The other night I sat in our car, waiting for Charlie to get off work, and turned everything off. I turned off the radio to silence the news anchor’s voice as he reminded us again that 20 children were dead inside a school. I turned off my phone so I would stop reading through anxiety-riddled Facebook updates and messages about what should be done. I turned everything off, closed my eyes, and for the first time since I learned of the Connecticut elementary school shooting, I started to really pray.
The only problem was, I was out of words after about 30 seconds.
I didn’t even know what to say to God. I thought about the darkness our country is stumbling around in and didn’t know how exactly to talk to Him about it. What words do I use to pray for a nation in which a young man takes weapons into a school and guns down small children? What words do I use to lift up parents who were going to sleep that night knowing their little ones were lying in a classroom a few blocks away, dead where they fell? How do I pray for the problems I see in people’s faces at the food pantry, the other evil stories I hear on the news, Satan’s victories that He is triumphantly thrusting in my face every day?
What words, Lord? What words do I pray that will be effective?
That’s when it hit me – God wasn’t waiting for me to ask Him to do specific things to help us. He was just waiting for me to ask for help.
When a child falls down and hurts herself, what does she do? She doesn’t turn to her father and say, “Dad, could you please come over here, then kneel down, then see my wound, then clean it with antiseptic, then put a band-aid on it, then help me to my feet?” No. She doesn’t even use words. A child will cry, turn in the direction of her father and raise her arms in a gesture that begs him to come pick her up out of her mess and help her. And when he comes, he knows what to do without being asked specifically about each step. He is moved by her cry for help, not by her detailed request for helpful actions. As for the child, she is mainly seeking the comforting presence of her father because she trusts that when he is with her, he will know what to do.
I realized sitting in our car that God understood that I didn’t have the words to pray for the unspeakable things that continue to happen. I don’t think He is waiting for our eloquent prayers asking just the right things before He comes to our rescue. I think He wants our broken hearts and our outstretched arms that, as we sit covered in the dirt of the pit we’ve fallen into, search for our Father and cry out to Him for help, trusting He will come to us and already knows what to do.
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
We don’t have words Lord, but our spirits are groaning, crying, under the presence of evil in our world. Hear our cries, see our humbled, outstretched arms and come work Your plan of rescue.