My spirit is poured out in agony
as I see the desperate plight of my people.
My tears flow endlessly;
they will not stop
until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.
My heart is breaking over the fate
of all the women of Jerusalem.
Lamentations 2:11, 3:49-51
Many of us spend much of our time
bemoaning our lot. Although this may give us a feeling of momentary
relief, more often than not the spirit of complaining draws us a
long way away from affirming in faith that I have a delightful
inheritance because the boundary lines have fallen for me in
pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Indeed, it sits so heavily at odds
with our calling that it may actually endanger it.23
The many spiritual laments we come across in the Bible may at first
sight sound like people getting their complaints off their chests,
but the Lord detects where real faith and longing are present. 24
Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are they who
mourn, and He demonstrated this quality Himself when He wept
over the fate that He could see awaited Jerusalem.25
When the King of the Kingdom returns, there will no longer be any
need to cry out, “how long, Lord?” For the time being,
however, we must continue to mourn the evils that humankind is doing
both to Creation and to each other.
We have seen that one of the finest features of King David was his
willingness to grieve for those who had opposed him. It was not only
on hearing the news of his friend Jonathan’s fate that he was
profoundly moved, but also when he learned of the death of those who
had caused him great distress: Saul and Abner. Concerned that Israel
should realise that it lost the services of mighty leaders, he
composed powerful and moving laments in their memory.26
Jeremiah wept when the well intentioned King Josiah died, and he
wanted others to do so too, for he rightly foresaw that the new king
would not pursue the excellent reforms the young king had
initiated.27 In powerfully persuasive poetic oracles, Jeremiah
prophesied year after year how dire it would be when God’s judgement
devastated the land.
When it finally occurred, the scenes he records in the book of
Lamentations are so terrible they almost defy description. It is no
coincidence that he chose to recount these in poetic form, for
poetry is a most effective medium for relating such horrors –
especially when it is accompanied by music that graphically depicts
this dimension of mourning and lament.28
Such inspired music is a perfect vehicle for going deeper in
intercession. It enables us to identify with the raw passion of the
situations we are concerned about, and to feel God’s heartbeat. This
is so precious and powerful a concept that I have long sought to
combine music, mourning, prayer and prophecy in the way we lead our
prayer conferences. Reflecting on his own long experience of
pioneering in this field, Richard Williamson recently wrote this
In our music making, there has been a danger that we have been
moving away from the creative “prophetic” stream that flowed through
us in earlier days in favour of a “safer” stream where everything is
nicely sewn up and “acceptable” – and as musically perfect as
possible. Of course we need to do things well – but have we lost our
willingness to step out and express God’s heart through musical
languages taught to us by God Himself by the inspiration of His
One musical language I believe that God wants to undergird our
worship with is the language of holiness. God is calling us to offer
our lives to him afresh – lives that are holy and abandoned to Him.
In doing so, He can use our music to bring a new vision of who He
really is to a world and to a Church that is in desperate need of
hearing God’s voice and seeing His face. Not a “cosy” over-familiar
vision of God, but an awe-inspiring encounter with Almighty God who
is holy – the Creator of the Universe and the Lord of History: a God
who is rightly to be feared.
A second language I believe God wants us to develop further is the
language of lament, exile and identification. We have “sung our
songs of victory” and worshipped God as our healer and our friend –
but the Lord is also looking for those who can express the grief in
His heart, and also the pain that is in so many people’s lives
Such music may not necessarily need words (spoken or sung) – but it
will identify closely with the cry of our hearts and call forth the
Song of the Lord, both in worship and in heartfelt intercession.
A third language we need to nurture is the language of hope. Hope in
a world falling apart, hope in the Church and hope for the glorious
fulfilment of the Kingdom, leading up to the return of the King.
This is the language of glory – displaying the glory of His
splendour and encouraging us to look forward again with expectancy.
Reflect and Pray
It is important to develop the habit of
With at least one in ten of the
world’s Christians living under severe persecution, we have no
excuse for remaining in ignorance about their plight, or for not
supporting the work of movements that reach out to the Suffering
The Courage to Keep Going
For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are
treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered . . . For I
swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily . . . As a
result, we have stopped relying on ourselves and have learned to
rely only on God, who raises the dead. He rescued us from mortal
danger, and He will rescue us again.
Romans 8:23 TEV
Any one of the repeated beatings or prolonged confinements that Paul
experienced in oppressive Roman prisons might have deterred a lesser
man from pursuing his God-given assignment. It would certainly have
been easy for him to hunker down into “survival mode,” but Paul had
learned not to be at the mercy of circumstances, but to press on
into the heart of God.
Read More . . .
23 See 2 Corinthians 10:9-11
24 There are 43 personal laments in the Psalms, and 14 communal
ones: in other words, 57 out of 150 psalms in all, compared to 17
Psalms of Thanksgiving and 32 Psalms of praise.
25 Luke 19:41
26 See 2 Samuel 1:11f, 3:3f.
27 See pp. 590 and 593 of David Pawson's excellent Unlocking the
28 Ruth Fazell has written a moving oratorio out of the poems left
by child survivors of the concentration camp at Terezin (Theresienstadt).
In 1941, the Nazis converted this small town to the northwest of
Prague, into a transit concentration camp. To the outside world,
Terezin was presented as a "model Jewish settlement" - a resort-like
atmosphere with stores, café, bank, kindergarten, school and flower
gardens. In reality, Terezin was an overcrowded way-station for the
death camps, to which the transports would come to take adults and
children alike to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Many died in
Terezin itself, as a result of the horrendous overcrowding. Many of
the prisoners were musicians, writers, poets, artists and
intellectuals. In the midst of such depravity, they and their
children turned to art to transcend their pain. While regular
schooling was prohibited, classes were held clandestinely and many
of the 15,000 Jewish children who passed through the camp were
encouraged to paint and write. Of those 15,000, only about 100
You can hear excerpts of Ruth Fazell's
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