…We do not know what we ought to
pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes
for us with groans that words cannot express.
Romans 8:26 (NIV)
Yesterday our church received word that one of our dear sisters is no longer struggling against the cancer that ravaged her body. Last evening tornadoes struck the Dallas/Ft Worth Texas area killing six, injuring a hundred and leaving fourteen unaccounted for. As Americans, we recently faced an explosion in West, Texas, and a bombing in Boston, and once again we stand face to face with the question, “What do I pray during times of tragedy?”
Our oldest son and his family live just northeast of Dallas. Tornado alley! As I watched the weather radar screen, it quickly became obvious that the path of the storm would go through their city. I immediately began to pray. After making my concern known to our son, I received a text message from him which read, “Don’t worry mom. I’ll call if we die”—his way of reassuring me that everything would be fine. I responded, “Don’t call, just throw me a rope from heaven and pull me up.”
I began to pray earnestly for all those in the midst of the storm. Then I heard myself say, “Father, please protect your children.” The reality of what I was asking hit me like the grapefruit sized hail that pummeled the storm-ridden area. I asked God to protect His children—my brothers and sisters in Christ. What about those who are not His children? What about those who need a Savior? What about those who have no spiritual resources to face the aftermath of their tragedy? I felt ashamed, and I wept.
How often have I prayed the wrong prayer? How often have I asked God to protect His children who are prepared for heaven yet neglected to ask for protection of those who need one more opportunity to surrender themselves to God through Christ? How often?
It became apparent to me that I did not know exactly what to pray for those in the midst of tragedy. Thousands of people with hundreds of needs—overwhelming. Then God reminded me that I did not have to know exactly what or how to pray for them. As a believer in Christ, I am not left to my own resources when I pray. I do not always have to use the right words or assume the right position before God hears. I have help.
The Spirit of God helps me in my weakness, when I don’t know what to pray, when I can’t express to God what my heart is feeling, the Holy Spirit intercedes, talks to the Father for me, goes to the throne room of God on my behalf in accordance with God’s will (see verses 26-27).
Prayer is our lifeline to the Father. The Holy Spirit of God living in His children is like that rope I wanted my son to drop from heaven…He pulls us heavenward as He intercedes on our behalf. When we find ourselves asking, “Father, what do I pray?” His ever-present Holy Spirit is already talking with the Father for me.
So if you, like me, find yourself asking “What do I pray?” do not despair. Remember, the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness when we do not know what we ought to pray for. Pray!