Reimagining lament

We need to learn again how to lament. We need to lament our own sorrows, the sorrows of the church and the sorrows of the world. We are bombarded with bad news every day. No one gets through life unscarred, and every family has its sorrows.

We need to distinguish between repentance for sin and lament. A general response of sorrow and grief will cloud a vital distinction between the two. We should repent of our sins: but we should not feel guilty about everything that goes wrong in the world.

I recently led the Intercessions at St Jude’s my home church. I decided to lead in lament, and then in intercession.

Hannah,’ I was pouring out my soul to the LORD’ 1 Sam 1:15

Let us pour out our souls to the LORD as we pray together, praying in the name of the Lord Jesus, praying prompted by Holy Spirit, and praying to our loving heavenly Father.

We pour out our souls in grief and lament for this world. We grieve with all who are oppressed, all caught up in war, famine or drought, all suffering under totalitarian, corrupt or incompetent leaders, all who are homeless or hopeless, all who are lonely, all who are sick in body or in mind, all who are bereaved, and all who live without Christ. We grieve at these human tragedies, at the suffering of individuals, societies, nations, and the world. We lament that so often those in power do not act effectively to end war, end oppression and corruption, care for those who vulnerable and in need, and bring justice health and hope to all. We grieve too when your church in any place is corrupt, confused, sinful, selfish, self-satisfied, abusive, or alienated from the society in which you have placed it. We lament our own personal wasted opportunities, failed relationships, our sins, mistakes, and weaknesses.

We thank and praise you that in the midst of all this, you are a gracious and powerful God, and that we can turn to you, pray to you and hope in you. We pour out our souls to you in prayer, asking you to act in justice and mercy in this world. Bring down tyrants, oppressors, and corrupt leaders. Protect and rescue those in any kind of distress or need. Raise up wise and good leaders in every nation, and frustrate the plans of those who plot evil. Bring justice and peace to this world. Make the gospel of Jesus Christ known in every place, and bring many to trust and follow him. We pour out our hearts to you in prayer for your church, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, your people, redeemed by the blood of your Son. May your people in every place know your power, grace, forgiveness, compassion and kindness. May they serve you, serve each other, and serve their communities with wisdom, grace, and love, We pray especially for our own church, St Jude’s, that you would make us holy by your truth, and protect us from the evil one.

We pray for our Mission partners Andrew and Claire Livingstone, working with the Church Missionary Society and Ridley College here in Melbourne. Enrich their lives, bring them to maturity in Christ, and use their prayers and their ministry for your glory.

And gracious Father, we pour out our prayers for every member of St Jude’s, young and old, in all our congregations, that you would make us people of strong faith, persistent love, and constant hope. Help each of us, to follow Jesus, to rejoice in his death and resurrection, to be filled with Holy Spirit, to live for your glory, and to count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Enrich our fellowship, use our daily lives at home, at kinder, school or university or at work for your glory, and bring us safely home to you for eternity.

Lord’s Prayer

We will often have occasion to comfort people who need to lament, for many good reasons. Encourage them to bring their laments to God, and find his compassion and comfort. You will of course then assure them from the Bible of God’s compassion and comfort, and pray that they will know and experience God’s kindness.

In some cases, a more formal service may be useful. Here is one I made up for someone who needed it. I encouraged her to make a list of her major griefs to use in the service. And I gave her a copy of the service beforehand, and discussed it with her.

A service of personal lament


In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Hannah said, ‘I was pouring out my soul to the LORD … I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief’. 1 Samuel 1:15.16.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8.

Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. Psalm 5:1,2.

Cast your burdens on the LORD, and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4.

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matt 11:28-30.


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God’?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. Psalm 42:1-3,5-7,11.


I now encourage you to pour out your heart to God, to lament your sadnesses and sorrows, your frustrations and regrets, your agony, anger, exasperation, despair, grief and pain; confident in Christ’s constant love, acceptance, sympathy, and healing power, and God’s deep and endless compassion, comfort and consolation.


Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.

Heavenly Father, I pour out my heart to you now, trusting your constant compassion and kindness. In particular, I unburden myself of these griefs and distresses before to you and before you



Lord Jesus, man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, our merciful high priest and faithful saviour, receive these laments, sorrows, and tears, and bring your comfort and strength to your friend who mourns.

Gracious father of mercy and God of all comfort and compassion, comfort you in your afflictions, relieve your distresses, heal your memories, and bring you consolation and hope.

Holy Spirit, pour the love God into your heart, heal your pain and injuries in his good time, restore the joy of your salvation, and constantly increase your faith, trust, hope, and love.

Gracious God, sustain us with constant hope of that day when Christ returns, and in the new heavens and new earth, where you live among your people, you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Come, Lord Jesus.



Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 4:23,24.[1]

Peter Adam

  1. See more resources on prayer and ministry at