Can We Pray to God Without Words? #223
Hello friends and happy Thursday to you! Today we are in the Psalms for a THIRD day in a row, which sets a new record for us, I do believe. Our Bible passages are Judges 20, Jeremiah 34, Psalms 5 and 6, and Acts 24. Today we are focused on prayer, and are learning to pray from the Psalms. As the pandemic has unfolded, I have found more and more comfort in Psalms. I’ve mentioned to you that I endeavor to read at least one Psalm every morning upon first waking up. I am also trying to meditate on the Psalms also and to remember their words as fuel for my prayers. I believe that we can learn to worship and pray better and more…what’s the right word there? Effectively? Beautifully? I’m not sure. I want to learn to pray and worship in my own time with the Lord from the Psalms – a relatively new desire for me at this point in life. I think a big reason for this is because the Psalms we have in the Bible are God-breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit. That means that the thoughts they express and the praises they bring forth are good, Godly and anointed. I can pray the words of the Psalms knowing that I am praying in accord with God’s will, and that is a comforting thought. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we can and should express to God the spontaneous and genuine words of our heart and longing, but the Psalms help me to express those words better, somehow.
Have you ever been at that place, though, where words just fail? Where you are going through something so difficult or soul-crushing that you can barely get out anything coherent? Maybe you’ve been so confused and perplexed by a situation that you genuinely don’t know how to pray or what end to pray for? Or when you are so stressed and worried that the words just don’t come? I recall a time when our daughter was in the hospital when she was very young and very sick. I had to leave the room when a friend came by to see us (maximum of two visitors) and while I was out, one of the babies/toddlers in the general area of my daughter coded, or something like that, which seemed to send doctors and nurses scrambling. I was utterly terrified, and could not get my wife or our friend on the phone, and I was just melting – sure it was our daughter. I prayed from the absolute anguish of my heart, but the words would barely come out – it was just cries of my heart, sobs, and gibberish. Was that real prayer? Did I connect with God? I’m not sure, but it was a false alarm. Our daughter was fine, and my wife and her friend had missed my worried calls and texts because they were deep in conversation. That was a great outcome, but it raises the question: Must we pray with words for our prayers to be heard by God? How important is it to use the right words – the eloquent words? Psalms 5 helps us to understand prayer on a deeper level. Let’s read it:
Listen to my words, Lord;
consider my sighing.
2 Pay attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for I pray to you.
Here’s Charles Spurgeon on praying without words:
There are two sorts of prayers—those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer. Moses at the Red Sea cried to God, though he said nothing. Yet the use of language may prevent distraction of mind, may assist the powers of the soul, and may excite devotion. David, we observe, uses both modes of prayer, and craves for the one a hearing, and for the other a consideration. What an expressive word! “Consider my meditation.” If I have asked that which is right, give it to me; if I have omitted to ask that which I most needed, fill up the vacancy in my prayer. “Consider my meditation.” Let thy holy soul consider it as presented through my all-glorious Mediator: then regard thou it in thy wisdom, weigh it in the scales, judge thou of my sincerity, and of the true state of my necessities, and answer me in due time for thy mercy’s sake! There may be prevailing intercession where there are no words; and alas! there may be words where there is no true supplication. Let us cultivate the spirit of prayer which is even better than the habit of prayer. There may be seeming prayer where there is little devotion. We should begin to pray before we kneel down, and we should not cease when we rise up.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
“The voice of my cry.” In another Psalm we find the expression, “The voice of my weeping.” Weeping has a voice—a melting, plaintive tone, an ear-piercing shrillness, which reaches the very heart of God: and crying hath a voice—a soul-moving eloquence; coming from our heart it reaches God’s heart. Ah! my brothers and sisters, sometimes we cannot put our prayers into words: they are nothing but a cry: but the Lord can comprehend the meaning, for he hears a voice in our cry. To a loving father his children’s cries are music, and they have a magic influence which his heart cannot resist… Observe the order and force of the words, “my cry,” “the voice of my prayer;” and also, “give ear,” “consider,” “hearken.” These expressions all evince the urgency and energy of David’s feelings and petitions. First, we have, “give ear;” that is, hear me. But it is of little service for the words to be heard, unless the “cry,” or the roaring, or the meditation, be considered. As if he had said, in a common way of expression, I speak with deep anxiety and concern, but with a failing utterance; and I cannot express myself, nor make myself understood as I wish. Do thou, therefore, understand from my feelings more than I am able to express in words. And, therefore, I add my “cry;” that what I cannot express in words for thee to hear, I may by my “cry” signify to thine understanding. And when thou hast understood me, then, O Lord “Hearken unto the voice of my prayer,” and despise not what thou hast thus heard and understood.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 1-26, vol. 1 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 49–50.
Take comfort, brother and sister, that now in the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that God not only hears and deciphers and considers the cries of your heart, but that the Holy Spirit also communes and communicates through you to God the Father, interceding for and with you with inexpressible groans:
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
As Spurgeon says, the Holy Spirit goes beyond merely teaching us to pray, but actually joins with us in intercession:
I should have thought that it would have read, “But the Spirit itself teaches us what we should pray for.” But it does more than that. He goes beyond teaching us what we should pray for. He “maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “The Greatest Wonder of Grace,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 59 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1913), 516.