I have been pondering the Desert Fathers understanding about anger being a barrier to prayer. Anger is such a natural response to suffering and if it is a barrier to prayer then how can I be prayerful in the midst of chronic pain?
I got a great insight from one of the guys in my men's group last week. He reminded me of strong biblical tradition of lament. Many of the Psalms are Psalms of lament. This is where the Psalmist brings his pain and sorrow to God through lament. Lament is about mourning and grief and it is not a barrier to prayer.
Lament describes my inner life much better than anger. Yes at times I feel anger and even get angry but it is not the dominant pattern in my life. Lament however is a regular part of my life. It is my constant companion. To have no lament about my pain and loss would be untrue and I would be avoiding what is really going on. Lament however does not exclude joy.
Joy and thankfulness also describe my inner life to the same degree as the lament. I carry within me lament, sorrow, joy and gratitude. I hold these opposites as one and therefore I am not a disintegrated person, I am human.
Perhaps this is the wisdom of the sages, the ability to hold opposites together and to live prayerfully. Lord willing I will be able to hold this tension and from it witness to a deeper reality of God's presence as compassion and hope.