Wailing and Worship

by Cynthia Jennings on September 7, 2022

When someone wails, they’re audibly lamenting with loud cries of deep sorrow.

Biblical worship in “truth" connects the heart or spirit of worship with the truth about God and his work of redemption as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. 

The thought came to mind of one Sunday morning I stood and worshiped while burning tears cascaded down my face. My heart was overflowing with fresh sorrow due to a trial in my life.

My worship and pain might have seemed a contradiction. Is it possible to express deep worship while simultaneously revealing intense sorrow? Jesus’ personal encounter with a New Testament woman seems to say wailing and worship can coexist.

Around noon one day, a Samaritan woman went to draw water from a well. That’s when she met Jesus and a conversation ensued.

During this conversation Jesus began to mention specific details about her life---the fact that she had several husbands and was currently living with a man who wasn’t her husband. His keen insight into her life caused her to believe she was talking to a prophet (John 4:16-19).

If you had a true godly prophet standing in front of you, would you seize the opportunity to ask any question?

Well, the Samaritan women seized the opportunity to ask a question.

She asked Jesus about worship. She inquired if she should worship on the mountain, where her ancestors did, or in Jerusalem, where others said was the proper place to worship. Jesus replied, God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

The Greek word for spirit in John 4:24 is pneúma and means “in spirit”, wind or breath. While it sometimes indicates human breath, the translation of pneúma in the New Testament is written with a capital “S”—Spirt---meaning Holy Spirit.

The Greek word for “truth” in John 4:24 is alétheia. Indicating words that are honest, sincere and straightforward.

When we take worshipping in Spirit and link it with being truthful, we can get two actions that {although they seem opposite} intertwine perfectly together.

Wailing and worship. Wailing and worship can and often do hold hands.

We observe this in over 40 of the Psalms penned in Scripture that are classified as psalms of lament, in which the authors cry out to God in times of overwhelming distress or deep despair. The lament psalmists typically ask God for intervention to deliver them from suffering, sorrow or an enemy. Then these petitions often end with expressions of faith and worship as the author places his trust in God.

It’s not only in the Bible where wailing and worship hold hands. They can in our lives today.

When we worship God in Spirit and truth through the power of the Holy Spirit, who leads and guides us, there is no cookie cutter worship full of cliched phrases. We can and must be honest, straightforward with God. Even to the point to lament and wail telling the Lord all about that which is causing pain in our lives. Wailing and worship may be done audibly as you pray to God in a secret place, it may be done audibly in the community of church, written in a journal or as we listen to worship songs crying out to God.

Pour out your heart to Jesus, raw, unfiltered emotions and all. He sees (Proverbs 15:3) and knows (Psalm 139:4) your situation. He understands your pain. The best part of it all Jesus loves you with a deep unconditional love that will never end.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to worship You both in Spirit and in truth. Empower me to be authentic in my time alone with You. Holy Spirit guide me to lay naked and transparent before The Lord that I may pour out my heart to You, praising You in reverential worship as I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

PEARLStoPONDER: Don’t allow your wailing to steal your worship. Remember they can hold hands.

Psalm 13-- How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;  light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,   because he has dealt bountifully with me.


Psalm 31:1-5-- In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge.Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.


Psalms 31:9-16-- Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;   my eye is wasted from grief;   my soul and my body also.10 For my life is spent with sorrow,   and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity,  and my bones waste away.11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,   especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances;  those who see me in the street flee from me.12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead;    I have become like a broken vessel.13 For I hear the whispering of many—  terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me,    as they plot to take my life.14 But I trust in you, O Lord;   I say, “You are my God.”15 My times are in your hand;    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!16 Make your face shine on your servant;    save me in your steadfast love!


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