It has been a strange and at times confusing summer for me.
At the end of May, I got terribly sick with pneumonia (when people got pneumonia on Little House on the Prairie, Doc Baker only furrowed his brow and silently shook his head). I was quarantined in the basement for almost ten days, running a fever higher than 102 most of the time. I cried and was scared. My sleep was sweaty and spotty, laced with incoherent dreams. I coughed up blood (in movies, that is the single, irrefutable sign that things are really, really not going well for you). When you’re that sick, you can’t remember ever feeling normal, and you are certain you’ll never feel normal again. I felt that way forever.
And then, somehow, I slowly got better.
People have stories about spiritual awakenings when they get that sick. Sometimes they’ll talk about how close they felt to God because they felt so desperate. That did not happen with me. I did pray, but it was more like a babble than a prayer. “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Have mercy. Have mercy.” I prayed that over and over and over again.
I am better, but not totally. Before I got pneumonia, I could run 8-10 miles pretty easily. After being well for about a week, I went out for my first walk/jog. I ran a very slow mile, interspersed with two or three walking breaks. Now, almost 8 weeks later, I am back up to 6 miles. I do not like these kinds of set backs. But sometimes God’s mercy looks like helping a person who doesn’t really know how to slow down, to slow down.
And there is this beautiful community that I’m leading, called Genesis Covenant Church. We are passionately committed to joining God’s work of cultivating new beginnings in all of us, everywhere. It’s a vulnerable thing to begin anything, because you can’t flip to the last page and see how it turns out. This beginning is a little like the click-click-clicking of a roller coaster on its way up. It is thrilling, terrifying, and we don’t really know what is coming next. We just know that we’re buckled in for this ride, no matter what.
We have a team of people that are committed to praying for us. I love that. They are from all over the country, so I send out updates so they can “know how to pray.” The only problem is, I’m not sure how to pray.
Should I tell them to pray for me because I feel insecure?
Should I tell them to pray that “everything goes smoothly” at our first worship gathering?
Should I tell them to pray that “the right people” show up on Sunday?
Should I tell them to pray that I will slow down?
Should I tell them to simply pray, “Lord have mercy on us?”
Should I tell them just to babble whatever incoherent feeling is on their hearts?
I really don’t know how we should pray. But, according to the Bible, not knowing how to pray is actually a thing! In Romans 8:26-28, we read these comforting, reassuring words:
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good (The Message).”
What does it mean that God does our praying in and for us, because we don’t know how to pray?
It means we can rest. It means when we are present with God, we don’t have to scramble for the right words. It means God knows us and keeps us and holds us and sees us. It means God is present with us, whether we ask God to be present or not. It means the Spirit is praying for us even when we are not praying at all.
I am not sure what kind of summer you’ve been having, but if you have been hearing the click-click-clicking of change, please take some comfort in the reality that God is at work in you, right now, not because you’re getting it all right, but because God is always turning our chaotic and sometimes terribly sick lives into something beautiful and good.