How to write a lament
A Guide for Writing a Lament
Here is a guide for how to write a lament. It has been put together by Jenna from “The Practice” in South Barrington, Illinois.
As you write your lament, you may choose to write a parapragh or two on each point.
Here are the nine steps of lament:
- Cry out to God (your address to God);
- Complaint (your anger, pain, heartache, or sadness);
- Affirmation of Trust (your remembrance of God’s presence in your past);
- Petition/Request (your deepest desire);
- Additional Argument (anything more, why God should intervene);
- Rage against Your Enemies (bringing your enemies before God);
- Assurance of Being Heard (what you need to feel heard);
- Promise to Offer Praise to God (the promise you can offer to God); and
- Assurance (the attribute of God you are thankful for in the moment).
What Do Laments Look Like?
Alternatively, you may like to write a lament like the two examples below.
Here are two examples of laments. Both are adapted from Lamentations 5.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim wrote the first one, as a lament for Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland was found hanged in a jail cell in Texas on July 13 2015. This was three days after being arrested during a traffic stop and her death was ruled as a suicide and was followed by public protests that disputed the cause of death and instead alleged racial violence. Graham Joseph Hill wrote the second one, as a lament for Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
You may design different kinds of laments. But we hope these can serve as examples to get you started.
A Lament for Sandra Bland
1 God who creates and loves us all,
We turn to you as we lament the death of Sandra Bland.
2 You are a creative God,
You made Sandra and each of us in your image.
3 Yet society failed to welcome Sandra, rejecting her and her beautiful, young, black body.
She died hanging in a jail cell.
4 Her unexplained death rips an unspeakable hole in her family as they lose a daughter and a sister.
Her friends experience a profound loss. Grief remains.
5 You are a comforting God. You understand the sorrows, grief, and agony of your children.
You stand with Sandra’s family and friends in their grief.
6 Inspire us to stand with those who love Sandra,
and demand justice for her death.
7 You are a loving God. You create a diverse humanity to love you and to love one another.
Our value comes from you as our Creator.
8 We confess we fall short of your intentions.
We judge and discriminate against one other; we wound and violate each other.
9 We have created and sustained a system based on the sin of racism,
which proclaims that the color of our skin gives us value.
10 Racism denies your love for all your children;
denies your invitation to us to love one another.
11 Racism privileges some of your children and oppresses others,
giving rise to events such as the death of Sandra Bland.
12 You are a merciful God. Forgive us for how we fall short.
Pour your Holy Spirit afresh upon us. Open us to the healing you offer. Draw us together.
13 Lead us from despair to wholeness,
that we might love one another and work to end racism.
14 You are a faithful God.
We give thanks for the life and love and witness of Sandra Bland.
15 We give thanks for the ways you are at work within the brokenness of our lives,
and the woundedness of our communities and nation.
16 We give thanks that through Jesus we are freed to join in your work;
through the Holy Spirit we are empowered to join in your transformational work.
17 Through Jesus we pray,
A Lament for Australia
1 Remember, O Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.
2 Our nation has ignored and denied the inheritance of ancient cultures,
the desert, fresh water, and sea peoples,
who’ve lived here for 60,000 years.
3 Over 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations have been displaced,
lands and children have been stolen.
4 We ask for recognition and basic human rights,
dignity and freedom for all Australians alike.
5 Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
6 We submitted to those who introduced new diseases, forcibly acquired lands,
and thrived on violent conflict and colonization.
7 Our ancestors invaded this beautiful land and are no more,
but we, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples together,
bear the shame and enmity and suffering.
8 Slavery, colonization, and invasion oppressed us,
and we cried out for freedom from their hands.
9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives,
young and old are imprisoned and forgotten.
10 Our skin is hot as an oven,
chained, beaten, imprisoned, and murdered, in the blazing outback sun.
11 Colonizers have violated women since Australia’s earliest days,
and we mourn Stolen Generations.
12 Children and adults have been hung by their hands, murdered and driven off cliffs,
elders are shown no respect.
13 Children and youth are in our jails, separated from culture and family,
mothers are in refuges or on the streets.
14 The elders still speak, but our nation does not listen,
the Dreamtime continues to show our nation another way.
15 Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning and lament.
16 The crown of colonization and cultural superiority has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 Because of this our hearts are faint,
because of these things our eyes grow dim,
18 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,
with loan sharks, drug dealers, corrupt officials, and others, prowling about us.
19 You, O Lord, reign forever;
you live among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations,
and among non-Indigenous Australians,
on this beautiful and sacred and ancient land,
since time immemorial.
20 We witness the vibrancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures,
your presence in art, music, languages, beliefs, and practices.
21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old,
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.
23 Restore to us a heart of flesh,
rid us of our heart of stone.
24 Restore in us a desire for justice and truth,
a desire to see all people restored to their place and lands.
25 Speak to us through your Spirit,
present in the voices and cultures and desires of ancient and modern peoples.
26 Rid us of one-sided or superficial calls for reconciliation,
and lead us toward true lament and repentance and justice.
Rev. Dr. Graham Joseph Hill, Ph.D.
Graham Joseph Hill (PhD, Flinders University) is Principal and Assoc. Professor at Stirling College (University of Divinity), which is a national Australian Bible and theological college. He is the Founding Director of The Global Church Project. He has planted and pastored churches and been in theological education for twenty years. Graham is the author or editor of 11 books including Global Church, Healing Our Broken Humanity (with Grace Ji-Sun Kim), Holding Up Half the Sky, Hide This in Your Heart (with Michael Frost), and Salt, Light and a City. Graham writes at grahamjosephhill.com
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