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. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
In our weakness we often don’t know how to pray. We look at the world and are tempted to despair. As I write I hear news stories of President Trump both pandering to racists and saying the most racist things I have ever heard a democratically elected leader say. The newly elected president of the European Commission has highlighted that 17,000 people have died on the Mediteranean Sea over the last five years as they fled oppression; she promises to make Europe’s asylum systems more humane so that our borders don’t remain places of despair and execution. In the UK, again as I write, the press is speculating who will be appointed to the cabinet as the Conservative leader changes letting someone else have a go at trying to simultaneously have and eat cake. In all this it’s hard to know how to pray. We may pray that Mr Trump comes to his senses, that those who hear his words will use their anger to effect change; that (of course other) governments change their asylum policies; and that the great British public comes to it senses (but might have differing ideas about what that might look like).
In our own lives it’s hard to know how to pray as we don’t have the full picture. In a difficult personal context Paul wrote that we need not worry because, in our weakness God’s Holy Spirit takes our prayers and makes them articulate. Our incoherent cries of rage and our impotent despair are transformed by the Holy Spirit (God within us) and made coherent and powerful before the throne of God above us.
O God, before you we sigh, moan and rage, hear our inarticulate prayers, and transform them into words of power that we may be transformed into powerful agents of change. Amen.
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