Much of Praying is Grieving

I watched my daughters through the lens of my camera as they stared at the deep hole where their friend’s body had just been lowered. A young boy from our church had passed away suddenly, and our little community was hurting. I was grateful to have been tasked as photographer – a little distance for me from the full-on reality of another death this year. To be honest, our family is reeling; it’s been a year of death and grief. My children have lost two children in our immediate circle this year, and I have been to two funerals for young boys. Sadly, this was not the first service for a child that I have photographed.

If there was a language for me this year, it has been lament. Through the pain and sorrow, through the trauma and heartache, lament has been a close companion, giving words to my despair, and hope to my heart.

As Henri Nouwen has written, “I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving.” As the wounds of this world accumulate in my heart, my prayers have ranged from “Oh God, oh God, oh God” to praying Psalm 77, and other lament psalms. I have found the honesty of the psalmists refreshing, echoing the cries in my heart. I have learned it is courageous to turn to God in the midst of pain. I have experienced the goodness and faithful care of God through the process of lamenting. And I have been refreshed in hope, reminded to look up, to seek the light, to trust God again.

Here is a recent lament I wrote in the face of death this year:

A Liturgy for Looking Up
Father, this morning my heart
awoke in darkness,
your goodness obscured.
My mind was filled
with remembrances of loss,
with images of death,
with a hollowness of life.
I am weary of this world,
of the way it steals good
and destroys light,
of the breaking and
breaking and
Remind me, O God,
with today’s gifts
of your goodness,
which renews my hope.
Remind me, O God,
with your daily light
of the eternal light,
which sustains my life.
Draw my eyes to your face,
away from my pain, from myself.
Draw my gaze up again,
to seek out the light
that is breaking and
breaking and
into my heart, into my mind,
into this world;
to the light who has come
and who is coming again
and is making all that is broken
all things new.
Make me to be a vessel of light
and witness of your goodness
to all who need it.
And while I wait
I look up,
to feel the warmth of the light
on my face, flooding my soul,
on this day, today.


Recommended resources:

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy

Every Moment Holy, Vol. 2

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