ODJ: A Fence in Finchley

September 25, 2018 

READ: Lamentations 1:18-22 

Lord, see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for I have rebelled against you (v.20).

I never thought a fence in Finchley could be a place where I encountered God as much as at the Western Wall,” said a man at a retreat I was leading. He was referring to a prayer exercise we did based on the book of Lamentations and some of the Psalms. Using the Western Wall in Jerusalem—the surviving remnant of God’s temple, where pilgrims often slip prayer notes in the cracks—as inspiration, we wrote prayers of lament on slips of paper that we slipped into the cracks and crevices of the church fence as a symbol of releasing them to God. The gentleman who spoke up had recently been to Jerusalem and prayed at the Western Wall, but he also sensed God’s presence at a humble fence in north London.

Prayers of lament are an important way to express our longings, disappointments and pain to God. He doesn’t expect us to be always cheery, pushing down the hard or difficult emotions. Rather, He welcomes our honest and heartfelt feelings.

These emotions are expressed in Lamentations, a book that contains five laments. Lamentations throbs with anguish and pain over the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 bc by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. As the citizens of Jerusalem were carried off into exile in Babylon, God’s people cried out with pain and humiliation. But by chapter 3, the heartache turned to affirmations of hope in God’s character: “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease” (v.22). They remembered that God would never forsake them.

Do you feel permission to lament before God, bringing Him your failed hopes and disappointments? He who is all-powerful loves us unceasingly and welcomes us to express all of our emotions to Him.

—Amy Boucher Pye

365-day plan: Mark 15:6-24

Read and think about Psalm 22:1-31, which may be the most famous prayer of lament, because Jesus prayed it on the cross. Note how the psalm ends with an expression of trust in God. 
Why does God welcome our heartfelt pain and disappointment? Write down a prayer of lament and release it to God.