With Sighs Too Deep for Words

A newborn baby's hand is held gently by an adult hand.

Gracious God, the week was filled with moments when words escaped me. They would not come. Forgive me, Holy One —I know it is the preacher’s job, but there were moments when I just did not know how to pray.

First, at the hospital, labor and delivery, to see the new parents. The overnight bag sat half-unpacked in the corner, three different baby blankets were tossed over the chair, half-eaten lunch lingered on the tray—everything was askew and yet it all was in perfect place. Mama had worked so hard to get that baby Earth-side. Papa had been so steady every minute. They were exhausted, but their little Wonder was here and it was all that mattered. Their joy, filled the room so full there didn’t seem space for anything else. So we just hugged. And hugged again.

Then to the hospice house, where the room was dark. She lay there, smaller than she had been just a few days before. I took my place beside the bed and we held hands. The clock ticked so very loudly. Did it bother her as much it bothered me? She reached for her water cup and I moved too quickly to get it for her and bumped the bed. She took a sip. We both settled back into the quiet. The clock kept ticking. Best not to interrupt it. So we just kept holding hands.

And then back to the church to prepare for Ash Wednesday. But the news was just rolling in about the school shooting. Seventeen. Lord in your mercy. What was there to say? We have already offered our thoughts and prayers over gun violence, and yet here we are again. So I prepared the ashes and wondered how offended You are by our thoughts and prayers that are unaccompanied by confession of and repentance from the worship of guns.

Holy One, we confess that it seems we have missed the point. We search so hard for the right words when, more often than not, the prayer is in the doing. Cling tightly to one another. Hold each other’s hand. Make meaningful change.

And as for prayers with words, in the moments when we do not know how to pray we’ll trust that what the Apostle Paul says is true: that the Spirit will intercede with sighs too deep for words.

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Perhaps if we trust the Spirit to pray, we can get on with the doing. We pray in the name of our teacher Jesus, who never said go and believe likewise, but go and do likewise. Amen.

Rev. Walke's pastoral prayer is based on Romans 8:26