26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. ~ Romans 8:26-27 (CEB)
One of my pet peeves is a common trend occurring in restaurants all around our country. It’s been happening for some time now, and yet, I haven’t stopped being frustrated by it: Televisions are placed on virtually every wall of the dining room.
No matter where you sit, your eyes can easily find a television screen. In come places, the televisions are all tuned into different stations. In other places, they are tuned into news stations (because that’s exactly what everyone wants when eating right? A nice news story to give you indigestion.) Some places mute the volume and turn on the closed captioning so that as you are trying to talk to your dining partner, they’re trying to read the television screen. And some places… these are worst… turn the volume up so that you have the added noise in the dining room.
But the television-in-restaurant trend is a symptom of a wider reality in our nation: We don’t know how to maintain silence.
Our lives are filled with noise from one end of the candle to the other.
I had a friend once who would panic if silence fell between us for more than a few seconds. He’d get a deer-in-the-headlight look and frantically ask, “Is everything okay? Did I make you mad?”
Silence, he thought, was an enemy.
Much of our lives are conducted under the same unspoken premise.
And yet, for all the many things that prayer is, prayer is sometimes silence.
Silence allows us to sit in a space of unknowing, to be vulnerable, and to admit that we, alone, do not have the words to fill the void. Our words do not carry with them the power to create vast universes. Our words are limited and finite.
For this reason, we sometimes find ourselves sitting in the presence of the Creator of the Universe, the one who simply spoke a word and entire worlds formed in the emptiness of time and space… and we can’t think of a thing to say.
Sometimes we come before that same God with worries and concerns and heartaches weighing us down, pulling us under, and we just can’t find the right words to express our helplessness. We’re like little children, hurting and suffering, but unable to tell the One who can fix it where the hurt is.
And sometimes we come before the Almighty and we don’t know what we should say, or how to say it if we even did.
And that’s okay.
Because in Romans we hear the words of Paul reminding the new Christians who were struggling to find the right words, or to figure our how to pray, that the Spirit will guide us.
When our human minds, clogged by our human limitation and frailities, can find no words, the Spirit prays for us. In “wordless groans”. Have you ever been so sick or so tired or so hurt that all you could do was groan? And in that groan, a world of meaning was conveyed to the people around you… likewise, when words escape us and we fall silent and allow the Spirit to search our hearts and minds, the Spirit’s wordless groans will tell God an endless story…
Silence is not an enemy.
Silence is a time to remember that we, by ourselves, don’t have the power to achieve our owns salvation. It is a time to let the God of Creation to listen to a truth from our hearts which spoken words alone could never express.
So, don’t be afraid to sit in silence and let the Holy Spirit search your heart, your mind, your soul. Let silence fall around you so that the Spirit can pray on your behalf.
(Devotion from the weekly Prayer Meeting at Gooding United Methodist Church, August 8, 2018)