Saturday, July 29, 2017

Year A, Proper 12, Romans 8:26-39, Sighs to deep for words

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

One of my seminary professors told us about his father's prayers.  He had a way of praying as though God was standing in the next room, so conversational and natural were his intercessions.  The professor went on to relate how one day they had taken his father out to Charlies Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, an upscale restaurant there.  His dad said grace. before their meal.  When they lifted up their heads and looked around they noticed that everyone within earshot had been moved to pause in their meals, and bow their heads as well.  Such were the prayers of this faithful servant of God.

I've always envied those people who can pray that way.  It's not that I don't pray.  I'm paid to pray.  It's part of my vocation as a pastor.  Prayers of the Church during worship- which I'm comfortable doing spontaneously, or using prepared prayers.  And then of course there are all those occasions when one is called upon to pray for ones parishioners.  In our home we routinely offer prayers before meals.

But often, away from the demands of my profession, words escape me in my prayers.  Sighs seem to be the norm.  Deep groans from my inmost being.  Sometimes the moaning of one's soul as though gasping for air.  

I find myself drawn into a life of prayer without words.  Bypassing the head, and communicating with God directly from the heart.  This is deeply private for me.  It is a sacred place that I have never been able to let others into.  Holy Ground.  A soul singing, often  in lament.  I'd speak more specifically about this, except there is a fear, a vulnerability, a risk that I am unwilling to take.  If someone knew, and critiqued this practice, or worse, derided it, it would be a violation.  And I'm not willing to risk it.

The Spirit intercedes for us.  To put it differently, prayer is a two way conversation and sometimes it is God that not only takes the lead, but draws us into a holy conversation that we cannot enter by ourselves.  

There is another side to this prayer without words.  Whenever I get too verbal in my prayers I cannot help but ask God to answer my prayers in very specific ways.  God has often not taken my advice. In the end, when the dust has settled, I am aware that though the course of my life was not as I had charted, it was an answer to those prayers.  God had a better idea.  

Often too, are the occasions when the circumstances that compel me into prayer are simply beyond words.  Some of that comes from shear exasperation.  The events in Washington this last week surrounding health care legislation are a prime example.  Sigh!  Be careful what you ask for. . .

And then there are the times when I simply do not know what to ask for.  I pray a lot for my children.  And speak very few words.  My hopes, my dreams, my concerns for them all pale in comparison to my love for them.  This I hope is reflected in those prayers without words.  Sigh.  

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nestled in a divine embrace we coo like babies at their mother's breast.  A soft and gentle murmuring of our souls in the arms of God as we are fed from her very being.  All that we need for life is there, a mother's gift of herself to us.  Those arms are an extension of the womb's embrace that never lets go.  

This is my body, this is my blood, given, shed, for you.  It is our umbilical chord, never cut, always the source of our life.  Love divine, all loves excelling.  And from this there is no letting go.  Sigh!

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