Where I live, Wednesday morning was dreary. The sky was dark, indicative of the thunderstorm that was rolling through. Even in front of a window, I needed artificial light for the Zoom call I had with my spiritual director.
As we talked about finding the fingerprints of God in my unique life situation these days, the word “weird” came up…a lot. There is no doubt that for all of us, these “unprecedented times” are weird; in some weeks, there are varying kinds of ‘weird’ by the day!
My spiritual director asked me about my response to the weirdness in terms of prayer. I said that, along with my usual Benedictine prayer offices, there are a lot of brief, incomplete sentences being offered to God in prayer these days.
She asked if these brief, incomplete sentences could be termed ‘groans’.
I nodded in agreement.
We both welled up a little, but in a good way.
This was a realization for me that even these brief utterances of prayer which, on some days, are all we can muster with the Lord, are important parts of our relationship with God.
If you have days where your prayers seem like little more than groans, don’t despair. God is listening.
And be encouraged by the words of the apostle Paul: “…the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8.26, NLT).
Post-Script: After I wrote this, I read this in N.T. Wright’s little book, God and the Pandemic (Zondervan Reflective, 2020, p. 42): “…when the world is going through great convulsions, the followers of Jesus are called to be people of prayer at the place where the world is in pain. Paul [the apostle, in reference to the latter part of Romans 8] puts it like this, in a three-stage movement: first, the groaning of the world; second, the groaning of the Church; third, the groaning of the Spirit – within the Church within the world.”
Groan on, church. Groan on.