When was the last time you cried aloud, literally, to God?
I used to have a small portable building. It was on the other side of our driveway across from our house in Memphis. It’s where I did a lot of my studying. One night I was out there soaking in Proverbs 2. When I say “soaking” I mean both “taking it in” as a sponge takes in water, and just “sitting in it” as one would sit in a hot tub.
I chewed on the words as a cow would chew on clumps of grass. Turning them over and over in my mind and heart.
Suddenly, I was gripped with a sense of urgency. I had no choice. I had to act. The first few verses say this:
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding--
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
What struck me so deeply were the phrases “call out” and “cry aloud.” Those words mean more than turning something over in your mind. They mean more than whispering. They mean more than using your “inside” voice. They mean what they say.
I was so moved that I literally jumped out of my chair and ran over to the house. I poked my head in the door and let my wife know I would be back in just a couple minutes. I took off, leaving her with a quizzical look on her face, jumped in my car and headed to the interstate, just a block away. Once on, I cried out as loud as humanly possible: GOD GIVE ME INSIGHT! GOD GIVE ME UNDERSTANDING!
I then got off at the first exit, turned around, and was back home, all in about five minutes. The reason I got on the interstate was that I didn’t want to scare the neighbors with someone screaming late at night at the top of their lungs from a portable building.
I had never literally “cried aloud” to God before. Yet his Word clearly says to do so. There were certainly occasions when Jesus cried out. Most notably on the Cross, but at other times too (just Google “Jesus cried out with a loud voice”). That night on the interstate is as fresh on my mind my son’s first steps, the first time I held my wife’s hand, and all the sweet times I had with my daughter, driving her to middle school on my way to work. My loud cry is indelible in my mind.
I found that there is something powerfully declarative about crying out. It makes an impression way down deep in your mind and heart. It’s not that God cannot hear the thoughts in your head. But crying out is an important part of character formation. It changes you. You remember the times you cry out.
Ever since that night, I’ve made crying out a regular practice. Most often in my car on my commutes, as there’s no chance of freaking anyone out (though passing motorists may wonder).
My CD-changer is full of live worship music. I especially like to cry out in worship. Also, there is something about hearing other voices cry out to God that refreshes my soul in wonderful ways. One time I was worshipping in church and a brother standing next to me gave out a loud shout of praise. It was as if he reached down into my soul and yanked it up into heavenly places. It blessed me.
My 27-year-old son and I have breakfast together at 6:45am every Wednesday. Just last week, after we were done, we sat for a moment in my car together. When we meet, I give him a 3X5 card on which I have handwritten a favorite passage. I spend a few minutes sharing with him what the verse means to me. Maybe one day he will share those cards with his own children.
Last week, the passage I gave him was the first few verses of Psalm 2. I shared with him my thinking about crying out. The reason we sat in the car together was to cry out together. Literally. I went first. I began praying with my “inside” voice and shared with God that what we were about to do was not meant as some kind of a weird stunt but that we wanted God to receive it as our hearts’ cry. Then, with all the loudness I could muster, using my most vociferous “outside” voice, I cried out: GOD GIVE ME WISDOM! I paused, and then my son did the same, crying out in an equally loud and passionate shout: GOD GIVE ME WISDOM!
The presence of God was thick in the car. Palpable. The weight of his Glory could be felt. Not only did our shouts bind us closer to God, they bound us closer to each other. We had shared a declaration. It was awesome. I’ll never forget that moment with my son.
So what about you? Have you ever cried aloud to God? I mean really cried aloud, using a great big “outside” voice. Would that be pushing you out of your comfort zone? I hope so.
A comfort zone for the Apostle Peter was the inside of a boat. He was a fisherman. One time, he stepped out of a boat and onto the water, and walked on the water towards Jesus, who was standing on the water. When he took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. The Word tells us that when Peter began to sink he “…cried out ‘Lord save me!’” Does that mean he simply looked at Jesus with a look of concern on his face? No. Does it mean he spoke with his “inside” voice? No. Does it mean that he shouted out with everything that was in him? Yes.
Ever feel like you are sinking? Why not literally cry out to God? Make a declaration. Allow his Spirit in you to cry aloud in a way that will minister to you in the depths of your soul, that will open the heavens, that will provide space for the hand of Jesus to reach down and lift you up out of the waves.
And, let’s not wait until we are sinking to cry aloud to God! Let’s make it a regular practice to cry aloud. Crying aloud will:
- Demonstrate a hunger and eagerness to obey his Word
- Make an indelible impression on your soul that will be difficult to overturn when the wind and waves of emotions and circumstances assail
- Force you out of your comfort zone inside the boat and will pave the way for you to experience more viscerally his grip on your soul
- Encourage you to express your innermost groaning with raw transparency
- Provide you with a simple yet complex “faith experience” that will enrich your walk with God
- Put you in the company of Jesus and the saints who have cried out through the ages
May God bless you abundantly as you cry aloud to him.