Home Monthly Prayer Focus March: Grief Prayer

March: Grief Prayer

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“My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? …. I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow….” (Psalm 6:3, 6-7)

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones…. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof…. For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drinks with tears.” (Psalm 102:4-5, 7, 9)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Our March 2024 Contending in Prayer Guide is focused on Grief Prayer where we honestly express our grief to God in prayer. Grief prayer is a surprising component in the book of Psalms, Israel’s prayer book. More than one-third of the psalms are prayers of grief brought before God. While we have highlighted gratitude prayers (January) and adoration/praise prayers (February), grief prayers are also Kingdom prayers and ways of contending in prayer.

Grief is a universal part of our present human condition. There are multiple sources of grief:

  • We can grieve out of dissatisfaction with us and/or our present situation. We might grieve because we are unhappy with our physical bodies, our collection of gifts or abilities, our achievements or success, our relationship status, our physical possessions, our sinful behaviours, or our level of spiritual maturity. We can also grieve over difficult circumstances that we are facing. We can grieve because of our sense of disappointment with God and/or disappointment with God’s people. Grief can be exacerbated by comparison with others—especially in our social media-crazed world.
  • We can grieve out of empathy for the suffering of others who are part of our circle but also for those suffering all over the world that we have connections with or simply can observe through the media.
  • We can grieve also for creation as we see environmental degradation in God’s good world.

While grief is natural to our human condition at our present stage in God’s Kingdom story, how we respond to grief is a key element in our spiritual journey. Grief can overwhelm and fester and if given free rein can nurture desires that produce quarrelling, fighting, and sinful outcomes (James 4:1-3; 1 Timothy 6:10). But grief can also be an impetus toward repentance and restoration (James 4:9-10). Grief can lead people to want to abandon devotion to God (Job 2:9). But grief can also produce a greater and deeper faith and commitment to God (Job 2:10-11). Grief can lead to desires for revenge and harm to others (Psalm 137:8-9). But grief can also nurture a deeper empathy that leads to acts of compassion for others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Grief is a change catalyst for better or for worse.

Scripture provides us with the good news that grief is best brought to God in prayer. Here grief is acknowledged and placed before God’s throne—a God who knows grief deeply. We bring our griefs before a Jesus who knows grief personally and intimately. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35) and was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38; cf. Mark 14:34). While in prayer, Jesus was in “anguish” and “his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). The good news is that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).

So grief prayer is about an honest bringing of our griefs to God and laying them down in front of Jesus. Here are three helpful components of grief prayers for followers of Jesus today:

  1. Express your grief honestly and openly to God. No matter what your grief involves (even disappointments/complaints about God), express them honestly and openly. There is nothing to hide: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:6). “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

  2. Entrust your grief to God. One of the surprising and even shocking things about some of the grief psalms recorded in the Bible is that people express to God a desire for revenge and harm to those who have hurt them. These are called Imprecatory Psalms (e.g., Psalm 35, 69, 55, 137). While these psalms seem shocking to us, the amazing part is that these psalms entrust this revenge solely to God—who as the judge of all the earth will certainly do right (cf. Genesis 18:25). The entrusting of one’s grief to God places it in God’s hands. Grief can fester in the human heart and produce unhealthy fruit, but grief brought to God in prayer can bring growth in righteousness and the disarming of powers in opposition to God’s Kingdom purposes (such as greed, dissatisfaction, revenge, etc.).

  3. Listen to God’s Spirit. Finally, after expressing our griefs honestly and openly, and entrusting them to God, we need to pause and take time to listen to God’s Spirit in response to what we have brought. The Holy Spirit may speak to us in ways that transform some of our griefs if they arose from a false understanding of our identity, false hopes, and false expectations. The Holy Spirit may calm our grieving as we hear how God cares deeply for the same people on whose behalf we are grieving—and for the creation and its groaning (Romans 8:22). The Holy Spirit may simply remind us that Jesus is “with [us] always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and point us toward the hope that one day all our griefs and sorrows will end (Revelation 21:4). Finally, the Spirit may also prompt us to acts of repentance, compassion, care, etc. that can relieve some of the suffering and brokenness that prompted our grieving in the first place.

Grief prayers are components of God’s Kingdom work transforming us more and more into the image of Jesus. Grieving well is part of what love means. Let us with confidence bring our grief prayers before the throne of grace!


  • What do you most often find your heart grieving over? (Since grief can often seem nonspecific, you may want to write out specific components of grief (e.g., “I grieve over the recent passing of ______”, “I grieve over the loss of ___________”, “I grieve for __________________”).
  • What does your grieving lead you to hope for? (Again you may want to write out specific hopes that emerge from your expressions of grief (e.g., “I grieve with the hope that ______________ will be open to reconciliation”, “I grieve with the hope that ______________________________”).

Grief Prayer: Praying in the Pattern of Psalm 5

We can pray our grief prayers in the basic pattern of Psalm 5. You may want to read this psalm every day for a week and add new lines every day.

Listen to my words, LORD,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly….

LORD, I bring my grief and sorrow to you today.

I am grieving because__________________________________________
I am grieving on behalf of _______________________________________
I am grieving with the hope that _________________________________

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
We praise you, LORD, and Amen!

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