There are times in life when we cannot pray, or don’t know how. Several years ago a famous stock brokerage firm ran some great commercials on TV. All of them featured crowds of people in small conversations among themselves when, all of a sudden, someone was overheard to say something like; “Well my stock broker is E.F. Hutton and he says…..” At that point everyone immediately stopped talking. The silence was instant. People leaned intently toward the speaker to hear those next words. They would hold the universal key to financial success. The finishing line of the commercial was; “When E.F. Hutton speaks, everybody listens,” or something like that. Now I’m not advertising for a company here because, quiet frankly, the world of high finances is not where I live, though I have a few friends who do. These ads, however, have remained bright in my brain for a very long time. I think it’s because they have something very important to say about prayer and prayerfulness. The message is simple. There’s a time to stop talking and start listening. I might add, in regard to prayer, there’s a time to stop thinking so we can hear.
This is true all the time, but especially when we cannot pray or don’t know how. I’ve had a number of these experiences and suspect they happen to lots of us. They often come in times of tragedy, sadness, and hurt, but also when life is “normal,” whatever that is for any of us. Such “cannot pray” times may even accompany great happiness and celebration, when we just don’t know how to express our gratitude to God.
Paul, in the New Testament, wrote something which has profound meaning for those times when we cannot pray, or don’t know how. “Likewise 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.” (Romans 8:26 NRSV) When we cannot “pray as we ought” may very well be the time we are most in communion with God. A conversation is happening in our hearts. The Spirit is interceding. “Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). It’s time to listen.
Personal Prayer: God help me learn to listen. Let there be times when I cannot pray, or don’t know how. Still my mind and life so I can hear the conversation happening in the heart of things, and in me. Maybe then I’ll hear your voice in others. Amen