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February 15, 2002  343 Words

Lamentations: Prayers Rising From Pain

CINCINNATI—“What happens when we are overcome by the presence of chaos…or by a sudden sense of our human vulnerability?” asks Michael Guinan, O.F.M., in the March issue of St. Anthony Messenger. His answer is that “we cry out in Lament,” a form of prayer that has been somewhat forgotten in our modern times.

Father Guinan explores biblical lamentations in his article entitled Biblical Laments: Prayer Out of Pain. Guinan, a Scripture professor at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkley, California, discusses their biblical origins and how useful they can be today. The article can also be found, after February 26, at:

The prayer of lamentation, which can be described as a loud, religious “Ouch,” is found at many points throughout the Bible, especially in the Psalms. Job, no stranger to suffering, oftentimes cried out to God in pain. Jesus himself lamented while dying on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But Guinan argues that this dimension of prayer has been all but forgotten and should be embraced on a more consistent basis.

Guinan says that lamenting is invaluable when wrestling with moments of doubt: “At times, we experience God’s absence; we do feel alone and confused.” When we lament, we know deep-down that God is with us and is invaluable in helping us rise from our grief. “Even if God seems not to hear, we believe that God is always within shouting distance.”

Guinan believes that lamentations could prove essential in moving through the pain and grief brought on by the tragedies of September 11. “Perhaps we are discovering that, as a nation, we have been more traumatized than we initially thought,” he writes. Guinan hopes that the lost art of lamenting can be a reinstated ingredient in our spiritual lives. “The loss of lament has been costly; we have much to gain by recovering it.”

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