52 Workday Prayers: Psalm 22 - God’s Invitation to Lament
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest. . . .
But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid.
Psalm 22:1-2, 19
If we believe that God wants to teach us to pray through the Psalms, then it’s clear God invites us to lament. Though the biblical psalms reflect a wide variety of themes and genres, you can’t read these inspired prayers without encountering lament after lament. The psalm writers felt freedom before God to be honest about all they thought and felt. At times they would rejoice with an abandon that few of us experience. Yet, at other times, the psalmists would pour out their sadness before the Lord, sharing freely their grief, impatience, doubt, and even anger.
Psalm 22 begins with one of the most familiar laments in all of Scripture. Why do we know it so well? Because Jesus quoted Psalm 22:1 from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his hour of deepest need, Jesus found borrowed words from this psalm in order to pour out his grief to his Heavenly Father. On the one hand, this encourages us to let the Psalms teach us to pray. On the other hand, the example of Jesus also underscores the freedom we have to share our lament with our Father in Heaven.
The following prayer is just one example of a work-related lament. If this prayer does not express your own situation and feelings, I urge you to feel free to offer to the Lord in your own words what you need to say. And, if you happen to be in a very positive season at work, perhaps you can lift up a prayer of lament on behalf of someone you know who’s going through a difficult time.
God, it’s been tough at work recently. I feel so tired, so discouraged. It seems like I’ve been working harder than ever, but my best efforts are ignored by my boss and my colleagues. I can do a hundred things right and hear nothing. But one mistake, just one mistake, and I hear all about it. I feel battered down. I worry that I might lose my job. Of course there’s part of me that wants to quit.
But here’s what’s really bothering me, Lord. I have prayed about this before. I have asked for your help, again and again. Have you even heard me? And if you have, do you even care?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” My faith tells me you haven’t actually forsaken me. I want to believe that. But if you are still with me, why are things so bad?
“Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” Often it’s worse when I awaken in the middle of the night. I cry out to you but feel no relief. My fears rise up, empowered by the darkness. My prayers plunge, weighed down by doubt.
So I cry out to you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid. In you I put my trust. Amen.
Ponder Throughout the Day
The Psalms teach us to pray in many modes, including lament. When we are sad, angry, or distressed, we can tell God all about it, without holding back.
For Further Reflection
Read all of Psalm 22, paying attention to what the Spirit of God is stirring up in your heart, especially in relationship to your work. Talk with God about what you are thinking and feeling.
A few years ago I wrote a book on prayer. No Holds Barred was based on the Psalms. I focused especially on the wide varieties of prayer we find in this biblical book. If you want to go deeper in your understanding and practice of prayer, you might No Holds Barred helpful.
This prayer is part of a collection: 52 Workday Prayers: Learn from the Psalms How to Pray through Your Work. To purchase this devotional and small group guide, visit the De Pree Center store.