Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27, Romans 8:26-30, Matthew 23:1-12
We are a species driven by language. Some philosophers claim language is a necessary precedent to thought as we understand it. In Genesis, God speaks creation into existence. Is language also necessary for prayer? Paul would not seem to think so. He might even go so far as to suggest it could be an impediment to true prayer. He writes: “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
As much as we rely on words to express our feelings, many of the emotions we experience are beyond them. How do we express these things? Sometimes through poetry, which subverts the definition of words to uncover what they cannot say directly. Or maybe through music which has the power to communicate directly with the body and bypass words altogether. And of course there is art of all kinds which recombines the intent of the artist and the perception of the viewer into an ever more powerful third experience which is shared yet unique.
Then there is prayer. In some circumstances it’s a set of shared words; in others, a shared silence. Sometimes it’s not shared at all. Prayer is a tool which – usually gently, but forcefully when necessary – pries apart the seams of hardened ego to expose our inner, vulnerable selves to the God who gives us life, meaning, and comfort. It re-establishes that connection through a language with a single, inexpressible word for everything that is: horror and beauty; grief and joy; rage and peace; pain and bliss. When we need to share these things with our God and don’t know how, the sigh of the Spirit is that word.
Never beat yourself up over not knowing the “right” way to pray. Paul admitted he didn’t. The Spirit is also known as the Advocate, or one who pleads on behalf of another. Whether you are expressing gratitude or anger, using words or not, the Spirit sighs on your behalf. Prayer is a decision to be in the presence of God. It’s simplest form: Inhale. Exhale. Be. Repeat.
Comfort: God knows what is in your heart, always.
Challenge: Even when you are angry with God, take time to pray.
Prayer: God of all that is, I come to you naked and helpless as a babe, trusting in your goodness and love. Amen.
Discussion: When do you find it difficult to pray?
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