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I Don’t Know What to Pray

By Dave Lescalleet

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us  with groanings which cannot be uttered.

– Romans 8:26

 

When I was a pastor, I had the opportunity to pray for a little boy while in church.  In our service we offered our congregants an opportunity to come forward for prayer and to allow our pastoral team to pray for them.  On this one morning, this little boy, he couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, came forward and wanted to pray.  When he stood before me, I leaned down and asked him, “What would you like to pray?”

He gave this deep sigh and shook his head and said, “You know, I really don’t know what to pray.”  I patted him on the shoulder and said that he was in good company, because St. Paul wrote about that very condition.

That the little boy knew he was supposed to pray was good and right.  That he wasn’t sure what to pray, mattered little.   The instinct to pray was correct.  How often have we felt like that little boy?  Knowing we need to pray, wanting to pray, and taking time to pray, but then finding ourselves stuck.  What do I pray?   How do I pray?

I must confess there have been many times I have uttered those same words as the boy, “You know, I really don’t know what to pray.”  We know we should pray, but for a whole host of reasons, the words aren’t there.  At those weak moments I am most thankful for what Paul wrote in his letter to the Church of Rome:  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

What a reminder and comfort!  For when I am weak, God is strong.  May our Lord and Savior get us to the place like that little boy.  May we know that even when we don’t have all the words, we still have God the Holy Spirit prompting us to pray.  Paul reminds us that when we go to pray, it is that same Spirit who will speak the words for us–even when our words are lacking.

 

Dr. Dave Lescalleet

Dr. Dave Lescalleet serves as the Director of Chaplaincy for PruittHealth. He is a graduate of Knox Theological Seminary.

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