I confess to being someone who builds their life around words. I love to read, to write, to communicate in words. And we live in a content-rich culture. Wherever we go, whatever we see, on billboards in the streets or screens in our homes, there are words, words, words.
But sometimes there are no words. Sometimes the enormity of life or particular circumstances render words irrelevant. When Job lost everything – his family, his livelihood, his health, his place in the community – his friends simply sat with him on the ground for seven days (Job 2:13). In fact, the problems started when they chose to open their mouths and try and ‘explain’ what had happened.
Perhaps we too live in a season when words fail us. The great changes around us, the fears we carry for the future or the pain of losing loved ones, mean that we are lost for words. Life is not as it should be.
And that causes us to yearn for something better. For we know that something better is coming. We hold onto the promises of God, we trust that one day all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. But not yet. And that sense of waiting, of longing, represents a deep spiritual desire inside us. As St. Paul puts it in our passage: we ‘groan inwardly as we wait eagerly’ (v23). We long to see the kingdom come, to see ourselves made fully whole, to see the world made right.
Part of what it means to have the Spirit of God dwelling in us is to feel this. This is not a spiritual failing, but the opposite – proof that the Spirit truly is inside us and helping us to see as Jesus sees, to feel as Jesus feels. It is God-given and God-directed. To love is to long. To grow is to groan. The Spirit unites with our spirit to help us give voice to these longings. Not in words, but in a deep yearning for God’s kingdom to come.
And the Spirit is not just here alongside us in this process. The Spirit also articulates these groans in the very throne room of God. Our longing reaches the ears of God through the groans of the Spirit too deep for words (v26). And it doesn’t matter if we don’t have the words, we don’t know exactly what to pray: the Spirit communicates what is needed.
So let us take heart. Life is confusing currently. We may well not know how or what to pray. But God knows, and our yearning will find its way to Him, through the Spirit who dwells in us and intercedes on our behalf. Amen, come Lord Jesus.