In November 2015, I learned I needed open-heart surgery. Surprised and a little shaken, I was naturally drawn to think about the possibility of death. Were there relationships I needed to mend? Were there financial matters I needed to attend to for my family? Was there work that could be done ahead of time? And what about work that couldn’t wait; who should I hand that off to? It was a time to both act and pray.
Except I couldn’t do either.
My body was so weary and my mind so fatigued that even the simplest of tasks seemed beyond my strength. Perhaps most surprising, when I tried to pray, my thoughts would drift to the discomfort, or the shallow breathing caused by the damaged heart made me fall asleep. It was frustrating. I couldn’t work and I couldn’t even ask God to let me live so I could spend more time with my family!
The inability to pray troubled me most. But as with all other human needs, the Creator knew this was happening to me. I would eventually recall He made two preparations for such occurrences: the prayer of the Spirit for us when we can’t pray (Rom. 8:26), and the prayer of others on our behalf (James 5:16; Gal. 6:2).
What a comfort it was to know that the Holy Spirit was even then raising my concerns before the Father. What a gift also to hear from friends and family as they prayed for me. Then came another surprise: As my friends and family asked me what to pray for, it became clear that my answers to them were also being heard by God as prayers. What a gift it is in a time of uncertainty to be reminded God hears our heart even when we think we can’t call out to Him.
God never leaves the voices of His children unheard.
Anyone who has traveled to a foreign country can understand the value of a good translator. Someone who is familiar with our language and that of the country we are visiting knows how to choose just the right words to communicate clearly.
Have you ever been in a situation so perplexing you didn’t know the right words to use when you prayed? Because of our limited perspective and the distraction of our sinful inclinations we can sometimes struggle with prayer. Yet God the Holy Spirit is our intercessor. He groans with our concerns as He Himself makes our prayers conform to the will of God. It’s a comfort that the Holy Spirit knows our own limitations and weaknesses and translates our requests to God in conformity with His will.
In what ways does understanding the intercession of the Holy Spirit comfort you when you find it hard to pray?