Prayers4Peace: Lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith.

Lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith.

By: John Paarlberg, Regional Coordinator with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP).

We gathered in front of our Congressman’s district office in preparation for a “die-in.” After a few opening remarks we lay down in the street, covered ourselves with white sheets and remained silent, while for more than an hour the names and ages of many of those killed in the recent violence were read aloud: “Ahmed Hussein Ahmed Al-Astal, age 12; Joan Yahya Youssef Al-Astal, age 4; Maha Ramez Amin Hassouna, age 18; Safa Suleiman Salman Al-Najjar, one year old…..”

The mood was solemn. Several times those reading the names had to pause to compose themselves. Many of us shed tears. This was a symbolic action, a kind of bodily prayer, a corporeal lament.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone,” it is said. Not so among us. We were in the middle of a public street, weeping together. Ours was a shared sorrow. Our grief was open. We were giving public expression to our sorrow and inviting the world to cry with us.

And we were bringing our sorrow before God. And not only our sorrow but also our impatience, our disappointment, perhaps even our anger at God. Before the world and before God we dared to say, “This is unfair. This is wrong. God should not allow this to happen.”

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” cried Isaiah. Isaiah’s prayer is bold, honest, and raw, an anguished wail calling on God to intervene with righteousness and justice. In our lament we give voice to our sorrow at all that is wrong in the world and we plead with God to act. Rather than turn away from a world that is hurting, we move toward it. In lament we allow our hearts to ache and we join God in God’s heartache for a world gone wrong.

Yet lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith. It is a bold act, calling on God to be true to God’s promises. We dare to bring our complaint before God because we trust that God hears and that God will act. In the midst of our sorrow we dare to give voice to our heartfelt longing: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” because somewhere deep within us we trust that God hears that prayer. We remember that in the birth of a child long ago in Bethlehem God did come down. That at a baptism in the Jordan River God did tear open the heavens. That he did walk among us, suffer with us, die for us—and that on the first day of the week, set aside the grave clothes and defeated the powers of death.

Let us pray:

O God of life and love and peace,
we witness the violence and injustice in your world and our hearts ache.
Our hearts ache for the people of Israel—
for the victims of violent attacks by Hamas,
for those held hostage,
for those who live with fear and insecurity,
for families separated or bereaved.

O God of life and love and peace,
our hearts ache for the people of Gaza—
for the victims of the Israeli military assault,
for those grieving the death of children and loved ones,
for those being denied water, food and medical care,
for those who have been driven from their homes.

O God of life and love and peace, we pray—
that weapons of war be laid down,
that walls of separation be dismantled,
that prisoners be released,
that enmity and hatred give way to understanding,
that calls for revenge and violence will grow silent,
and that those in authority might find ways to work together for the good of
all people.

O God, you have promised to speak peace to your people,
to those who turn to you in their hearts.
Kindle in our hearts a true love of peace.
Make us instruments of your peace
that the barriers of fear, suspicion and hatred may crumble and fall,
and the people of the world be united in justice and peace.

About the Author: John Paarlberg is a Regional Coordinator with Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) from New York.

5 Comments On “Prayers4Peace: Lament is finally not an expression of despair but of faith.”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Will save and reuse the prayer. Appreciating you and others doing a “die in”. Hadn’t heard of it before.

    Reply

  2. A beautiful Prayer, Thank you

    Reply

  3. Joining you in prayer. Thank you for this prayer. Joining you in the pain of it all.

    Reply

  4. Thank you for this prayer – I needed it at this moment for sure. Continuing to pray with you all in lament, faith and trust.

    Reply

  5. Ditto. Thank you.

    Reply

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