounter in this life. We live in a God rich environment. By becoming aware of God’s working and presence in your life then it becomes easier to align ourselves to God’s will for our lives and to understand what God is doing in our lives.
By taking time to become aware of God in our lives this will open our souls to more fully be able to see, love, and follow what the Lord is doing.
Set aside time to do this process once a day.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
May your name, be honored.
May your Kingdom, come.
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give your people this day our physical and financial needs.
Give your people this day forgiveness for their lack of love as you make them forgivers of others who fail to love them.
Do no lead us into those places where our faith may fail, unless absolutely necessary to do your will.
Rescue us and protect us from the dark and powerful institutional powers who are dedicated to destroying, lying, and killing your people. Save us from the evil fallen angelic lord and his followers. Amen
Prayer for Awareness and Presence
Good, great, and full of grace LORD God,
I trust in your will and the best I can, now submit to it.
Let me be open to your presence in my life.
Let me see it, feel it, and hear it.
May I be aware that you are with me every moment of every day.
Grant me the wisdom to see that you are assisting me in every good action.
I ask this because you love me in the Lord Messiah Jesus.
Still yourself before God
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (Psalm 46:10-11 ESV)
Relax and feel attentive and open to the Lord
Examine your life before the Lord.
- Recall you are in God’s presence. Take a deep breath. Be totally quiet in your mind and outwardly for one minute.
- Review the last 24 hours in your mind generally and look for things that you could find that you could give thanks to God.
- What gifts did you receive from Gods’ creation this day?
- What gifts did you receive from God’s redemption in Christ today?
- What gifts did God provide through people to you today?
- What gifts did God provide through circumstances today?
- What gifts did God allow you to give to others today?
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your life clearly and how you have responded to God’s working in your life in the last 24 hours.
- Remember there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill, control, and comfort you.
- Review your day in depth
- Take note of the whole dayNotice the detailsNotice the contextNotice how you acted and the words you saidNotice your motives for acting and speakingNotice your feelings
- Take note where you failed to love as you should have loved
- When did you fail to love God?When did you fail to love other people?When did you not do your best?When did you feel out of touch with God’s presence?
- Take note of when you succeeded by loving as you should loveWhen did you love God?When did you love others?When did you do your best?When did you feel in touch with God’s presence?
- Take note of habits and life patternsWhat habits are hurting my efforts to love?What habits are helping my efforts to love?What in my lifestyle helps me grow in faith?What in my lifestyle hinders me from growing in faith?
- Take note of the positive and negativeHow was I helped by others today?How was I hurt by others today?How did I help others today?How did I hurt others today?What circumstances gave me pleasure today?What circumstances gave me pain today?
- Take note of special forms of God’s presence
Reconcile and Resolve
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1John 1:7-10 ESV)
- Confess to God where you failed to love as you ought to have loved. Be specific.
- Ask God for repentance concerning this lack of love.
- Receive God’s forgiveness for this lack of love based on the sacrifice of Christ Jesus for you.
- Talk to the Lord Jesus about your day like you would a friend over a cup of coffee.
- Ask HIM how he would have handled things different than how you handled them.
- Thank HIM for the good that HE produced through you.
- Feel sorrow over sin, gratitude over forgiveness, and hope in seeing that God is using you despite your failures.
The Seven Rs and Seven Kingdom Prayers
Spend two minutes in silence before the presence of the Living Christ and ask HIM to reveal himself to you.
- Request the Seven Kingdom Prayer
- Give me good soil in my heart that I may bear your fruit (Matthew 13:23).
- Give me the gift of faith to believe in Lord Jesus as a true disciple (Romans 10:17).
- Give me a changed renewed mind that can think Jesus’ thoughts after HIM and reject the thoughts of the unbelieving culture in which I was raised (Romans 12:1-3)
- Let not my will but YOUR will be done in my life. (Luke 22:42)
- Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I may be controlled by the Holy Spirit and filled with divine love through HIM (Romans 5:1-5; Ephesians 5:17-21)
- Let me abide in the Vine Jesus as a branch and bear much fruit. (John 15:1-8)
- Deliver me from the evil one, the world, and my own unbelief. Defeat the purpose of the devil in my life. (Matthew 6:13)
- Review the last twenty-four hours.
- What good did the Lord bring into your life and what good did you bring to the lives of others?
- What bad things happened in your life? How did you see the Lord working even through loss, pain, abuse, and suffering?
- What ugly actions, words, or attitudes did you have in the last twenty-four hours. Where did you hurt or sin against others?
- Where did you most see God active in the last twenty-four hours? Did God disappoint you today in some way? What questions do you have for God? What praise could you give God.
3. Repent – Confess to God the ugly things you have done, accept his forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and seek to turn away from these sins. Ask yourself, “Why did I do this?” or “What caused me to act this way”. Confess these root attitudes as well as the actual sin. (1 John 1:8-10)
4. Rejoice – Look at the good you received as the gift of God to you through others and the good you did to others as the life of Christ being released through you. Praise God for HIS blessing you in these ways,
5. Release – Cast all your cares of the day upon the Lord for the LORD Jesus cares for you and loves you. Look to the day coming up and give it to God, surrendering each event and saying, “not my will but your will be done.” (1 Peter 5:7; James 4:15)
6. Read – Take time to meditate upon a paragraph of scripture, a portion of a psalm, or some short segment that you can deeply meditate upon.
1. Read it out loud and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the passage.
2. Paraphrase the scripture in your own words and read this out loud. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through this passage.
3. What is God specifically saying to you in this passage today? What words or phrases most strike you? Put your name in the passage and read it with your name put into the verse so that God is speaking to you. Pray the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word.
4. Read the passage out loud and ask the Lord how you are to apply it. Write out the application. Commit this to God in prayer.
7. Rest in the Lord – Sing a song to the Lord and just be with HIM for a time. End in at least two minutes of silence open to be led by the Lord’s Spirit.
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Make the subject: My thoughts about the one essential thing
The Lament Prayer: Being Honest and Raw Before God
Psalms: Tools to manage your life – Notes by Rev. Bret Widman
Presented as a learning experience at the Feast, 2011
Believe: Important. However, we’re told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Telling someone to believe more when they are suffering, or worse yet, to believe certain things when they’re suffering is counter productive. Speaking to their heads when their hearts are breaking can damage their heart, soul, and strength.
Psalms help manage our lives wholistically. But they are poetry so they are not written to inform us about God. We don’t study the Psalms. They reflect people that are honest before God. Thus, they unlock doors in our hearts/souls if we know how to utilize them.
Songs: must be interpreted as Psalms. Have been sung for hundreds/thousands of years.
A conversation with God that’s direct, intense, intimate, and above all, honest.
To some this is scary; intimidating. Keep our relationship with God about belief/doctrine and keep our hearts, and what lurks in them, at a distance with God.
7 Kinds according to Tremper Longmann III.
Trust & Confidence
Most of our current songs, in this particular time in church history, are Hymns and Trust/Confidence. Whereas ¾ of all the Psalms are Laments. Entire book dedicated to lamenting. Lamentations.
John Eldridge: The Sacred Romance. Wonderfully wooed & fearfully stalked
Loving relationships…wonderfully wooed
At peace…wonderfully wooed
People are on varying degrees of this and it doesn’t compute. Some know more of the woo and some experience more of the stalking.
Psalms give voice to all these experiences. We sing what we feel. Songs that make us feel good. But what “music” do we listen to when we feel not so good? When heart is broken and spirit crushed and we’re walking numb through life/pain?
Invocation: Addressing God.
Plea for God to help: Crying out to Source
Complaints: What is causing heart to be distressed
Confession of Sin or Assertion of Innocence: Confession of Sin…did we DO something wrong to deserve this?! Or NO! No wrong doing deserves this!!! I.E. Rape
Curse of enemies: Demanding of justice to those who have harmed heart/soul/body/innocents (i.e. children)
Confidence in God’s response: Because the Psalmist knows the character of God, IN LIGHT OF PRESENT REALITIES, there is confidence that God will do something. He has always done something in the past/will be faithful even with this situation.
Hymn or Blessing: “Because you are worthy, good, faithful…” Praise at the end.
First clip of Forest Gump. Pain/Redemption. In essence we do the beginning and the end. Rarely we are given permission to dive into the middle pieces. The Assertion of Innocence and/or Cursing enemies (even God?) Give the background to this piece.
How’d this happen? Where’s the middle? Show next clip…THIS is a lament Psalm!
I know the plans I have for you…Jeremiah 29:11…is NOT in the context of suffering. This passage is about hope but many times is interpreted as God planning suffering. WRONG interpretation of this verse. We use it hoping it will help, but it many times causes further pain/suffering when people are stuffing. We need to take them to different passages…the Lament Psalms!
Psalm 88. Raw. Only Lament Psalm that DOESN’T end in a hymn of praise. “Unfinished Lament Psalm?” Or perhaps the Lord knows that sometimes we can’t see hope at the end of our suffering and this Psalm is the lone one to give words/voice to that feeling.
Process. What are you feeling/thinking? Those 2 things are very different. I’d like you to stay in your “feeling” mode.
Reflection Questions: Go through each one.
My hope: Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote a biblical articles titled, “The Costly Loss of Lament.” In it he says the reason that we can lament is that when God created a covenant with us, God made us partners. Both sides have responsibilities and things they must uphold. Without lament, our interaction with God is reduced only to praise and celebration. God is then surrounded by yes-men and yes-women. The contemporary Church is one that has lost the discipline of lament and it has hurt us. What happens then if life is not praise-worthy or events that cause us turmoil should not be celebrated? Should we celebrate cancer? Should we praise earthquakes? Without lament we have no way of being honest before God when bad things happen. And the God we see in the Bible wants us to be honest. We have a God looking for covenant partners. Brueggemann says when we pray laments, we are not denying God or God’s power. Rather, “[T]he lament makes an assertion about God: that this dangerous, available God matters in every dimension of life.” Think about the name God gave the people of the Covenant. God named them Israel. In Hebrew, Israel means, “contends with God,” “struggles with God,” “wrestles with God.” If the people of God are not actively wrestling with the Lord, they are not living up to their name. Friends, when you lament to God, when you struggle with Lord, when you ask your hard questions, you are living as one of God’s people. You are actually displaying faith when you wrestle.
Benediction: As you leave this space, this Holy Space, may you have the courage, and the invitation, to wrestle with God and give permission to others who are wrestling as well.
Psalms: Tools to manage your life.
Notes by Rev. Bret Widman
Presented as a learning experience at the Feast, 2011
Bret Widman is the lead pastor at River Life Covenant Church in Sacramento, California. He has served at various Covenant churches and taught at Covenant Bible College in Canada. He and his wife, Janine,