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When Words Fail

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27 (NRSV)

Just as the world was shutting down due to COVID-19, Kevin Horne, from Louisiana, learned that he had aggressive prostate cancer that requires immediate surgery. Fear overwhelmed him. He wondered if he could even receive treatment in the midst of a pandemic. The prayers of friends lifted him, yet his own praying was, in the words of Franciscan Richard Rohr, both "constant and impossible."

In late afternoons during his days of waiting, Kevin walked by the river and along tree-lined streets near his home. He babbled his prayers but soon ran out of words. Finally, he prayed, "Father, I have no more words. Please let my steps be prayers and my breathe be praise." Kevin remembered how Paul wrote that the Spirit prays with us and for us when we can manage only groans and sighs. His anxiety did not disappear; but Kevin began to see beyond it as he walked and breathed. His mind became calm as it no longer grasped for words. He began to see and hear the birds along the river. He noticed the sunlight through the trees. He saw other people walking - no doubt bearing burdens of their own.

Eventually Kevin had successful surgery, and he gives thanks for caring doctors, nurses, and other dedicated healthcare workers. Most of all he gives thanks for God's Spirit that sustains. and he continues to pray - sometimes with words.

Prayer: O God, you know our needs before we ask. Hear us when we pray with words and without them, in Jesus' name. Amen.

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