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At a Loss for Words, or Even Prayer

Posted by Sherman Chau on

It was a surreal moment for me to see the images of July 1st on the news. We flew out of Hong Kong on Monday morning. It was sunny and clear – a beautiful summer’s day. Then, we landed 12 hours later in another country and saw what had happened. It was such a stark contrast with dark scenes of unimaginable destruction in half-lit interiors.

Many times in life, we face situations where we don’t know what to say or how we should pray. Some situations are so complex and overwhelming that we’re confused and stunned, and no prayers come to mind. Maybe we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, like when we’re trying to comfort someone who’s grieving or going through a low point in life. Often in a political or politicised situation, we are cautious with our words so as not to offend someone or to inflame a situation.

 In these moments, I have always leaned heavily on Romans 8:26-27:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

The context of this is waiting and hoping for the redemption and glory of the future but having to live in and accept the suffering and reality of the present. Our “weakness” is that we don’t know how to live in the present very well. It’s hard to hope for the best outcome and difficult to trust in His sovereignty when we don’t have anything to fix our eyes on (“Now hope that is seen is not hope” v. 24). It’s hard sometimes to know how to pray.

The comfort of this verse is that God knows us and our weaknesses. Communication with our Heavenly Father isn’t cut off just because we don’t know what to say. In His mercy and love, He sends the Spirit to fill in the silence, to intercede on our behalf, and to put our formless thoughts into prayer using a spiritual language deeper and richer than any of our words could be.

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