Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;

    look, and see our disgrace.

2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,

    our homes to foreigners.

3 We have become fatherless,

    our mothers are widows.

4 We must buy the water we drink;

    our wood can be had only at a price.

5 Those who pursue us are at our heels;

    we are weary and find no rest.

6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria

    to get enough bread.

7 Our ancestors sinned and are no more,

    and we bear their punishment.

8 Slaves rule over us,

    and there is no one to free us from their hands.

9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives

    because of the sword in the desert.

10 Our skin is hot as an oven,

    feverish from hunger.

11 Women have been violated in Zion,

    and virgins in the towns of Judah.

12 Princes have been hung up by their hands;

    elders are shown no respect.

13 Young men toil at the millstones;

    boys stagger under loads of wood.

14 The elders are gone from the city gate;

    the young men have stopped their music.

15 Joy is gone from our hearts;

    our dancing has turned to mourning.

16 The crown has fallen from our head.

    Woe to us, for we have sinned!

17 Because of this our hearts are faint;

    because of these things our eyes grow dim

18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate,

    with jackals prowling over it.

19 You, Lord, reign for ever;

    your throne endures from generation to generation.

20 Why do you always forget us?

    Why do you forsake us so long?

21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;

    renew our days as of old

22 unless you have utterly rejected us

    and are angry with us beyond measure.

So, after a pause, we return to Lamentations for the final chapter. Here we find a note of hope, even though it is in the midst of grievous suffering. It comes in the form of this prayer:

“Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old” (21).

I first came across this request in the language of the ‘King James Version’ of the Bible, where it says:

“Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned…”

Just as no-one can turn to the Lord without His gracious, Sovereign initiative, so no-one can turn back to Him without His Help. It seems to me that this is a hopeful conclusion to the book, because the people of God are humbling themselves. They recognise they are incapable of authentic repentance in their own strength, and so they confess their need to God. In desperation they are thrown back on Him, and they know that if He comes to their aid, they will make moves in the right direction.

“Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again!

    Give us back the joys we once had!” New Living Translation.

Do you need to personalise this prayer today?