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When You Have No Words, Tears Become Prayers
A meditation on the meaning of Romans 8:26
Sometimes it feels impossible to pray. Perhaps we’re too overwhelmed by our trauma, our disappointments, our sorrow or despair. Perhaps the day has been too long, the burdens we’ve been carrying too heavy, or our sense of hope too light. We want to pray, we long to reach God and ask for His consolation, but we don’t know what to say. We’re too exhausted to think about words.
It can be easy to just forget about it. Take an aspirin, a nap, a bath or a glass of wine. Try to relax, watch a bit of mind-dumbing television, whatever it takes to reduce stress.
But we’re not reducing stress with these external diversions, we’re merely ignoring them. Do you know what happens when something is ignored? Think of a toddler. If a two-year-old is crying for attention, and his mom completely ignores him, is he just going to give up and walk away? Not likely. He’ll cry all the louder.
When we’re troubled, stressed, traumatized, or feeling hopeless, the best and most healing thing to do is pray, but when we’re speechless with our hurts, doing so can seem impossible.
Enter the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul told the people of Rome that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
This verse reminds us that when we have no words for prayer, the Holy Spirit transforms our tears, our sighs of weariness, or our groans of pain, into prayer.
Yes. A sigh can be a prayer, a tear can be a prayer, a groan can be a prayer. Sit with God, and be still. Sit with God, and He will sit with you.
“We don’t know how to pray as we ought” because we can’t ever fully know God’s will. We can (and should) ask for greater wisdom, clarity, and virtue, but we’ll always need the Holy Spirit’s intercession. This is especially true during the times when we can find no words for prayer, which is why St. Paul’s message is so comforting. Perhaps he was thinking of the Psalms when he wrote his epistle to the Romans.
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle!” (Ps. 56:8)
When we have a praying heart and a soul turned toward God, our every action and deed can be transformed into a communion and communication with Him. He comforts us in all our needs. Often all we have to do is sit silently and peacefully in His presence. Let the tears and sighs come. Let them be transformed by the Spirit, who intercedes for us.