Jeremiah 20:10-13 (NRSVCE)
There’s something about reading the many laments in the Bible that helps elucidate the kind of relationship we are meant to have with God. We go to church and it seems like most of the hymns and songs we sing are praise, so it’s nothing but praise that we take home with us. Don’t get me wrong, we ought to praise God, in all things. Jeremiah even works some praise into this prayer. But a relationship based purely on praise is very one-dimensional, and not really the kind of relationships laid out for us in Scripture. We see Jeremiah in the middle of his laments, crying out in frustration and confusion. He has been tasked by God to preach God’s message to the people, to convert them. But the people are unresponsive and prefer instead to conspire to kill him. His frustration reaches a crescendo in this chapter. “Cursed be the day on which I was born! Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14a, 18).
This manner of prayer is echoed in the Psalms many times over. This is not a man lofting petitions at a monarch looking down from his throne, or, as is oddly common in prayers, simply describing God over and over again. Often we hear prayers that are barely more than “God, you are so big and great. You are so great. You are so big. And we love that you are both so big, and so great!” How often have you prayed that yourself? I know I have! But the example we see in Jeremiah here, and in the Psalms, is not so impersonal, not so disconnected. This is a man baring everything which is weighing down on his heart to the One who he knows will listen with a loving ear. This is not so much a petition as it is Jeremiah trying to explain to God how he feels. This is what happens in true relationship. You communicate, you petition, you praise, and yes, you lament. You put your heart and soul into that relationship, which includes the whole spectrum of human emotion, even frustration.
Sometimes you will go to pray and you won’t have anything to say at all. And that’s fine! When you are with family or friends, are you all constantly chattering? Has there never been just a pleasant moment of silence among you? It’s okay to simply want to rest in the presence of God. Indeed, this is something which ought to be part of our regular prayer lives. And sometimes, like Jeremiah, the things you have to say may be cries of anguish and frustration, cries of confusion and desperation. “Why did you even allow me to be born when you knew it was going to be like this?” And that’s okay, too. God desires relationship with you, and you can’t have a true loving relationship if you are not ready to voice your worries and your concerns to Him. Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, sets an example for us. It’s okay to be frustrated with what God asks of you. Pray about it.