The Simplest Prayer

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

Romans 8:26

Have you ever wanted to talk to God about something, but you just don’t know what to pray for? Or maybe your heart is so heavy that you cannot come up with the words to express how you are feeling?

Me too. There are times when words are simply inadequate. That’s when I have to ask the Holy Spirit for help, to intercede on my behalf.

I recently found myself praying for someone at the end stage of cancer. I didn’t know whether I should pray for healing or for a peaceful end to their suffering. I finally gave up trying to find the right prayer and the right words for the situation, and asked the Holy Spirit to intervene. And I knew when I let the Spirit pray in me that the outcome would be aligned with God’s will. As it turned out, the person I was praying for died peacefully surrounded by family a few days later.

I let the Spirit pray in me many times when my fiancé and I were separated for reasons beyond our control a couple of years ago. My heart ached so much that I could not find any words to pray. Every time I tried, I found myself at a loss. So I cried out to God with tears. I pleaded with God to change the situation, to work a miracle. He did, but he did it in his time, not mine. In the meantime, I learned that the only way to pray sometimes is through tears.

When it comes to prayer, I believe that God wants us to ask for what we need even though he already knows our heart. And when we can’t find the words to express ourselves, he still knows and he still answers. Maybe not in the time or ways that we expect or want. But he does answer.

Our prayers don’t have to be perfect for him to hear, either. In fact, the less perfect the better, in my opinion. But there also is a place for familiar, memorized prayers like the Lord’s Prayer, prayers of the saints, and the Rosary. Saying those prayers also helps in situations when I can’t seem to find the right words. I have said them so many times that their repetition has slowly deepened my understanding of the faith.

But the prayers without words, the ones where the Spirit intercedes on my behalf—those are the most powerful prayers for me. They remind me that I am never alone, that I am always united to God in the Spirit. All I have to do is ask for help.

Holy Spirit, I don’t know what to pray for. Please intercede for me.


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