Praying Through God’s Word: Lamentations
Jerusalem had fallen into hard times – ‘she who once was great among the nations… has now become a slave’ (Lamentations 1:1). Lord, we wonder why this happened. The explanation for this sad situation was not hard to find – ‘Jerusalem has sinned greatly and so has become unclean…’ (Lamentations 8-9). We wonder, “Could things be turned around? Could there once again be blessing?” We thank You, Lord, that there was a way back to You – the way of being honest before You. They needed to look seriously at their way of life and think seriously about their attitude towards You, Lord. They were not to adopt an arrogant attitude – ‘There’s really nothing wrong with us. We’re doing all right.’ They were to come to You with a real confession of sin: ‘The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command… O Lord,… I have been most rebellious’ (Lamentations 1:18,20). We thank You, Lord, that Your blessing will begin again when we confess our sin.
We think, Lord, about Jerusalem’s fall into hard times. This was n’t ‘just one of those things that happens.’ Your people brought it on themselves. They didn’t take You seriously – but You continued to take them seriously. They ignored You, Lord, but You didn’t ignore their disobedience to You. They sinned against You – and You were angry with them: ‘How the Lord in His anger has set the daughter of Zion under a cloud!’ (Lamentations 2:1). This was not just a case of glibly saying, ‘The good times will come again.’ They needed to recognize why the bad times had come: ‘The Lord has… carried out His threat’ (Lamentations 2:17). Lord, You had warned Your sinful people. Judgment was on its way – if they refused to listen to You. Now, in the time of You judgment, You are still calling us back to Yourself: ‘Cry aloud to the Lord!…’ (Lamentations 2:18-19). Help us, Lor, to return to You?
Lord, there are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction…’ (Lamentations 3:1-3). In such times, Help us to remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.’ When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, may we learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. Teach us, Lord, to look You, and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness.’ We don’t find it easy to see You at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. Teach us to be patient, as we wait for Your blessing return to our lives. May we put all our hope in You, Lord. Teach us to trust in Your precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).
Teach us, Lord, In our ‘grief’, not to forget Your ‘compassion’ (Lamentations 3:32). You understand us. You care for us. How, Lord, do we know that You love us? ‘Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of Your love for us. How can we doubt Your love for us when we think of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of Your love for us, may we remember that You call us to love You. Teach us not to take Your love for granted – ‘God loves me. I can do what I like.’ Help us to appreciate Your love – ‘God loves me. I will love Him.’ You love us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by Your love?‘ Teach us, Lord, to examine our ways and turn back to You. Teach us to open our hearts to You’ (Lamentations 3:40-41).
‘You came near when I called You… O Lord… You redeemed my life’ (Lamentations 3:57-58). We wonder, Lord, ‘Will You answer our prayer for salvation?’ Yes! At the Cross of Christ, we learn that You love us and answers our prayer. ‘You did not wait for me to draw near to You, but You clothed yourself in frail humanity. You did not wait for me to cry out to You, but You let me hear Your voice calling me. And I’m forever grateful to You, I’m forever grateful for the Cross; I’m forever grateful to You that You came to seek and save the lost.’ ‘Thank You for the Cross, the price You paid for us, how You gave Yourself so completely, precious Lord, precious Lord. Now our sins are gone, all forgiven, covered by Your blood, all forgotten, thank You Lord, thank You Lord’ (Songs of Fellowship, 631; Mission Praise, 632).
We thank You, Lord, that no human king can even begin to compare with our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the King of kings’ (Revelation 19:16). The people of Jerusalem were full of confidence. They ‘trusted their king to protect them from every invader.’ They thought Jerusalem was invincible: ‘No one anywhere, not even rulers of foreign nations, believed that any invader could enter Jerusalem’s gates.’ They were wrong. They thought it would never happen – but it did! The unthinkable happened! ‘They captured the source of our life, the king the Lord had chosen.’ Why, Lord, did it happen? Your Word gives us the reason: ‘It happened because of the sins of her prophets and… priests’. The king – ‘the Lord’s anointed’ – was unable to prevent Jerusalem’s defeat (Lamentations 4:12-13,20). We praise You, Lord – We have a greater King: our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ!
‘You, O Lord, reign for ever; Your throne endures from generation to generation’. Help us to remember this when we feel like You have ‘forgotten’ us. When we feel like You have ‘abandoned’ us, may we remember this: ‘You, O Lord, are King for ever, and will rule to the end of time’ (Lamentations 5:19-20). Teach us not only to pay lip-service to You, our Lord and our King. May we crown You as King of our hearts and our lives. How, Lord, are we to do this? Teach us to pray, ‘Bring us back to You, Lord!’ (Lamentations 5:21). Lord, You’re looking for a real return to You and a real difference in our lives. ‘In your hearts enthrone Him. There let Him subdue all that is not holy, all that is not true…’; ‘So let us learn how to serve and in our lives enthrone Him, each other’s needs to prefer, for it is Christ we’re serving’ (Church Hymnary, 300; Mission Praise, 162).