They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. ~ Psalm 126:5
I said we were weird. I said we seemed to constantly land slightly left of centre, so much so the only people I actually know who have experienced the Prayer of Tears live in my computer.
The first time I came across this expression was from Richard Foster, who is one of my all time favourite Christian writers. He speaks to my condition, pulling his understanding of who God is from many different Christian traditions though he himself is a Quaker. I understand this. There is a flow to his understanding of how the Spirit operates that my spirit testifies to. God is not limited by man~made traditions. He is not locked into our doctrine, which is only our poor understanding of what we think God is saying to us. There is a bigness to his understanding of God. I'd been impressed ever since I came across his Celebration of Discipline more than 30 years ago & saw how the Quaker view of simplicity was a holisitc thing, begining with the self & spreading out in ever widening ripples to eventually include the whole earth. It still makes complete sense to me.
So when I found his Prayer, Finding The Heart's True Home, I coveted it immediately, so much so that despite the price, which was far more than I could honestly afford, I simply couldn't walk out of the shop without it. I'm so glad I didn't. I have refered to this book again & again. Dino has read it & when I went hunting it to refresh my memory before posting I found Dino had lent it to friends.
I have lots of books on prayer ~ most of which have sat unread on my shelves, including a number of *classics*. They made no sense to me. My prayer life was not reflected within those austere pages.
Towards the end of this brilliant book which lists over 2 dozen different sorts of prayer, Foster talks about the Prayer of Tears. I was riveted. Tears have always been a part of my Christian experience. Even as a child, even before I would have called myself a Christian of any hue, God & tears went together in my experience.
In some ways it is easier to define this by what it is not. It is not crying. It may be anguished sobbing but not usually. It is more a slow leaking of water from the tear ducts & one has absolutely no control over it. Indeed, at times, it has been so much a part of prayer I was avoiding prayer because as soon as I shut my eyes the Spirit descended & this slow leaking of water began! Praise, which is a type of prayer, is likely to bring it on. Highly inconvienient! There one is happily warbling out the hymn & a single word, a line, brings Christ sharply into focus & off I go like a waterlogged cat!
It is not selfhish tears ~ & I have wept enough of those to know the difference! It is not the sort of crying one does before the Lord when times are tough & you want relief, or you've done something stupid & have to tell, or even when you are begging for the salvation of a loved one. Nope. The tears of which I speak are generated by a movement of the Holy Spirit. One can be chipper as as one goes into prayer & within moments the tears are falling. Stop praying & the tears immediately disappear.
So I will just mention a few of the areas where the prayer of tears seems to really like operating ~ at least as I have experienced this.
. Adoration. Seriously, the Holy Spirit really gets up a head of steam when we enter fully into praise & worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have had to stand there, completely unable to sing, the tears rolling uncontrollably down my cheeks while the Spirit highlights all that Christ has done for me.
. Breaking. There seems to be a movement of the Spirit when He is doing a work in us that will bring us to tears. I do not mean weeping as you may have experienced when true repentance comes upon you. I do not mean crying per se. It is more a sensitivity to the Spirit where even the lightest touch of Christ brings us to our kness in love & adoration ~ & with that comes the tears.
. Healing ~ especially emotional healing.
. Intercession. I am not an intercessor but there have been times when I have been very aware of the Spirit grieving over mankind, over the state the world is in & there is a peculiar sense of sharing the burden which comes with tears. It is as though God was showing me His heart. Just a tad overwhelming.
There is a good deal more to prayer than I think we will ever understand on this side of glory. It is a peculiar kind of conversation but at it's heart lies a mystery. The prayer of tears is more mysterious than most. So often I have no idea why, let alone what God is trying to convey to me. Sometimes He gives me a sense; sometimes not. It doesn't matter. What matters is the response to the touch of God. God is talking. The God of the universe. The one who made the sun & the moon & the stars. Is that amazing or what?!