Can I Keep Praying Through My Tears? [Episode 236]

Keep Praying Tears Lament

Do you know what it means to lament? It’s one of the many ways we’re taught to pray in Scripture, and yet, so many people are confused or intimidated by the thought of lamenting to God.

You might think lament is nothing but grumbling and complaining, or that it’s a waste of God’s time when there are bigger things going on in the world. So instead of taking your concerns to God, you keep them bottled up inside. And, my friend, that only leads to being stuck.

Stuck in your pain and grief.
Stuck in being overwhelmed by your circumstances.
Stuck in distress and despair.

The good news is that God gave us this practice of lament to help us get emotionally unstuck, connect with Him, and keep our souls healthy.

To sum it up, lament prevents soul cement!

So today, we are diving into six little verses from Psalm 13 to learn what it really means to lament and how you can lament well.

This is some straight-up Bible teaching on the podcast today because it comes from a brand new prayer study I helped write called When You Pray. The study was actually written by six Bible teachers who you know and love, and each of us took a prayer from Scripture to teach us how to pray.

Whether it’s a prayer of praise, giving thanks, or interceding on behalf of others, each form of prayer has its place. And sister, lament may sound bleak and messy, but it has its place in prayer too.

So today I’m sharing a little bit of what I teach in this Bible study because lament is something we all need to know how to do when life is hard.

Your tears are bound to come, and when they do, it’s important to keep praying through your tears. This conversation will help you process your pain in the presence of the Lord and learn to lament well.

If you’ve already listened to the podcast, here are the three stepping stones on the path of lament based on Psalm 13:

Three Stepping Stones on the Path of Lament

  1. “I feel…” – Tell God How You Feel
  2. “I need…” – Tell God What You Need
  3. “I will…” – Trust and Rejoice
[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Keep Praying Through My Tears? [Episode 236]

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, this is Jennifer Rothschild. I love my audiobooks from Audible. That's how I'm able to read so many books in a year. If you've never tried it, you can get a 30-day free trial with no obligation. Plus, you'll get a free audiobook of your choice that you can keep. So go to to get started. And now, the podcast.

Do you know what it means to lament? Well, today you will. And the good news is that God gave us this practice of lament to help us get emotionally unstuck, connect with God, and keep our souls healthy. Lament prevents soul cement. So today we are diving into six little verses from Psalm 13 to learn how to lament well. And don't worry, this is going to be the most upbeat, encouraging, positive conversation you have ever had about lament. So open your heart, here we go.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hello, our people. We're so glad you're with us today. And you have chosen a really good day to join us, because we are going to get some straight-up Bible teaching here --

K.C. Wright: Woo-hoo.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- that I think is going to open your heart, open your eyes, and open your spirit. So get ready. This is actually based, K.C., on a teaching that I did for a brand-new prayer study that's coming out.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's called "When You Pray." It is through Lifeway Press. And there are actually six of us Bible teachers who took -- each of us took one prayer from Scripture to teach us how to pray. Because Jesus didn't say "if you pray," he said "when you pray."

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I actually got to teach on what it meant to pray a prayer of lament. And that's a confusing word, I know, which we'll unpack in a minute. It can be intimidating, and we are going to unintimidate it today. So we'll have on the Show Notes an opportunity for you to know how to get this Bible study, but you can always go to and look up "When You Pray," because it releases in April.

But here's the thing. I got this audio text from my daughter-in-law, oh, a couple of months ago, and it to me gave the perfect illustration of how we feel about lament. Because that's, like, a confusing thing or something we want to avoid. And so she sends me this audio message, and I laughed out loud. Okay. So here is what I want you to do. I'm going to let you hear what I heard. Now, this is our little grandson Tripp, and he is actually reciting the books of the Bible. And he's just starting midway through the Old Testament. Okay?

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: But he forgets one book. All right? So listen to this.

Grandson Tripp: (singing) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel.

Jennifer Rothschild: Isn't that great? Okay.

K.C. Wright: So good.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. But you might have missed it. So we're going to play it one more time and see if you can detect which book of the Bible is missing. Here we go.

Grandson Tripp: (singing) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right.

K.C. Wright: Oh, my goodness. I get it. I know why he forgot Lamentations. We often want to skip lament because, well, it's just messy.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, it is. It's just not easy. Exactly. Or we might think, okay, if I lament and I'm just whining and complaining, God's too busy for that. Or maybe my needs compared to what's going on in the world, my needs are way too little; God's busy with bigger things. Or, let's be honest, for me anyway, K.C., sometimes I'm afraid to feel and admit stuff that I can't fix. So instead, I will stuff. A lot of us stuff. But here's what happens when we stuff: We get stuck. And that's why we need to learn how to pray this way, how to lament. Because like I said earlier, it prevents soul cement.

K.C. Wright: Lament isn't a word we use a ton --

Jennifer Rothschild: No.

K.C. Wright: -- so let's make sure we all know exactly what it is. Lament is expressing grief, loss, or even pain in prayer. When you think about it, lament is a place to process your pain in the presence of the Lord.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well said. But it's not complaining and grumbling.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: You remember, K.C., that old -- on Hee Haw, that old song?

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: (singing) Gloom --

Jennifer and K.C.: -- despair, and agony on me.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's not lament. That is complaining.

So instead, a great example of what it means to lament is not from Hee Haw; it's from Psalm 13. So I think we should read that.

K.C. Wright: Yeah, let's just read that together. So if you're not driving or too busy, pause and grab a Bible and look it up. I'll read it to you, but it's only six verses. And if you're just wanting to listen, sit back and listen.

Jennifer Rothschild: Just listen.

K.C. Wright: "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good to me."

Jennifer Rothschild: I love those last verses especially. This whole psalm, though, it's a path for your feelings to travel when you're sad or sick or stressed or suffering. And, in fact, we're just going to kind of break it into three parts to understand how to pray this way and walk down this kind of -- I'll call it a path of lament. We're going to look at three stepping stones. And, of course, this will all be on the Show Notes at 413 Okay? So three stepping stones on this path of lament based on Psalm 13.

Stepping stone one, "I feel." Two words, "I feel." Okay. K.C., you just read the whole psalm, but I want us to break it up. So would you read Psalm 13 verses 1 and 2 again.

K.C. Wright: "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?"

Jennifer Rothschild: You heard it. David prayed in so many words. I feel when he's asking, "How long will you forget me?" he's basically saying, I feel forgotten. I feel abandoned. I feel alone. I feel forsaken. And we hear that in all those questions, "How long, O Lord?" You know how David has felt, because you have felt that way. Sometimes we just feel forgotten, we feel abandoned, we feel forsaken. And so we pray, "I feel," because what it does, it gives a platform for God to reveal who he is. So when we lament, when we pray, "I feel," it's not just for our catharsis, it's for the revelation of God's character.

So when I was -- several years ago -- I've told you all this -- I went through a real spell of depression and I was just really in the thick of it. And I'll never forget one night, I was just in my normal blue routine, and Phil brings me my tennis shoes and he says, "Let's go for a walk." I'm like, "Ahh." If you've ever been depressed, you know sometimes that alone feels like, you know, someone just said, "Hey, let's go climb Mount Everest." Right? So it just felt like monumental, but I said yes, and so I start walking with him.

And as we're walking down this beautiful path near our home, like, there's canopy trees and the wind was blowing. I could hear a little creek babbling. Connor was with us -- and he was younger -- and he was on his bike riding in front of us, happy as can be. Like, this was enchanting.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so I began to cry. Not because it was enchanting, but because that's what I did. For nine months, I just would cry. And so here's Phil. Bless him, bless him. He had been so patient. And he says to me, "What is it? What's wrong?" Well, half the time when I would be crying during that spell of depression, I didn't know why. But this day, oh, my gosh, K.C., I knew exactly why I was crying. I knew what I had been dealing with. You know how you have this thing, like, just bulging in your heart and you can't keep it in any longer? So I had had this fear that I had been feeling and entertaining, and it was this feeling of, I just know Phil is going to leave me. I know he's going to get so tired of carrying the burden that I have become, he's just going to be like, "That's it, I can't handle it anymore." And even if he wouldn't physically walk away, like, emotionally he would walk away.

K.C. Wright: Right. Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: Like, he's just done. And I just was terrified, and also just was so filled with -- like, that would have been okay. You know what I mean? Like, of course, he would do that; I deserve that. It was just a mess. This is depression, y'all, though, if you've never experienced it. You are a tangled set of emotions.

So anyway, as we're walking, I say to him, "I'm just afraid you're going to get tired of me. I mean, you already have to deal with the burden of my blindness, now you deal with the burden of my depression, and I'm afraid you're just going to get sick of me and say, 'That's it, I can't handle it anymore,' and you're just going to leave. Either physically or emotionally, you're just going to be done with me." And he pauses on the path and he looks at me and he said, "When I said 'I do,' it meant I won't ever leave you."

Okay. No, he really didn't say that, but wouldn't that have been awesome, K.C.?

K.C. Wright: You little stinker.

Jennifer Rothschild: Sorry. I just had to do that.

K.C. Wright: Oh, my gosh, I'm over here in tears.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know, right? So I had to do that to you. Sorry.

Okay. So if Karen Kingsbury had written this story, though -- right? --

K.C. Wright: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- that's the scene.

K.C. Wright: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. And can I just say, women, we always think that's what it should be when our -- our husbands are humans, they are not characters in romance novels.

K.C. Wright: Thank you.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. But here's the thing. I really don't remember exactly what he said. Okay. But seriously, that was the gist of what he said.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: Like basically --

K.C. Wright: Gotcha.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- no, I am not leaving you.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: So your feelings, yeah, they feel real to you, but they don't represent reality.

K.C. Wright: No.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay? Now, here's what I want you to hear. So when I was willing to say to my husband, Phil, "I feel this way," it gave him an opportunity to reveal his character. Okay? So that's why we say "I feel" to God. Because when we do, then we're saying, God, I trust you enough to be vulnerable, and I know that in my vulnerability you're going to express your reality, who you really are.

And so what happened is when I said to Phil, "I feel this way," it exposed that I had created an image of him in my mind that was not accurate, but saying "I feel" revealed who he was. He was faithful, he was steady. In other words, "I do" means I won't, I won't ever leave you. So when we say "I feel" to God, it does the same thing, it reveals who he is.

And he is not a forgetter, my friend. That's what Isaiah 49 says, that even if a nursing mother could forget her child, I could never forget you. When we tell him how we feel, that we feel like he's abandoned us, then he reveals to us that he is near to the brokenhearted. That's what Psalm 44 says. So in other words, when he said, "I do" to you, it meant he won't ever leave you or forsake you.

So the problem is, though, like David, we don't always rest in those facts. We often wrestle with our feelings. So let me just remind you again of what K.C. read in Psalm 13:2. "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts within me and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" Do you hear that he said, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts?" The New King James version actually says, "How long must I take counsel in my own soul?" I love that phrase. Because, y'all, we are sorry counselors.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: We are sorry counselors. And our emotions can become all tangled up.

K.C. Wright: When you were saying "tangled mess," we all relate to that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right?

K.C. Wright: We've all been there, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: But we don't need to take counsel in our own souls; we need to take our souls to counseling. Me, myself, and I are sorry counselors. We got the great counselor -- Amen? -- the Holy Spirit of Truth.

Jennifer Rothschild: Amen.

K.C. Wright: And me, myself, and I leads to me, myself, and lies. Okay?

So I like this because when we pray "I feel," it untangles the emotions, exposes the lies we may believe, and affirms the truth about God. Okay?

Jennifer Rothschild: So the point is, lament is a very safe place for you to feel your feelings, and it's a sacred place where God reveals who he is.

All right. So let's go down the path of lament one more step. Second stepping stone is "I need." Stepping stone two is "I need." So David expressed his needs to God in the next verses. This is Psalm 13:3-4. K.C., will you read it for us.

K.C. Wright: "Look on me and answer, Lord, my God. Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall."

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

K.C. Wright: Wow, that is --

Jennifer Rothschild: So honest, isn't it?

K.C. Wright: You are crying out, "Help," which I believe is one of the most powerful prayers ever.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is.

K.C. Wright: Help.

Jennifer Rothschild: He really is telling God what he needs.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So why do we do that? Why do we pray to God when he knows already? Why do we tell God what we need? Because I believe that when we tell God what we need, it affirms that God hears us. I mean, look at the needs that David listed in verse 3. In the New King James Version, he says, "Consider me and hear me and light my eyes." If you look in the New Living Translation, he says, "Turn and answer me and restore the sparkle to my eyes." I love that. The New International Version Translation says, "Look on me and answer and give light to my eyes." Okay. So David is saying a couple of things here. He's saying turn and answer, or consider me or look on me, and then he's saying, "Hear me, answer me," and then he's also saying, "Enlighten my eyes."

All right. Now, the first two, like, turn and answer, those are actually the same things. Okay? It's like saying I'm pregnant, I'm going to have a baby. Okay? He's saying the same thing twice in a different way. It's called Hebrew repetition, and they use this in Hebrew for emphasis. Okay? But I think both of those expressions really represent our needs. Because we need God to turn to us, we need God to consider us, we need God to see us, we need to know that he's paying attention to us, you know? See me.

When our littlest -- our littlest -- our youngest son was a little guy, he was only two, we were down in the basement with my friend Joey. And we were coming upstairs, and at that time we had, like, this portrait gallery of pictures on the way up the stairs. And so Joey stops and she is asking, like, "Who's this? Who's this?" Well, y'all, you know, I'm blind. So, like, asking a blind woman, "Who's this? Who's this?" I have no idea. So I'm giving her all these clues of who these people are. And the whole time she and I are talking about these pictures, little Connor is patting her leg, and he's pointing up at the pictures and he's saying, "Me, me, me." And finally Joey gets down on her knees, so her eyes are fixed on his eyes. And she looks to where he's pointing, she points there also -- and, of course, it was a picture of him -- and she said, "Connor, that's you." "Me, me, me." And she said, "I see you." And when she did, that little boy darted upstairs totally satisfied. Okay?

So that represents, y'all, how we feel about God. We just need to know that he sees us, that he's paying attention, that he considers us. That in the millions of faces, trillions, billions of people, he really knows who we are. And not only does he know; he hears us. We need to know he does hear us and he will answer us.

There's an Old Testament prophet named Habakkuk. And his book in the Old Testament is only three chapters. And in the first chapter, he is asking God similar questions to David, like, "How long, Lord, are you going to make me look on evil?" "How long is this going to go on?" He doesn't get any good answers. God doesn't give him a calendar, a date.

K.C. Wright: Right. Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: You know, there's no answer, supposedly. But then -- K.C., you know this -- you get to Chapter 3 and Habakkuk breaks into this beautiful hymn. Like, if the olive crop fails and though there's no sheep in this stall --

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- yet will I praise you. Right?

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And, like, he's so satisfied, so you might think, well, clearly in chapter 2 he got all the answers.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: No. I believe what happened is that in the midst of the questions, in the midst of telling God what he needed, he got something better than an answer. He got an encounter with God, which was far more satisfying. And ultimately we need that, we need to know that God is hearing us. And just the whole conversation we have with him satisfies us, even if he never gives us the answers that we long for.

But ultimately, I think David in these verses really shows us what our greatest need is, because he prays, "Enlighten my eyes." And I believe that really is ultimately one of our greatest needs, that we are enlightened. Because in Hebrew thinking, light was the embodiment of wisdom, truth, and goodness. And y'all, we need wisdom, we need truth, and we need goodness.

K.C. Wright: So good. Those are the biggest needs for sure. So I'm really not liking this; loving this. I'm in this. I'm in the river.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: The second stepping stone is to tell God what you need. You got to open your mouth and tell him what you need. But look at verse 4. David is letting it all hang out here. In verse 3, he just asks God to help him or he would sleep in death. And then in verse 4, "My enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my foes will rejoice when I fall." It's like David is saying here, Help me.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: If you don't come through, I won't make it through. I will sleep the sleep of death and my enemies will party at my funeral. I mean, that is one bad day.

Jennifer Rothschild: That is totally how we feel for sure when we are stuck on this path of lament and we just think, Oh, how long? And that's why God invites us to come boldly to his throne on this path of lament in our time of need.

K.C. Wright: I can so relate with David, because I am he. That's why I love reading the psalms. I'm up, I'm down; I'm up, I'm down.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yep.

K.C. Wright: And then there's Philippians 4:6 in the New Living Translation, "Tell God what you need and" -- come on, somebody -- "thank him for what he's done."

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, thank him for what he's done.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, third. Third stepping stone on this path of lament is "I will." Okay. So you remember, we started with "I feel," we tell God how we feel; then "I need," we'll tell God what we need. But then we end with stepping stone three that is "I will."

Okay, you heard when K.C. read at the beginning all of Psalm 13:5-6. David now, he gets to this point where he says, "But I trust in your unfailing love and my heart rejoices in your salvation." And listen to those words, "I will sing unto the Lord, for he has been good to me." That's my favorite translation of that verse.

Like, David, you end your lament with praying, "I will." Why do we do that? Because "I will" reflects God's will. You heard that? "I'll trust," that's God's will that we trust. "I'll rejoice in your salvation." You can't always rejoice in your circumstances, but you can rejoice in God's salvation. "And I will sing." As an act of our volition, I will sing unto the Lord, for he has been good to me.

So what happens is when we say, "I will," I will trust, I will rejoice, I will sing unto the Lord, I will focus on your goodness. When we do that, it moves us forward in our faith and it keeps us from getting stuck. It keeps your heart soft and it prevents this stony soul cement that can happen when we're unwilling to tell God how we feel, when we're unwilling to tell him what we need, and when we're unwilling to merge our will with his will and trust him and rejoice and sing of the goodness of God.

You know what I love about this, K.C., the way it ends, is that it's like all the tumult of God's -- of David's sorrow and prayer. It, like, crescendos into this trust and rejoicing. He said, "I will." I will sing unto the Lord, because you've been good to me, because the Lord has taken care of me. That's why I'm going to sing to him. You have that reason right now to sing to him. So does K.C., so do I.

So I promise you that the pain that you express in lament, it's just a prelude to praise. So, my friends, if you're really struggling, if you don't know what to do with your tears, you bring them to God. Walk this path of lament with your God. Use Psalm 13 as your guide, because he paved the way for you to meet him there through the life of his son, Jesus.

So when your heart is breaking, you walk that path of lament. When your soul is bruised or aching, walk that path of lament. If you feel forsaken, you walk that path of lament. And when your core is just plain shaking, that's when you walk the path of lament. My friends, when you are finally done faking it, that's when you need to walk the path of lament. And as you walk that path, it's going to keep you soft and connect you with God, and it's going to prevent soul cement that can get you stuck.

K.C. Wright: Amen and Amen.

Our friends, pray, "I feel," "I need," and then say, "I will," because you, oh God, have been so good to me.

Jennifer Rothschild: So good.

K.C. Wright: It's good to think about the goodness of God. Amen?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, Amen.

K.C. Wright: Because he's been so good to all of us, and he has been good to us by giving us this passage in Psalms 13 and this powerful teaching today. It was so practical. And this is part of your latest Bible study that comes out in April of 2023, Jen, right?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Yes. It won't be long until the Bible study's available. It's called "When You Pray," and it's published by LifeWay Press. And I mentioned this earlier. The really cool thing about it is that it features six different prayers in the Bible and six different Bible teachers teaching those prayers on print and on video. Okay? So obviously I got the prayer of lament, and that's why I shared with you this today. But Jackie Hill Perry is part of it, Jen Wilkin, Jada Edwards, Kelly Minter, and Kristi McClelland also take a chapter each and a different prayer. So you are going to learn so much. You have got to check it out. You can find a link to it at the Show Notes at

And if you haven't signed up for my weekly email, "Java with Jennifer," you need to do that. And you will find a link to sign up there also at the Show Notes, because that way you get more info about "When You Pray" and any other Bible study I've written, and it just is an easy way to stay connected.

K.C. Wright: I'm going to listen to all of them.

Jennifer Rothschild: They're good. They're so good.

K.C. Wright: The disciples, they didn't say, "Jesus, teach us to preach."

Jennifer Rothschild: No.

K.C. Wright: The disciples said, "Teach us to pray." Because there was power coming out of him and it came from prayer. Amen? Well, we need the Word. I love that we just spent 30 minutes with six verses. And I don't know about you, but my day is now better because of it.

Jennifer Rothschild: Me too.

K.C. Wright: So, our friends, remember that if your heart is breaking right now, you can walk the path of lament with your God, because -- here's truth -- you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: You can.

Introducing the When You Pray Bible study:

Kristi McLelland: Therefore, you should pray like this:

Jackie Hill Perry: Our Father in Heaven, your name be honored as holy.

Jen Wilkin: Your kingdom come, your will be done.

Jada Edwards: On earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

Jennifer Rothschild: And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Kelly Minter: And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.


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