For years I thought my prayers had to begin in praise.
I even wrote a prayer guide where the first step in any prayer started with a “P” – Praise.
But if I’m honest (and when am I not honest?), most of my days I don’t start with praise.
It’s not because there aren’t a bajillion things to praise God for; it’s because there is lament rising, riding the top of my praise. It sits there, brimming on the surface of my soul, pinning down the praise.
So I learned, on many days, to begin my days with “L” – Lament (see last week’s post).
I sit down with my journal opened up, fresh page and date before me, a pen in one hand and cup of coffee in the other, and I lament away.
I let all the pain and hurts, questions and misunderstandings, wounds created by others in me and wounds inflicted on others by me, heaviness and weariness, rise. Rise to the surface of my soul and spill out onto the pages in front of me to a listening God. To my wise, gentle, listening, loving Heavenly Father.
And then once my laments are spilled out and over, I then turn towards praise.
It’s not that praise isn’t a part of my prayers – it’s just that praise has become my ultimate destination instead of my starting point.
This subtle shift has changed everything for me.
It takes a burden off of me in the mornings when I open my journal, Bible, and any devotional prompts that I don’t have to start from the place where I ultimately need to go.
I have to start where I am – sometimes in the pit. Not in praise.
But that’s the beautiful and wonderful and amazing thing about God.
His goal as our good Father is to lead us up and out of the pit to a firm, steady, secure, healing, wide, open place of praise.
That’s what David reminds us in Psalm 40:1-3 when he says,
So can I remind you of something today? Can I ease a burden off of your shoulders as the Lord has done for me?
You don’t have to start your prayers with praise.
You just have to start.
Start where you are, start with tears, start with the questions, start with lament.
And God is good enough, strong enough, patient enough, faithful enough, and wise enough, to lead us up and out of our laments to a wide place of praise.
The book of Psalms itself mirrors this journey that many of us must take on any given morning.
Out of 150 Psalms, 67 of them are laments penned through rising anger or blinding tears.
The number of laments outnumber any other type of psalm – they are more numerous than the psalms of thanksgiving or praise.
But here is the encouraging thing: while lament is where many of the psalms start, it’s not where they end. Most end in praise. In other words, the praise overtakes the laments.
While the Psalms lean heavy in the way of laments in the beginning of the book, the language of praise builds in power, strength, and perspective, so that by the time you get to the end of the book of psalms, the words are one resounding praise – Praise Yah – after another.
Can I tell you something? Your life is destined to end the same way.
Your life and my life, for all those rooted and grounded in Christ, will not end in lament – it will end in praise.
Revelation 21:2-4 promises us:
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'”
Praise will be the overflowing language and tongue we speak one day.
So every day, when we get on our knees, or get out pen and paper to write, and journal, and pray, we practice.
We practice the language we will speak one day by most days starting with lament – letting the tears and hurts of this life spill – and letting God lead us down the paths of praise.
So be encouraged today – if your day starts with lament, know this: your eternal destination is praise.
If your prayers start with tears, let God – His good Holy Spirit inside of you – lead you down the corridors of praise.
It’s hard work to learn how to go from lament to hallelujahs, but it’s good work, and it’s work that leads to doing something we will be doing for all eternity, all our days – praise.