“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside us helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.”
-Romans 8:26-27, The Message
This passage in the message talks in parallel of our sufferings to that of a pregnant woman. In pain but waiting, hopeful for deliverance. It talks about hoping in what we cannot see. And the part the really hits me, is where the Spirit makes sense of our heart and communicates our prayers to the Lord.
When cancer struck my sister’s body, we fell to our knees in prayer. We prayed for healing, for deliverance, for God to take this burden from our lives and restore health to our family. The battle was long. It had a temporary victory, until the cancer came back. Then it got ugly. Anyone who has had to watch someone suffer illness–no matter the age and no matter the prognosis–knows that it gives you an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. There’s only so much you can do, only so much doctors and nurses can do, before you realize that it’s not in our control.
And so began my battle with understanding the point of prayer.
Some would say the Lord didn’t answer our prayers, since the gates of heaven opened and welcomed my sister home at the age of 12. We “lost” her, as we explain with our earthly view of death. Our prayers for healing were not granted, and we were left with an ache that didn’t make sense. If God loved us so deeply, why did it seem like He did nothing, when He could have saved her?
My prayer life went stagnant. Why pray to a God that doesn’t care? Why share my heart with someone who has no concern for my desires or needs? Why open myself up to a relationship of disappointment and pain? This side of heaven, death is a tragedy. We lose what we love, and we can’t get it back.
It makes no sense, and our temptation is to turn on God, since He’s obviously the one to blame. I do believe there is a difference in what God causes to happen, and what He allows to happen. Do I totally understand why God allowed what He did? No. Will I ever? Someday, perhaps. This side of heaven? Probably not.
I have seen the after effects of a short life lived for Christ. My sister spent 12 years loving the God of the universe, and making sure everyone around her knew about it. I can confidently say that she touched more lives with the love of Christ in her few years than most people do in a lifetime. She knew where her hope was, and she held onto that until her hope manifested in actual deliverance. Deliverance from pain. Deliverance from suffering. Deliverance from a cancer ridden body to a heavenly one. God did save her, and kept all of His promises.
He is a God of redemption, a God of love, and a God that hears us when we pray.
It’s the temptation to believe that what we pray for should only be answered with a “yes” from the Lord. After all, we’re praying for good things…healing for the sick, relationships to be mended, provision for the needy, a lightened load for a friend that is on the verge of a breakdown. These are all things that would better our lives or the lives around us, so why wouldn’t God say yes? To make any sense at all of prayers answered with a “no” or a “not now,” we have to completely change our vantage point, and what we think the point of prayer is.
Today I find my prayers having a lot less words, and a lot more quiet. It usually begins with an admission that God is God, and I am not.
I think to glorify God, we have to surrender what we bring before Him, no matter what is making our heart ache or what our desired outcome is. We have to acknowledge that He is still good, and He is still God. Sometimes the only thing I can manage to pray is simply someone’s name.
For a while it felt like I wasn’t really praying. That since I didn’t tell God how to handle the situation, He might not answer favorably. But then to read this scripture, about a Spirit that prays for us, and makes words out of our wordless sighs, is incredibly comforting. Our prayers can be long conversations with God, or they can be the wordless sighs of our hearts. Either way, there is a humble surrender in opening our hearts before our Savior, and worshiping Him in prayer. Knowing that what happens may break our hearts; but if it does, the One who loves us more than we can ever imagine is aching for us, and holding the fragile pieces while He puts us back together again.
(Originally written 11/20/11)