Just Sit There, by Mike Glenn
I’ve known Danny (not his real name) for years. His daughter and my sons were in the same grade at the same schools through high school. We’ve seen each other at church, schools and all over town for the last 25 years. Danny is as solid as they come. He’s a good guy and we count on him in a variety of ways as a leader in our church.
I’m telling you all of this so you’ll understand the surprise I experienced when he told me he couldn’t pray any more.
“What do you mean, ‘You can’t pray?’”
“I can’t pray,” he went on. “In fact, I’ve almost stopped praying. I’ll start. I’ll try to pray and then, I won’t know what to say or I’ll say something stupid. So, I’ve just about stopped”.
Because I know Danny, I know what’s been going on his life. He’s has two very tough deaths in the past year. One was his best friend. The other was the wife of a close friend. He’s been deeply involved in the care of these families and done a great job ministering to those families, but I still know it’s been hard for him.
“You shouldn’t be surprised,” I said. “You’re grieving”.
“After this long? It’s been six months”.
“OK, you’re not grieving yet. You’re just starting”.
“Yep,” I said. “Think about it. You walked these last months with your friends. Then, you took care of their families and friends. Now, everyone is OK and your soul is telling you to slow down and deal with your own grief”.
“How do I do that,” he asked. “I don’t know what to say”.
“No one does. Sometimes when you pray, you just sit there and don’t say anything for a long time”.
“Is that prayer? Is it still praying when you don’t say anything?”
“Oh, you’re saying a lot. You’re just not using any words”.
I don’t know where we got the idea prayer always means we have to be saying something to God while we’re praying. At the very least, prayer is a dialogue. By definition, we should be silent half of our prayer time to listen to see what God will say to us.Most of the time, we start praying, given God a long list of things we’d like for Him to do and then, we end the prayer before God can get a word in edgewise.
But there are times when prayer goes beyond words. There are times when the pain is so deep or the joy is so electric, there are no words to express it. Sometimes, we pray in tears and sometimes in laughter. Sometimes, we can only groan or slam our fists into the cushion of the chair trying to beat back the reality that confronts us.
And sometimes, we can’t say or do anything at all.
Let’s be honest. Sometimes, life wins. We get ambushed by grief, wounded by anger and crushed under the weight of the falling pieces of our blown apart dreams.
Sometimes, there’s just nothing to say. When those moments come, let me encourage to trust the heart of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to not only hear the words you want to pray, but to understand them. When people love you, they know what you’re trying to say even when you’re not saying anything.
In Romans 8, Paul gives us a great promise we run past trying to get to all of the other good stuff in that chapter. In that chapter, Paul tells us the Spirit – the same Spirit who searches the deep things of God – also searches the things deep within us. That means the Spirit grabs the prayers we can’t find words for and takes them to the very heart of God.
You may not have had the words to voice your prayer, but through the Spirit’s ministry, you’ve prayed anyway.
And the unspoken prayer was heard. The Father knows us so well, He can read every gesture, understand our posture and hear the pain hidden in the deep sighs.
So, don’t be afraid of a prayer that is expressed in long periods of silence. Don’t worry when you come into His presence for prayer and can’t think of anything to say. The Father hears you. The Father understands. You are safe to be still, to be vulnerable, to take off your armor and rest from the battle – prayer is about communication and sometimes, words aren’t needed.
After all, only the best of friends can have long conversations and not use many words. When you don’t know what to say, pray anyway.