The Still Small Voice

Strategic Listening: Prayers of Mourning and Identification


Chapter Eight, Part Four


Prayers of Mourning and Identification

‘But please, please, won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure mother?’ Up till then [Digory] had been looking at the Lion’s great feet . . . now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. The tawny face was bent down near his own and great shining tears shone in the lion’s eyes . . . For a moment he felt as if the lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he was himself!

God does not despair over the state of the world but He does mourn over it. This is a profoundly spiritual response, as opposed to mere hand-wringing that accomplishes precisely nothing.

Listening prepares us for our ultimate calling, which is to be partners with the Lord in this world and the next. We do not seek to hear the Still Small Voice out of curiosity, but rather so that we may experience more of His compassion.

Remember all the times the Lord Jesus was ‘moved with compassion?’ The Greek word used here is a very strong one. (It is the one used to describe movements of the bowels!)

When Jesus felt such intense emotion, just look at what happened. Remarkable miracles followed hard on the heels of Him responding to the crowds who had no food, to those who were without sight and afflicted, or to the widow at Nain whose son had died.

When we feel particularly moved by the expression on someone’s face – or the plight they find themselves in – pray in the Spirit for them. Even when we are travelling, or about our daily business, we may find intense longings – groans that words cannot express stirring within us – as we see the emptiness in people’s lives.

There are times when we must come to the Lord kneeling not standing, crying not laughing. ‘Tears are the highest form of prayer,’ the Jewish Rabbis declared. The touch and release our hardened emotions and can overcome all things.

There is no greater pain than that of love which is rejected, as the parents of any wayward child know only too well. The more secure we are in the love of God, the more we can respond to the grief the Lord feels over the state of the world. If Jesus does not despair, then neither must we. It is precisely because we have such a sure and certain hope that we can allow the Still Small Voice to lead us along pathways of mourning in spirit and burden-bearing in prayer.

I tried to share this concept with a lively worship leader once. ‘Just as surely as high praise and affirmation are appropriate in one context,’ I suggested ‘so tears and mourning are in another.’ I proceeded to show him a verse that means a lot to me: ‘The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.’ It provoked a surprisingly strong negative reaction in him. ‘I’d like to see that verse torn out of the Bible!’ he shouted.

To me, however, it encapsulates an awareness that should be embedded in the heart of all who seek to heed the Still Small Voice. Our tears are like the bass notes that complement and complete the treble ones of our praise and worship. On its own, the treble clef might become shrill, making our worship self-indulgent. The bass clef on its own might become melancholic, morbid even, without a spring of living praise flowing through our hearts. It is when the two are in balance that we reflect the Lord’s heart best.

Do you remember how ‘deeply moved and troubled in spirit’ Jesus was when he heard about Lazarus’ death?

In the centre of old fashioned twin tub washing machines lay an ‘agitator,’ that thrashed and beat the clothes clean. Many of us know only too much about being ‘agitated’ in such ways. The secret is to turn this inner turmoil into prayer, crying out to the Lord for Him to turn whatever it is that is troubling us into a blessing.

So long as it does not degenerate into soulish melancholia, such mourning can be an extremely important way of expressing the Lord’s compassion. As members of the one family, God wants us to share in what our brothers and sisters are suffering in the Middle East, in Africa, China, North Korea and other countries where persecution is rife. God honours our willingness to look wider than our own immediate circumstances. Scripture urges us to ‘Remember those who are in prison as if you were fellow prisoners and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.

When judgment fell in Ezekiel’s day, the Lord sovereignly spared all who grieved over the detestable sins of those around them. Jeremiah likewise longed so strongly for his people to return to God that he cried out, ‘Oh, that my head were a spring of water, my eyes a fountain of tears.’

John Knox knelt and prayed in the snow, pleading for mercy for Scotland, and the Lord heard his heartfelt prayers and moved across the nation. When James Fraser went to minister amongst the Lisu tribe, he found the going so hard that he deliberately set out to round up the saints back home. He urged them to play as full a part in the spiritual battle as he himself was doing. Months of persistent persevering prayer led to the power of God breaking through – spectacularly!

Most traditional church activities contain little allusion to the realities of this spiritual warfare – yet every day millions are raped, abused, aborted or led astray. It is when we seek the Lord with all our heart that we find Him. Such urgency is essential if we are to advance beyond the superficial in our prayer and listening.

For Reflection and Prayer

I asked the Lord once to show me how I was doing as a burden-bearer. By way of a reply, He showed me a picture of an eastern lady carrying a pitcher on her head with no apparent effort. When I tried to do the same, the pitcher slipped from my head to my shoulders, with the result that I was staggering along, bent almost double.

‘Ok Lord,’ I said, ‘what’s the trick?’

‘The secret of carrying burdens,’ the Lord revealed (and he was not talking about pitchers of water) ‘lies in poise, posture and practice.’ May He develop more of these qualities in us.