Praying as we ought


I wish you could see the Holy Spirit in your eyes like I do.

It is my pattern to pray with folks at the end of every pastoral visit. I often mention something that we’ve discussed or that I’ve sensed is on your heart. Sometimes I stumble over my words. Sometimes the words flow. Sometimes I don’t name that which you are most concerned to share. Regardless, when I finish my prayer and we make eye contact, as we typically do, I see the Holy Spirit has done the Holy Spirit’s work. Sometimes you express the feeling and tell me thank you. Sometimes you express it only in your eyes. However it is that you express it, I see in your eyes and demeanor that the Spirit has interceded and our prayer has reached God.

As we discussed prayer in one of my classes this week, I thought about you. I thought about the Advocate who takes our conscious words, thoughts, and feelings as well as that which we have not yet felt, spoken, or thought and intercedes with God with “sighs too deep for words.” This is what Paul wrote about in Romans 8,

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

In seminary this week, we’ve spent time trying to find just the right words to pray. We’ve been seeking just the right phrases and punctuation to use in public prayer. As Paul tells us, though, ultimately none of that matters. If you or I stumble in our prayers, God hears and knows. If you or I have poetic words, God hears and knows. If you or I say words that are far from the truth or brutally honest, God hears and knows. God hears and knows because we have the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who intercedes on our behalf. And it is the Holy Spirit that I see in your eyes after we pray.

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