Groans too deep for words

Pastoral Messages | June 17, 2020

Recently, while reconnecting with some friends on Zoom, I was reminded of these words from scripture that “when we do not know what we ought to pray” the Holy Spirit prays for us with “groans too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

I don’t know about you, but my prayer life has had its share of “groanings” lately. Not necessarily because I’m complaining – though I’m sure there’s been some of that – but because so much of what has been unfolding in these past three months on our globe, and in our nation, and even locally in the Quad Cities, has presented me with opportunities for wearisome sighs. I was encouraged by the reminder in prayer from these familiar words of Paul’s epistle to the Romans that those utterances count. Our moments of incoherence and wordless stuttering, they are prayers, too.

Not only do I take comfort in the Spirit interceding, but I also appreciate the words of others when I finally have the energy to pray. I’ve even had a couple of unique moments praying through the Book of Common Prayer “morning prayer” service on my back deck. On one occasion, about the time I started to pray audibly “a prayer attributed to St. John Chrysostom,” a bright, red cardinal joined me; landing on my firepit chimenea, just in time complete in us the gathering of “two or three” that the prayer mentions.

When I met with my friends a few days ago, we caught up on our lives, our work, our families. We originally met because last year we were a part of a spiritual direction cohort committed to reading leadership books, growing professionally, and also deepening our faith lives. Little did we know we’d find ourselves these number of months later in the midst of virus quarantine and national unrest over race matters. One of my friends in this group, originally from Grenada, reminded us that the number of U.S. deaths due to coronavirus is roughly the equivalent to her entire home country’s population. What a sobering picture that is. More sighing.

But as this friend prayed, calling her own words ‘feeble,’ and, to me, they absolutely were not, I was thankful for another’s voice. I, too, feel that my words are often ‘feeble,’ or unsatisfactory. This reality points me to the need for a community in which I do not muster up the Divine, nor name it, on my own. So, I find myself thankful -in quarantine, as well as ordinary daily life – for the thoughtful reflections of others. They companion nicely with the Spirit’s “groaning” intercessions.

-Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family ministries

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