The Holy Spirit: Moved to Lament, Prayer, and Action
Donnell Wyche — May 16, 2021
Time and again, Jesus presents a picture of God that he hopes will catch us up into the goodness of God; producing joy, and inviting and welcoming the renovation of our heart by the Spirit of God by being born again.
3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” (John 3:3)
The measure of a good life, Jesus says, is a life that is full of joy, dependent on God, and learning to trust God as we take risks seeing, loving, and serving others.
Have you ever heard someone say, “That’s just the way the world is?”
There’s a resignation in that phrase. Who am I to think I can imagine a different world? I understand where that comes from, it can feel overwhelming to live in the world the way it is, let alone imagine you can change it. But I’m encouraged and I want to encourage you as well. I think you would be right saying, there’s no way that I on my own could do anything about the way of the world, but remember Paul’s vision is that God has been at work since the beginning removing the barriers to God’s family so that we can be given over to good works. What we need is relational reliance on the Holy Spirit. God says that with the Holy Spirit we can do something and that we are never alone.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit intercedes for us believers in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26)
Sealed with the Holy Spirit, we declare that it doesn’t have to be this way. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we declare there is another way, often the way forward is through non-violence, suffering, repentance, and peace-making.
Paul says do not partner with idols, partner with God instead.
8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:8-11)
I absolutely love what Paul says here in verse 11, when he says that we are to expose the “fruitless deeds of darkness, of injustice.” We are invited go to the deep places of pain and bring what we have, the light.
Paul continues in verse 12:
12It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:12-15)
We have to call out greed, immorally, and impurity in ourselves, and, when prompted by the Spirit, in others, and in the world. We name and call out the places of our partnership with the ruler of the air and repent. We are to name the fruitlessness of Empire and partner with God and the Holy Spirit to reimagine and work towards a world of peace, prosperity, and justice.
As you become aware of injustices in your life or injustices in the world like:
human labor/sex trafficking,
the opioid epidemic,
human rights abuses committed against an occupied people
wealth disparities and extreme CEO pay,
misogyny and the lack of women in positions of power and influence,
pornography and the hypersexualization of our culture,
climate change, or
the inequality of vaccine access across the globe.
We invite the Spirit to pray, as Romans 8 says, “with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” We cry out to the Lord for help. These are the moments of desperation where we discover that we can’t do it on our own, that we need the Spirit to intervene as we only can only offer a simple prayer, “What the…”
It’s the cry of everyone who has been overlooked/ignored.
It’s the cry of everyone who has been treated unfairly.
It’s the cry of everyone who have been tread upon.
It’s the cry of the brokenhearted.
It’s the cry of the defenseless.
It’s the cry of the weak.
This is the vocalization of the injustice we feel and the injustices that we bear witness to. There’s this real conflict between our recognition that things aren’t as they should be and our ability to change them. In the face of this injustice, whether personal or public, we can feel so powerless to change anything. So what do we do when we are in these situations?
We learn how to lament, we pray, and then we partner with the Holy Spirit in action.
Laments are faith-filled complaints, our way of saying to God, “The world isn’t the way it should be, only you, God, can fix it, so please fix it.” There are 42 psalms of lament in Scripture, like Psalm 42-43 and Psalm 10.
Dr. Soong-Chan Rah helps us understanding of lament,
Lament in the Bible is a liturgical response to the reality of suffering and engages God in the context of pain and trouble. The hope of lament is that God would respond to human suffering that is wholeheartedly communicated through lament.
Before we ever imagine acting on injustice in our life or world, we are invited to start with lament, which gives way to our prayer.
We Pray the Lord’s Prayer
The disciples recognizing the depth, intimacy, and access Jesus had with the Father, they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). He responds, “This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
“Hallowed be your name” – Begin with worship – He is still Lord, even in areas of injustice.
“Your kingdom come” – What does God’s kingdom look like? How could his rule and reign change the landscape of injustice?
“Daily bread” – What are the practical needs around you?
“Forgive as we Forgive” – We are sinners, and we consciously and unconsciously partner with systems of oppression in our daily lives. Who have we sinned against with our partnership with the Empire? What responsibility do we have to change our behaviors and actions? What’s our relationship to our material things and wealth? Where are we being invited to deny ourselves? What have we taken that didn’t belong to us? What do we need to be forgiven of?
We Partner with the Holy Spirit in Action
As we pray, we look for ways to partner with the Holy Spirit at work in us and others healing, restoring, and releasing peace, prosperity, and justice in our world.
As the people of God we are sent to inhabit; to incarnate the presence of God; to share our lives and resources; to create space for interruption; to seek the peace, prosperity, and justice of the community we inhabit. All of this while resisting the systems of oppression and injustice that threatens the health, development, and well-being of those who are left out, left behind, or marginalized in our communities. Taking up these activities (inhabit, incarnate, share resources, create space, seeking the peace, prosperity, and justice), we will participate in the flourishing of the communities and places that God has planted in.
May we hear the voice of the Spirit speaking to the Church.
Response: Open our ears, Lord, so that we might hear you speaking.