Complaining Prayer

God, hear my voice when I complain.
-Psalm 64:1a

We tell each other, either openly or in our minds to, "stop complaining!" I hear it and say it all the time and I even feel guilty for complaining. We might say to each other, "complain, complain, complain; all you do is complain!"

Complaining takes a bad rap. But in this verse, complain or complaining is a good thing.

Other examples of good complaining in the book of Psalms are:

  • "Pay attention to me and answer me.  I am restless in my complaint." (55:2)
  • "I complain and groan morning, noon, and night, and He hears my voice." (55:17)
  • "I remembered God and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed."  Selah (77:3, NKJV)
  • "I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him." (142:2)
Psalm 106:24-25 recounts an instance of negative complaining, from the Exodus/Numbers period:
  • "They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the word of the Lord." (NKJV)
Exodus and Numbers record a number examples when the children of Israel complained, either about water, food, or leadership.  Has anything changed today?  

Jude, in the New Testament, has a word about negative complainers:
  • "These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want." (Jude 16, NLT)
That verse is about people who are discontent (HCSB) or malcontents (ESV).  

There is bad complaining, yes.  But there is also good complaining.  Good complaining is when we take our complaints to God.

We are supposed to say what is wrong.  We are supposed to be honest, to God.  Grinning and bearing it is not the way of Christ.

Is complaining good then?  Yes, but.  It's very good to complain AND take the complaint to God.  When someone complains in our hearing, we are their priest who hears the complaint and then helps them take that complaint to God.  

A great example of this is Hannah, in First Samuel, chapter 1.  She has a complaint, a very emotional prayer on her heart.  Her complaint is a prayer.  Eli misreads her at first, but then hears her and prays for her.

In the priesthood of all believers, we function as priests to one another.  A priest is simply a person who helps another person connect with God.

Sometimes, we get overcome with hopelessness and our hearts are sick.  This is part of being human.  Pray anyway.  Wail, moan, complain, cry, and be in agony: but just do it towards God.

It is a huge mistake to take our disappointment and then judge God as "not good" and make that bitter judgement and walk on in it.  Big mistake.  You will need to repent and get delivered from the negative entanglement of that, if that is you.

Remember that when the "ouch" of life happens, we need to take the hurt to God directly or to another person, who will help us with it.  Voicing it is a big part of it.  

Our stories are that bad or disappointing things happened to us, and sometimes we did it to our selves, or missed the boat on something.  But God has got us, in his hand, as his children, and we totally trust God and love God, no matter what happened to us.  We have complaints.  Some are curiosities and some are filled with howling pain.

But the thing is, we tell God about them and walk them and talk them out with the Lord in connection, and our hearts are not bitter and we are completely optimistic and expect God to do good things, in us, around us, and through us.  We are continually encouraged because the Spirit of God is always encouraging us and we continually say, "I'll take that encouragement... thanks!"

A good response to a complaining or kvetching person is prayer, as in, "have you prayed about it?", or, "are you praying about it?", or, "let me pray with you about it". We need to move from the place of complaint to prayer. Complaints are prayer requests, in disguise, and we need to see God as the solution, the answer, and the provider for all our needs.

Yes, Prayers can be complaints.  In Psalm 64, the specific complaint is the threats, terror, dread, or fear of the enemy.  That is not about discontent.

We have real problems, like our real spiritual enemy, and we can complain about it.  A complaint does not have to be about discontent.

Contentment is a huge issue.  We need to be content.  But we also may complain to God about the troubles in our life.

Like the old hymn says, "take it to the Lord in prayer".  Grumbling, murmuring, and bitterly judging God and others is not good and will prove destructive.  But prayers that are complaints laid out to God, or laid out to others and prayed, are good.

Basically, complaining that contains judging, condemning, bitterness, and discontent is bad and destructive.  Bad complaining is when we lack faith and faithfulness, and contains curses towards others, self, and God.  The person taking part in bad complaining is disconnected from God, from others, and from their self.  Bad complaining makes things worse and fragments and binds you.

Good complaining is simply telling God the trouble, telling God what is wrong, telling God what is happening to you.  Complaining is related to lament, which is another topic, I will touch next.