Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing devotions based on the United Methodist membership vows, where we pledge to support the church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. This week’s focus is prayer.
26 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 groanings too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
While reading this scripture closely, the word “ought” in the first verse sticks in my brain. Through my counselor training, I know that words like “should” and “ought” sometimes cause us great self-recrimination. I believe it is easy for Christians to be hard on themselves about how they don’t measure up, particularly in our prayer lives. Perhaps we hear masterful prayer warriors and think that our words may never be as meaningful.
Our words by themselves may never measure up, but maybe we are reminded that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness….The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes on our behalf. Even when our words fail, the Spirit knows and encourages the prayers of our hearts.
When I think of our connection to the Spirit through the heart, I am also reminded of the story of Brother Lawrence, who spoke of his connection to God through the heart, not the head. He was a 17th century French monk known for The Practice of the Presence of God. A man of poor means and little education, Brother Lawrence joined the religious order in midlife and never advanced beyond being the cook. But Brother Lawrence learned to simply be in constant conversation with God while doing chores in God’s name. He believed that to be in prayer always (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he simply had to recognize and acknowledge God’s presence as if it were just he and God. How can the ways of Brother Lawrence inspire your connection to God?
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Sometimes we can’t find the right words. Yet sometimes, even our groans, intentions and/or activities can be heard as prayers of the heart. The support of the Holy Spirit helps us take any prayers to God. How might the Spirit help us connect to our Lord? How does the story of Brother Lawrence inspire you to just think of talking to God in all your daily activities?
Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for your support! When I cannot find the words in prayer, let me know your presence that helps me to connect to you. Recognize my ways and heart, even when I don’t know how or what to pray. Amen.