When was the last time you cried?
It seems like every day, there is a new tragedy to report. The world is full of pain, and our hearts overflow with sorrow. I’m not sure we have the emotional capacity to deal with all the suffering we encounter.
It doesn’t help that our culture doesn’t know what to do with difficult emotions. Should I binge Netflix? Keep myself busy? Eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? How about another drink? None of our feeble attempts to process pain prove helpful.
God’s way is better. Scripture teaches a practice called the prayer of tears. It’s a way of praying where you direct your difficult emotions towards your Father in heaven. When we learn to pray this way, we discover that tears are liquid prayers.
“Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers, and of weeping as a constant dropping of importunate intercession which will wear its way right surely into the very heart of mercy, despite the stony difficulties which obstruct the way.” - Charles Spurgeon
If you’ve never gone to God with your tears, I want to give you five reasons to pray this way.
1. Jesus wept.
There is a cultural narrative around crying that makes us feel ashamed or embarrassed when we are sad. We’ve all heard the cliche statements “real men don’t cry” or “big girls don’t cry.”
It doesn’t take long looking at the life of Christ to see that real men do, in fact, cry. We have three moments recorded in Scripture of Jesus weeping (John 11:35, Luke 19:41, Hebrews 5:7). To be like Christ is to cry over the things that break God’s heart. When we suppress our painful emotions, we prevent ourselves from growing spiritually.
2. Tears soften the heart.
Unprocessed pain often leads us to doubt God’s goodness. The first question we scream at the heavens in times of trouble is, “Why?!?” Instead of getting too caught up in understanding our problems, we should focus on feeling our pain.
Prayer in times of anguish is a way to keep our hearts soft towards God. The great surprise of suffering is that God meets us in those places.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts in our pains.” - C. S. Lewis
The point of the prayer of tears is not merely to cry but to welcome God into our innermost being.
“I do know that unless the emotive center of our lives is touched, it is as if a fuse remains unlit. Tears are a sign—not an infallible sign to be sure, but a sign nevertheless—that God has touched this center.” - Richard Foster
3. There are no words.
Social media has conditioned us always to answer the question, “What’s on your mind?” Sometimes, silent grief is all we can muster. The good news is when we don’t have the words, God still gets the message.
“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” - Matthew 6:8
Of course, God wants us to go to Him in prayer, but we don’t have to worry about finding the exact right words to say. Paul brings up the prayer without words in Romans.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. - Romans 8:26
4. Those who mourn are comforted.
You can receive peace and joy even before your prayer is answered. Comfort is one of the promises of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” - Matthew 5:4
The longer that we wait to mourn, the longer we suffer. God’s people must become fluent in the language of grief and loss. Nearly half of the Psalms (65, to be precise) are psalms of lament. Here are a couple of my favorite lines:
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. - Psalm 34:18
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! - Psalm 126:5
Imagine your tears as a seed sown into your soul. Give it some time, and the Holy Spirit will grow the fruit of joy.
5. God can do a miracle.
The prayer of tears is not a guarantee, formula, or way to twist God’s arm into giving you what you want. But it is a way to show God that we are serious in what we are asking for.
Faith keeps us coming back because we believe in a God who can bring life out of death. Remember, it was the cries of Israelites in Egypt that sparked God to send the ten plagues.
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. - Exodus 2:23-25
God hears you.
God remembers you.
God sees you.
God knows you.
So trust Him with your tears.
If you want to learn more, check out this full sermon I did on the prayer of tears:
When have you prayed the prayer of tears? Let me know in the comments below.
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