“In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.” Romans 8:26 (CSB)
The doctor entered between the flimsy curtains in the emergency room. He said the CT scan showed multiple pulmonary embolisms in both of my lungs, which explained my difficulty breathing.
As my impaired lungs struggled for every breath, I lay in that hospital bed, unable to say much of anything, much less pray anything. God, please help … was the best I could muster.
In that place, God taught me about the power of silence in my prayer life.
My words were more desperate than eloquent, pleas from the depth of my being. Sometimes that’s all we have to give. Thankfully, that’s enough for God.
Have you ever experienced a season when you just couldn’t utter more than a few words in prayer? When you weren’t even sure what to pray for? Maybe the physical pain was overwhelming. Or maybe your heart was suffering more than your body. All you knew was that you needed help. And only God in heaven could understand the depth of your pain.
I’ve been there too. It’s never fun, but God has consistently shown Himself faithful. Every time.
Our small prayers, offered with a sincere heart, can be the equivalent of the widow’s two coins given sacrificially to the temple treasury when “many rich people were putting in large sums” (Mark 12:41, CSB). That’s what I experienced when my clotted lungs struggled to squeeze out audible words. Even if I tried to pray quietly inside my heart, the pain proved too distracting. My groanings were more exact. Which is why I’m so grateful that God understands even this and that He provides for us in those moments when we don’t know what to say or maybe can’t say anything at all.
In our key verse, Paul says “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness.” This could mean physical weakness, but it could also imply spiritual weakness. When we’re distraught beyond words and we don’t know how to pray, the “Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings” (Romans 8:26). What a gift this is to God’s people.
Whether we consider ourselves to be mighty prayer warriors or we admittedly sometimes struggle with it, prayer remains a central part of every believer’s life. It’s a fundamental way we express our dependence on God. When we go to Him daily, we acknowledge that we cannot supply anything for ourselves. We look to God for everything we need, including every breath we take.
This idea of daily dependence on God counters everything we hear in the world, yet it’s an elemental part of cultivating a quiet heart in a loud and restless world.
While the “quiet life” Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (CSB) speaks more to a person’s inner quietness of heart, it’s also wise to experience actual quiet from time to time.
Whenever we’re not sure how to pray, we can lean into the silence and let the Spirit do His healing work inside us.
To experience deep quiet, take inventory of the sounds around you. Then turn off as many sounds as possible. For some of us, we may be so unaccustomed to actual silence that we find it eerie or unsettling at first, but don’t let this sway you.
I can’t promise that your prayers will lead to spiritual fireworks, at least not instantaneously. For me, my lungs were not immediately healed, but slowly, over time, God was faithful to meet me in those quiet hours that filled each day. And in His time, He restored my breath.
Let the power of silence be the source of a renewed prayer life. For when we are still, God often does His best work.
Lord, thank You that we can come to You with prayers that might sound unimpressive to human ears and still You receive our prayers when we offer them with sincere hearts. Help us to embrace times of silence and solitude as a discipline for listening to You through Your Word. Remind us, Lord, that we are dependent upon You for everything. We praise You for being our faithful Provider. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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What if we are missing what God has in store for us because we’re too busy looking backward? Even if you feel ashamed of choices you made or you are longing for what feels familiar, God has a purpose and a plan for what's ahead. Learn how yesterday’s mistakes don’t have to steal from your tomorrows … Join our next study! Make It Count: Move Past Your Past and Live With Purpose Today, A Study of the Book of Deuteronomy is a six-week study starting January 9 in the First 5 mobile app. Click here to get your study guide!
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
1 Thessalonians 4:10b-11, “But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” (CSB)
Have you experienced a season when words evaded you and you just didn’t know how to pray? How might it help if you were to create an atmosphere of quiet for a time of prayer? Let us know in the comments!
© 2023 by Denise J. Hughes. All rights reserved.
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