What Do I Pray When Words Aren’t Enough?


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
(Romans 8:26 NIV)

Are you a big emoji fan? I never really felt like I had a huge need for emojis in my life. And even when I started using them, it was really only to send a little heart to emphasize a strong statement. I still don’t really use a lot of them – basically just the crying-laughing face, and the one that looks like my kids’ faces when I tell them they have to go clean their rooms (utter despair). But I will tell you that there are some moments where I’ve come to realize that a word or phrase just can’t convey the degree of emotion behind what I’m trying to say. For those moments, an emoji really makes digital conversation come alive.   

(For those of you who are totally lost right now, emojis are mini digital pictures or icons used to express emotions or ideas in informal digital communication.)    

This concept isn’t new, though. It’s kind of in the same family as the expression “a picture paints a thousand words” or using sound effects (like a scream or a sigh) in conversation to better express the depth of a thought or idea. 

The idea even goes back to Biblical times. Chapter eight of Romans is all about it. In this chapter, Paul is talking to the readers about how our whole earth – and we along with it – have been groaning. We’re all groaning in frustration, agony, pain, etc. at the struggles we face here on earth. This life is hard! 

But God gets it. He really, really gets it. He gets what it’s like to experience all these human up’s and down’s. He gets that there are times when tears trump words. He gets the power of a hug or a huge belly laugh. He also gets what it means to experience something so big that you don’t even know the words to pray.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father, who knows all hearts, knows what the Spirit is saying for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

(Romans 8:26-27 NLT)

When all we have left in us is a groan, a sigh, a scream, or a tear, the Holy Spirit’s got our back. Our Heavenly Father knows our heart. And our Savior Jesus – who walked on this earth and knows firsthand what it means to be human – can empathize with any struggle we will ever go through.  

We don’t have to have the words. God speaks “human.”

Prayer: (Take this time to sit quietly and just “be” with God. Resist the urge to talk with God in words, but instead invite Him into your whirling, messy, untranslated train of thoughts.)

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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