I wake up in darkness. Many mornings I turn and glance at the green digital numbers of my alarm clock: 4AM; an hour and half earlier than my eyes need to be open and my brain alert. I lay there in silence; my soul is full of tumult, my mouth unable to speak.
How do we live, how do we pray, when we are experiencing constipation of the soul? I like when the words flow smoothly like water from the kitchen faucet, even when they trickle down in a slow steady patter. I enjoy words that come out with laughter, and I love when they burst forth in song. Words through tears are painful, but sometimes it is our sorrow that ultimately unearths our depths.
Having no words, but desperately wanting them. That’s a different experience entirely. I’m no expert on this situation, but here’s what I’m learning in this season of life.
It’s okay to have no words. Not having words to adequately express yourself may be as much a part of the human experience as the ability to speak. It’s in these moments that I take comfort in the words of Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
It’s okay to have just one word. I challenged myself this week with this question: What if I just brought one word to God? I wrapped myself in my blanket, sat in my chair, faced the window, lit a candle, and simply said, “Stuck. God, I am stuck.”
It’s okay to go to friends and family and ask them to use their words on your behalf. This is a season where I have openly asked friends and family to pray for me. There’s this beautiful story in Exodus 17 where the Israelites were winning a battle against their enemies as long as Moses held up his hands. But, as the war raged on, Moses’ hands grew tired. So, Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset (vs 13). Sometimes we are facing a battle that can’t be won until our friends come alongside us with support.
It’s okay to pray words that someone else wrote. Often in the dark hours of the morning, scripture I’ve memorized comes to mind and I pray them as if they were mine. When my soul if full of tumult, I find myself asking the words of Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me….I also think Ted Loder’s words in his book Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle are beautiful.
It’s okay to express your words in song and pictures. One of the most tangible ways I’ve found to pray is to close my eyes during worship at church and picture the scenes that are swirling in my soul. Sometimes I picture God hugging me in the midst of my need, but mostly I just hold scenes of my life in my mind before God acknowledging that He is at work. When my eyes aren’t closed and focused, I also like to open my mouth and belt out songs with all of my breath. There’s something emboldening about joining other voices in expressing what is true. I love what Psalm 45:1 says, My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.