The Upper Room devotional reflection for Tuesday, June 21, 2022 comes to us from Kevin Horne of Louisiana.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:22-27 NIV
“When Words Fail”
Just as the world was shutting down due to COVID-19, I learned that I had aggressive prostate cancer that required immediate surgery. Fear overwhelmed me. I wondered if I could even receive treatment in the mist of a pandemic. The prayers of friends lifted me, yet my own praying was, in the words of Franciscan Richard Rohr, both “constant and impossible.”
In late afternoons during my days of waiting, I walked by the river and along tree-lined streets near my home. I babbled my prayers but soon ran out of words. Finally, I prayed, “Father, I have no more words. Please let my steps be prayers and my breath be praise.” I remembered how Paul wrote that the Spirit prays with us and for us when we can manage only groans and sighs. My anxiety did not disappear; but I began to see beyond it as I walked and breathed, My mind became calm as it no longer grasped for words I began to see and hear the birds along the river. I noticed the sunlight through the trees. I saw other people walking – no doubt bearing burdens of their own, Eventually I had successful surgery, and I give thanks for caring doctors, nurses, and other dedicated healthcare workers. Most of all I give thanks for God’s Spirit that sustains. And I continue to pray – sometimes with words.
Although my recent health concerns have not been nearly as serious as Kevin Horne’s prostate cancer, I understand about praying even when we can’t find words. I think that when we are feeling sick or stressed, sometimes we can begin, “Oh, God” and have no more words to offer, even silently. Of course, God doesn’t need to hear words from us; God is always loving and caring for each and all of us. I invite you to consider moments when you have prayed to God even when you couldn’t find words. How have you felt God’s presence in those moments?
O God, you know our needs before we ask. Hear us when we pray with words and without them. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
I don’t always need words to pray.