Help for Prayer
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. – Romans 8:26 (NRSV)
“Pastor, would you pray the doctor hits the bull’s eye with my injection?” Of course I will.
“I don’t really know what to pray for; I’m so confused.” Let’s talk to God together anyway.
Myths about prayer seem to abound and rebound. One myth is that the Rev’s prayers have more effect. Another is that God needs explicit instructions from us in prayer. If we don’t know say the right thing, how will God know what to do?
More often than not, whether we admit it or not, “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” Our prayers seem selfish or rambling. Will God stay on the other end of the line if I don’t get to the point or it’s all about me?
Paul says we have help – not only for the times we know we don’t know, but for the times when we think we do. The Holy Spirit knows that among our weaknesses is a felt need to educate God.
Words, the Apostle Paul says, are not even essential to prayer. Not for us, and not for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit knows the “will of God” (Romans 8:27) and translates our prayers accordingly. God knows what we say and is attuned to our wordless sighs.
God, thank you today that you are not only still speaking, you’re still listening. Even when I don’t know what to say. Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC.