Communal Psalms of Lament

Tonight at the inaugural Wine Wednesday Bible Zoom Bible study, we talked about the Psalms of Communal Lament.

A note on lament: I am a big fan of lament. My ordination sermon was on the topic. The thing I like most about lament is that if you’re crying out to God–in anger, grief, frustration–it means that even in the depths of despair, you still believe that God is listening. That is faith. That is really cool.

And there are many Psalms of Lament, but many are personal laments, and only a handful are laments/cries/prayers for a whole people. These are my favorite kinds of lament Psalms, because you’re not just crying out for yourself, but for your peeps.

The Psalms of communal lament are:

I think this is a great time to write your own Psalm of Communal Lament.

Here is a handy guide to elements you can include. Note that you do not have to include them all or use them in this particular order.

Think communally. What is hurting not just you, but your neighbor? Your neighborhood? Use collective pronouns.

Get God’s attention. In keeping with structure of the originals, this can be a time when you suck up to God and tell God how awesome God is, or it can be an indignant cry like “why have You abandoned us?” But you want it to be attention-grabbing.

State the problem. Why are you crying out? Why are your people in pain?

Tell God what to do about it. Now I know this is uncomfortable for many of you (who are we to tell God what to do), but let yourself go. Stick with the form. Rest in the knowledge that it is, indeed part of our faith tradition. (I would recommend refraining from asking God to smite your enemies.)

Affirm God. Let God know that you know what all God can do.

Use any or all of these elements and add your own as you write a Psalm of Communal Lament for your community. Share your Psalm in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Now is the time for lament. And the good news is that God is definitely listening.


Join us next week for Wine Wednesday Zoom Bible study. Get details HERE.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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1 thought on “Communal Psalms of Lament”

  1. I like the idea of this exercise. I remember growing up, thinking that I could only praise God and say “nice things”. Then I read that we can be angry with God, we can be unhappy with God we can yell and verbally throw things, and God can take it, because God is GOD and bigger than all our ugly words and anger. It freed me up and let me speak more honestly in my prayers. Thank you.

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