Fuller

Prayers for Workers:
Learning to Lament

May 15, 2020 • Life for Leaders

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
+++Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
+++and by night, but find no rest. . . .
But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid.

Psalm 22:1-2, 19 (NRSV)

Prelude:

If we believe that God wants to teach us to pray through the Psalms, then it’s clear God wants us to learn to lament. Though the biblical psalms reflect a wide variety of themes and genres, you can’t read these inspired prayers without encountering lament after lament after lament. The psalm writers felt freedom before God to be honest about all they thought and felt. At times they would rejoice with an abandon that few of us experience. Yet, at other times, the psalmists would pour out their sadness before the Lord, sharing freely their grief, their impatience, and even their anger.

Psalm 22 begins with one of the most familiar laments in all of Scripture. Why do we know it so well? Because Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his hour of deepest need, Jesus found borrowed words from this psalm in order to pour out his grief to his Heavenly Father. On the one hand, this encourages us to let the Psalms teach us to pray. On the other hand, the example of Jesus also underscores the freedom we have to share our laments with our Father in Heaven.

The following prayer is just one example of a work-related lament. If this prayer does not express your own situation and feelings, I urge you to feel free to offer to the Lord in your own words what you need to say. And, if you happen to be in a very positive season at work, perhaps you can lift up a prayer of lament on behalf of someone you know who’s going through a difficult time.

Prayer:

God, it’s been tough at work recently. I feel so tired, so discouraged. It seems like I’ve been working harder than ever, but my best efforts are ignored by my boss and my colleagues. I can do a hundred things right and hear nothing. But one mistake, just one mistake, and I hear all about it. I feel battered down. I worry that I might lose my job. And then there’s part of me that wants to quit.

But here’s what’s really bothering me, Lord. I have prayed about this before. I have asked for your help, again and again. Have you even heard me? And if you have, do you even care?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” My faith tells me you haven’t actually forsaken me. I want to believe that. But if you are still with me, why are things so bad?

“Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” Often it’s worse when I awaken in the middle of the night. I cry out to you but feel no relief. My fears rise up, empowered by the darkness. My prayers plunge, weighed down by doubt.

But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid. In you I put my trust. Amen.

Ponder Throughout the Day:

God invites you to approach his throne of grace with boldness, saying whatever you need to say. You will find mercy and grace to help in times of need (Hebrews 4:16).


Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling Archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: The Tension of Faithful Prayer


6 thoughts on “Prayers for Workers:
Learning to Lament

  1. Rick Lee says:

    That’s right where I seem to be right now. I want to make the right choice and reply in the right spirit. I want to know what that is ,and make the right decision without offending

    What timely words for me! Thanks

  2. Anne Huffman says:

    Mark, the laments are so important to me. I learned one third of the Psalms are laments in a class with Leslie Allen at Fuller in 1987. Just several years later our oldest daughter, Suzanne, was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. She was given a 95% chance of total cure. She died 18 months later. Needless to say, I lamented loudly for a very long time. Being in that class gave me the permission to LAMENT without guilt. The laments gave voice to my agony. Psalm 13 was the one I chose for my paper in Dr. Allen’s class. God was preparing me for what was ahead.

    • Mark Roberts says:

      Thanks, Anne, for your comment. Oh my, I expect you did lament, again and again. Probably still do, since you’ll never stop missing Suzanne.

  3. Russ Gehrlein says:

    Dr. Roberts,

    This one hit close to home this week. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *