When Words Fail
Beads of perspiration form on your brow, your heart flutters, your mind swims. An endless loop replays in your head: the scathing, screaming argument with your mother; the prognosis from the doctor; a schedule so full you can’t calm your thoughts enough to fall asleep at night.
You’ve probably been there at some point in your life: You rush before God like an eager child bursting into a room full of toys only to find that you have no idea how to begin to pray. You don’t know if you should be asking for guidance, protection or forgiveness—or all of the above. And what about how to order your list? And should you say special words? How does this prayer thing work?
Maybe you’ve finally got a minute to yourself, so you grab your Bible, look up to the ceiling and think, Now what? That list you’ve been building in your mind goes blank. The phone rings. The kids cry. The TV blares from another room. The dog barks. Anything—and everything—interrupts the moment. Help! How do you pray when words fail?
Enter the Holy Spirit. He perceives our heart’s agony and comforts us in our weakness. He knows our spiritual battle often burns hottest when we fight within ourselves. We wrestle with how to prioritize our prayers. We struggle with imposing our human agendas on a holy God. We cross our arms, grit our teeth and mentally stomp our feet when things don’t turn out as we desperately prayed they would. Life’s frustrations can mute us spiritually: “We do not know what we ought to pray for” (verse 26). But God does not stop hearing us when we’re dumbstruck before him. Both in silence and when our words flow in a jumbled torrent, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf to the Father. He does know what to pray for.
The next time your spirit groans with a weight heavier than you can bear, trust that even when you might not be able to find words to pray, God clearly hears your cries through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. He knows your heart, your thoughts and your greatest needs better than you do yourself. Though your words may fail, your intercessor will never fail you
- Describe your prayer life. Do you struggle with it or does it flow naturally? Is it structured or hit-and-miss?
- Have you ever been at a loss for words during a time of prayer? How did the Holy Spirit intercede on your behalf? (For example: in song, in tears or in inexpressible ways.)
- Examine your heart. What things in your life have you been unable to express to God? Now, let the Holy Spirit lift these struggles from you and carry them before the Father.
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.
More Proverbs of Solomon
25 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.
2 It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.
3 As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
so the heart of kings is unsearchable.
4 Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel;
5 take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.
6 Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great,
7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
What your eyes have seen
8 do not hastily bring into court,[a]
for[b] what will you do in the end,
when your neighbor puts you to shame?
9 Argue your case with your neighbor himself,
and do not reveal another’s secret,
10 lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,
and your ill repute have no end.
11 A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.
19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.[c]
28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
“So that a future generation — children yet to be born — might know. They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands.” Psalm 78:6-7 (HCSB)
When I married my husband nearly 30 years ago, I quickly learned to love watching sports … especially football. If you sneak into our house when we’re watching a game on TV, you’d probably see us with pizza in one hand, with the other hand coaching the players on their next move.
Within my family, my father-in-law is the biggest football fan of all. He remembers details from games years ago — plays that made history and the players who became famous because of them. So, it didn’t surprise me when he gathered our family together before heading out for a day of fun and asked us this question: What quarter are you in?
He equated our lives to quarters in a game. Being in the “fourth quarter” of his life, he shared some of the highlights of God’s faithfulness during his lifetime: the plays that went as planned, the ones that ended with a touchdown and the ones that resulted in yards lost. Yet, he declared, throughout his entire lifetime, God has faithfully been there. He encouraged his kids and grandkids to pay attention to the time of life they’re currently in, the second and third quarters, and to honor God with the time remaining.
Practicing today’s verse from Psalm 78, he wasn’t just giving us a family history lesson. His hope was that as he shared his story with God, his family would create their own. He called us to put our confidence in God, not in job success, family happiness or financial prosperity. He pleaded with us not to forget God’s works and challenged us to keep God’s commands.
Talking about the Lord — what He has done and all He is doing — is a normal occurrence whenever our family gets together. It’s not uncomfortable or out-of-place, because it’s what we’ve always done. By their actions, my father and mother-in-love, as I like to call them, taught us to be confident in telling our stories, too.
When we weave storytelling into our everyday lives, God can move and use our stories to move others. We can slow down during our day and brag about God — not just in the the big things He has done for us, but the little things too! Making us not only recipients of His goodness, but tellers of it as well!
A simple step I take to help me remember to share my stories with others is writing about God’s faithfulness in a journal. Then, when life is hard, I go back and read how God did it once and trust He will do it again. We can encourage others to do the same.
Teaching our children to document God’s faithfulness prepares them for the “next time.” The next time they are worried about taking a test. The next time they are scared to try a new sport. The next time they’re anxious about a change on the horizon. Their confidence in God builds, as they remember how He’s been with them through other joys and struggles.
When it comes to sharing our stories with others, whether it’s the woman at work, the friend down the street, or with family surrounding us, don’t worry what others will think or how they will react. God will handle that. Just obey and see what He does. Hearing about His faithfulness might be just the push they need to put their confidence in God, too.
Father, help me. I admit I’m afraid to talk about You sometimes. Strengthen me to be bold and share the wonderful ways You have changed my life and trust that You will use my story to change others’ lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Joel 1:3, “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” (NIV)
Judges 2:10, “That whole generation was also gathered to their ancestors. After them another generation rose up who did not know the LORD or the works He had done for Israel.” (HCSB)
Are you longing for a deep connection with a friend? Our next Online Bible Study, Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman, begins TODAY and will help you step into a new, purpose-filled life of loving others, as you choose to listen to and love the people around you. Get your copy in the bookstore today, and you’ll receive 12 free bonus items from Karen!
When God has done so much for us, why can conversations about Him seem uncomfortable or difficult to start? Missed opportunities can feel like failures, and that’s why Lynn Cowell wants to share a FREE resource that will help you talk about the Lord in everyday conversations. Click here where Lynn is sharing Get it Started: 25 Conversation Starters.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do you make it a habit to remember God’s faithfulness? Take a moment to think about one way God helped you through yesterday. Share that with someone!
How can you weave bragging on God into part of your everyday conversations?