When We Run Out of Words

Gratitude Day 508

Fri., Sept. 11, 2020

Romans 8:26 – And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words.

Nineteen years ago today, our country shifted. People began the day like most other days. They grabbed a coffee on their way to work. They rode the bus to school and waited the recess. They read the paper and checked e-mail.

Until. Until television stations broke in with news that an airplane had struck one of the twin towers in New York City. It wasn’t long before a second plane crashed into the other tower. Then, there was an attack on the Pentagon. Later, it was discovered another plane had been hijacked. This plane’s destination was thwarted when passengers on the plane decided to make sure another attack didn’t happen. Many of us will always remember the brave people who quickly put a plan together and the words that put it into action, “Let’s roll.”

Nineteen years ago, I was in seminary. That day, my classes didn’t begin until after morning chapel, which started at 9:30 AM. I saw a short clip on TV right before leaving for chapel showing something was happening in New York City. Not realizing what had happened, I went to chapel. We sat in stunned disbelief.  

At my 10:30 AM class, we weren’t sure what to do. Say. Believe. Feel. Like so many other Americans, we were trying to process the early information knowing that there were huge gaps missing. Later that evening, students, faculty and staff gathered in the chapel room. We simply lit candles and prayed. It wasn’t a planned service. It was more spontaneous. As the sun dipped behind the horizon, only the glow of the candles illuminated the room. It was a poignant and meaningful time to be together.

On Thursday, the president of the entire university preached at chapel. He was trained as a pastor and had served as president of the seminary before accepting the elevated role. He was well aware that many students, including myself, would be leading worship at the churches where we served as student pastors. We would be the ones who would try to bring comfort and peace into people’s lives who felt so unsure about what was going on in the world at the time. Jeff Bullock preached from Romans 8. He focused on one verse that reminds us that when we don’t have the words to pray, it’s really OK. The Holy Spirit will intervene on our behalf and pray for us with deep sighs.  

How many times I have thought of those words since that chapel service nineteen years ago. Times when I knew someone else didn’t have the words to pray. Days when I was at a loss of what to say to God. Situations that leave us at a loss for words. The Spirit intervenes for us and pleads for us before God.

I’m not sure what your situation is right now that is leaving you at a loss of words. Or who you know that has maybe even stopped praying because they’ve ran out of words. In our current pandemic situation, maybe you feel like no one is listening to your words … and wondering if your words make any difference. Possibly you’ve stopped praying as adamantly as you once did because you are frustrated with seemingly no answers to prayer.

If any of these, or countless other situations are leaving you at a loss for how to pray, give yourself grace. It’s OK when we don’t know how to pray. What to say. Feel defeated because you feel like your prayers aren’t making any difference. Hear Paul’s words once again: “At the times we don’t even know how to pray or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words.”

When we run out of words, I pray that we find comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit sighs for us and super-intercedes specifically on our behalf. Those were words we needed to hear nineteen years ago. We need to hear them just as clearly today.

For the reassurance that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we no longer have words, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Almighty God – We all remember where we were this day nineteen years ago. Even now, we may feel the same feelings well up in our bellies as we did then. For the times we have no words or feel like we’re at a loss of what to say to You, O God, thank you for providing the Holy Spirit to step in on our behalf. Amen and Amen.

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