Turning Our Tears into Prayers
Have you ever noticed how drivers slow down to examine an accident on the side of the road? Usually the ambulance has already arrived, so it’s not as if we are slowing down to help. For some reason, we just to want to look.
Similarly, when public tragedies occur, we find ourselves hooked on the news coverage. At first, this may help us move through the initial shock. But after a while, it can become morbid fascination. The hours of attention we give to these tragedies make no tangible difference. Perhaps we just don’t know what else to do.
So what is a healthy and helpful response to tragedy? I believe that we can react meaningfully to events that make our hearts ache, even when we are far away from their epicenter—by weeping with the God who weeps when humans suffer. Such weeping is also a way to “mourn with those who mourn” (Ro. 12:15).
The Divine Companion
In Scripture (especially in the poet and prophet sections), God weeps over His people: “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (Jer. 9:1). Often, He weeps over wayward Israel: “Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for my virgin daughter—my people—has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow” (Jer. 14:17). Our “don’t worry, be happy” culture often avoids or overlooks these passages. This is too bad, for I’ve discovered that weeping along with God leads us into an empathetic kind of prayer that can bring healing to those who are suffering.
I stumbled into this truth after reading about the two million women and children who fall prey to the sex-trafficking industry each year—how they are lured, lied to, kidnapped, and coerced into bondage. I found myself unable to focus on much else for days. At the same time, my daily meditations brought me to Psalm 56. As I read it, I pictured a girl of 12, trapped in an unfamiliar city and beaten violently into submission to prostitution. I grieved for her. I’m not sure if I literally poured out tears, but my soul cried for her. As I read the psalm, it so perfectly fit her situation, and I found myself using its words to pray for her: “When she is afraid, help her put her trust in You” (v. 3). “Help her to courageously declare, ‘What can mortal man do to me?'” (v. 4). “Make her enemies turn back when she calls for You” (v. 9).
As I prayed, I felt as if I were keeping company with God in the waiting room of time here on earth, crying over the tragic state of those who are exploited and oppressed.
Is Weeping Prayer for All of Us?
Weeping prayer may seem too emotional for some people. But for me, it’s a practical and down-to-earth endeavor. Weeping prayer moves us away from the sentimentalism that is sometimes associated with prayer and directs us into the reality that suffering is a part of human existence. A weeping heart is a strong heart—one that has moved outside of “me, myself, and I” and into the world that God oversees every day. Our weeping soul mirrors the weeping of God. Tears need not be mere emotionalism, but can be a strong desire for God’s will to be accomplished on this earth. As we identify more and more with God’s purposes for us and our world, we come closer to seeing tragedies the way God sees them—and we weep with Him.
Each day on this planet, people turn away from God and choose themselves over God and others. The consequences of these sins are documented all over the world—a world that God so loves that it causes Him to weep.
Being attentive to those in crisis is part of how we co-labor with God as a light in the darkness. Where are the poor, the needy, the hurting? What guerilla warfare or natural disaster has caused people just like me to become widowed or orphaned or homeless? What is happening today in yesterday’s crisis locations such as Rwanda and Vietnam? Reading the newspaper becomes a place of prayer.
Weeping with God is not without effect. When I prayerfully mourn with those who mourn, I get to intercede for people I do not know and probably will never meet—yet I believe that God’s hand is moved by my partly informed requests. My tears are not wasted—they are making an eternal difference.
I am a different person because I’ve learned to weep with God. Since the day I happened onto this truth, not only has my prayer life changed, but I have also become more likely to notice the broken-hearted and to reach out to help.
Ultimately, weeping with God binds me to His heart. When I in some small way am Tears moved by what I see in the world around me, I get a glimpse of what that all-merciful, all-compassionate heart of God goes through when it sees the world. And that causes me to love Him all the more.
–by Jan Johnson
Used by permission of Pray! Copyright © May/June 2006, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved.