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Sad and Angry Prayers

I don’t remember if I was ever taught as a kid that sad and angry prayers were okay. I think we often focused on giving thanks and asking for help, but lamenting was never really part of the program. I understand why, but I think it may have been a misstep for us all.

In fact, sad and angry prayers take up almost 1/3 of the Psalms. David just let them rip – and poured his heart out to God. Whatever he was feeling came out. Sad, painful, hurt, angry prayers. He knew it was okay – God could take it. During this time, I think we need to be reminded that God can take our prayers. There is nothing that we can think or say that will surprise him.

During this season, when our kids are trying to figure out how to process missing their birthday party, a graduation, or class trip they’ve been looking forward to, it’s a good time to let them know that God can handle sad and angry prayers.

The psalmist certainly let his emotions be released in God’s direction. Throughout the book of Psalms, we get prayers like this:

23 Lord wake up! Why are you sleeping?
    Get up! Don’t say no to us forever.
24 Why do you turn your face away from us?
    Why do you forget our pain and troubles?
25 We are brought down to the dust.
    Our bodies lie flat on the ground.
26 Rise up and help us.
    Save us because of your faithful love.
(Psalm 44:23-26)

The psalmist is feeling forgotten and his heart is really heavy, but he continues to turn to God no matter the emotion. And, he always returns to God’s love for us.

In another he cries out:

Lord, how long must I wait? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you turn your face away from me?
How long must I struggle with my thoughts?
    How long must my heart be sad day after day?
(Psalm 13:1-2a)

I don’t know about you, but this hits me as relevant to our situation right now:

Lord, how long must we wait (until we can hug other people)? Will you forget (that we need human contact) forever? How long will you turn your face away from us (and leave us isolated)? How long must we struggle with our thoughts (of worry, anxiety, frustration, fear)? How long must our hearts be sad day after day (as we miss loved ones and friends)?

Just the other night, as I was putting my daughter to bed, she began to talk about how much she was missing her friends. A few tears came, but she was trying really hard to hold them back. I reminded her that it’s okay to cry, and God can handle our big and difficult emotions. And, in an instant, she began to weep.

It can be difficult as parents to hear our kids cry (I think God feels this way about us, too), but know that it’s quite helpful for their wellbeing to cry. Weeping can be a healthy release of many emotions and is a physical outlet for them. I know the default setting for many of us as parents is to say, “Don’t cry…it’s okay.” But in the current reality we are living in, our kids need to learn that crying, even weeping, is okay because it is a healthy outlet of real feelings they have inside.

And parents, it’s okay for you to cry, too. God can handle your sad and angry prayers. He loves you and isn’t afraid of your emotions either.

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