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Prayer, Plain and Simple

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26)

When all’s said and done, all will be done when all is said. God had the first word; he will have the last. He speaks. He IS the WORD.

And God has created us humans in his image. He created us by a word, and his image is carried in us by our capacity, unique among all creatures, to speak words. Other animals communicate, but humans alone have the ability for self-awareness and other awareness expressed in language. Words are a wonder, and as much as anything a proof of God’s existence and his present and active love.

We pray in words, as we should. God listens and answers our prayers, quite often by returning words back to us. Words matter; words mean things.

But sometimes words come up short and our communication with God needs to go deeper than human language can express. We know from human communication studies that non-verbal signals cover a wider portion of what we say than what we “say” in vocabulary. “Body language” and tone of voice superimpose meaning atop our words.

Prayer can also have a non-verbal expressing. The Bible mentions all kinds of body language postures for prayer: kneeling, raising hands, clapping, shouting, lying face down… There are dozens of examples. In those times when I don’t know what to say to God, I can resort to something beyond language, and let other expressions do my talking.

God’s promises meet me however I express myself. When I’m speechless, I am never alone. As Paul says above, the Spirit of God comes to coach and coax me to express what I can’t express. Sometimes all I can do is muster a “groaning too deep for words.” That can actually be the Spirit uttering expression through me.

Reflection

Perhaps today all you can muster is a “groan” or a sigh in prayer. Maybe you just need to kneel and be still and quiet. Maybe you need to go out into the woods and shout! Well and good! God can leverage our wordless expressions and turn them into a genuine and complete appeal. We may not understand but he certainly does.

Response

Today, try praying somehow without a word. Kneel. Dance. Shout. Sketch a picture… Enough said. You can experiment in prayer in a way deeper than words.

 

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