Tues., Sept. 11, 2018
Romans 8:26 – 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.
Seventeen years ago today.
For those who were living and old enough to remember, today is a day we will never forget. (Difficult to imagine that any student who is in high school today or younger would not have been born or old enough to remember the actual events of 9.11.)
A day that defines life in terms of “before” and “after.”
One of those days when we say, “I know exactly where I was …”
Where were you?
I was attending seminary. It was the beginning of the semester. Three days a week, seminary students were encouraged to attend chapel. I was on my way to chapel, walking into the hall where it was held. Something was off, different, unsettled. At the beginning of chapel, a rundown of what was unfolding before America’s eyes was shared. Like much of the rest of America, we spent time gathered around a television, watching the horrific events play out unscripted.
The raw emotion.
The people who tried to help and ended up being in the wrong place.
The lack of proper words to describe what we were witnessing.
The disbelief of how this could ever happen.
Lesson plans were abandoned.
Calls to loved ones were made.
It was impossible not to embody some self-reflection about one’s life, priorities and feelings.
The next day during chapel, the previously scheduled speaker was abandoned. The Dean of the entire university spoke. Before assuming this role, he had been Dean of the seminary and is an ordained Presbyterian elder. He felt the need to address the standing room only crowd, filled with undergraduates, faculty and staff joining the seminary students and faculty.
I was familiar with Romans chapter 8, often listed as one of “the best” chapters in the bible. The chapter where Apostle Paul assures us that there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to separate ourselves from God’s love.
But these were not the words the Dean reflected upon. No, he shared words from a little earlier in the chapter. Here, Apostle Paul tells us when we lack words to pray, not to be discouraged. When we are weak and no longer have the words to say to God, it’s OK. It’s alright. In these moments, the Holy Spirit steps in and uses words on our behalf.
Somehow, I had previously missed these words. Words which assure me that no matter what is going on in my life and when I’m not sure how to pray, it’s OK. The Holy Spirit knows the words and prays on my behalf.
This, my friends, is unconditional love. This is stepping in and taking over the load. This is a picture of a loving God. These words, I have held onto so many times since then; times when I truly no longer had any words.
I don’t know what is going on in your life today. Or a family member’s life. Or a loved one’s life. Or someone you barely know. When you run out of words and feel like you no longer have anything left to say to God, just sit before God. Just wait. For the Holy Spirit will step in with just the right words to share with God, all on our behalf.
What a beautiful picture of the God I know and believe in.
How many times have you felt like God didn’t answer your prayer? Heard your prayer? Didn’t come rushing to your need immediately like you felt God should?
Actually, God did. You see, when you no longer knew what to say to God, the Holy Spirit quietly took over and did the praying for you.
I know there will be times in the future when I will run out of words to use in prayer. Thankfully, there already is a backup plan in place.
The Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God.
For God’s backup plan when my prayers fail, I am grateful.
Almighty God – I pray we find moments today to reflect upon what happened 17 years ago. I pray we recall the times when the Holy Spirit stepped in a prayed for us. I pray we are thankful for you in our lives. Help us be just a bit more reflective, thankful and grateful today. Amen.
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