Psalms of Lament – Guest Post by Leslie Holdegraver

Preached on Psalm 69 and the importance of praying and singing the Psalms of Lament in our Greatest Hits series yesterday at Genesis.  I was blessed to read this post written by Leslie Holdegraver after the service and asked her permission to share it on the Genesis Blog today.  Excellent thoughts on writing your own laments.

lament  /ləˈment/  noun: a passionate expression of grief and sorrow.

As we have continued to study the Psalms on Sunday mornings at church, today we hit on some of the most meaningful Psalms in my life: the Psalms of Lament.

Being able to pour out honest emotions to God is healing and hopeful.

Sometimes that sounds a little crazy to me.  I don’t exactly wear my emotions on my sleeve.  I tend to live life with a pretty even demeanor.  If you see tears leaking from my eyes, it’s usually due to a fairly extreme circumstance or I’m feeling like I’m at the end of my rope.  That doesn’t mean that varying emotions aren’t there on a regular basis; I just tend to keep them to myself.

Sometimes that’s dangerous.  Sometimes that leads to depression.  It can also lead to isolation when we struggle to be real with others, among other things.

Turning to the Psalms helps this poetry-loving writer process feelings and heartache. Reading the Psalms and praying through them connects my heart and brain and helps me refocus on Christ, but learning how to write prayers of lament has been a game changer in my prayer life.

About a year ago I was fortunate enough to attend a Trauma Healing Institute workshop where the attendees were taught how to facilitate Bible studies to help bring healing from trauma.  In this workshop, we were working through the activities as if we were taking the class.  One of the activities was to write a prayer of lament.

The only common denominator in a lament Psalm or prayer is the complaint (“How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Psalm 13:2), but they can have the following seven parts:

  • Address to God (“O God”)
  • Review of God’s faithfulness in the past
  • A complaint
  • A confession of sin or claim of innocence
  • A request for help
  • God’s response (often not stated)
  • A vow to praise, statement of trust in God
The first time I wrote my own prayer of lament it took me a couple of minutes to start.  Where to begin? Honestly, it started out a little stilted.  However, once I allowed myself to start talking to God about what I was dealing with, the words flowed.  Quickly and at great length.
It amazed me how this little exercise changed my perspective.  It didn’t change my circumstances, but it altered my thoughts about what had happened and allowed me to rest in the Lord and his greatness.
The good news is that writing a prayer or song of lament doesn’t require great writing ability.  It merely requires a complaint or problem and a desire to tell God.
Ok…be real.  We all have plenty of complaints or problems.  Pick one and give it a go.  Choose a few of the bullet points above and start writing.
Having the Psalms as part of God’s word reminds me that every one of us has joys and sorrows, and it is part of growing in our relationship with Jesus to express those in praise and worship.
And yes, even in lamenting about the parts of life that seem so hopeless.

One Response to “Psalms of Lament – Guest Post by Leslie Holdegraver”

  1. Mike S says:

    Awesome Leslie! And thank you for showing us easy application 😊