Wordless Groans

I think I have a new favorite Bible verse:

‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.’ – Romans 8:26

Wordless groans.

word cloud rp

This is a word cloud built using text from the 2014 Words Series (so far), on worditout.com.

It’s at least a little amusing to me that 2014 could be described as the Year of the Word, at least here on my Disciplehood blog, because 19 of the 26 posts I’ve written so far this year centred around the study of words – and now I find myself enamored with a verse that celebrates wordlessness.

The irony is definitely legit, but my fascination with Romans 8:26 doesn’t come in spite of my recent preoccupation with biblical words. On the contrary, it’s born of the same stuff.

You can attribute the 2014 Words Series partly to the fact that I’m a writer and therefore I probably think more about words than most people do. But it also comes from a deep-seeded desire to fully understand and explain God – to my reader(s), to be sure, but mostly to myself.

'Oooh, you are so big, so absolutely huge...,' says the Chaplain (Michael Palin) in Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. (Image Source)

‘Oooh, you are so big, so absolutely huge…,’ says the Chaplain (Michael Palin) in Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. (Image Source)

That is rather a tall order, of course. A puny, finite humanoid such as myself can’t possibly hope to comprehend a God who is so old He’s ageless, so huge He’s sizeless and so loving that 1 John 4:8 says He is love itself.

And yet, the desire remains.

And since the 783,137 words in the Bible (KJV) are what all of Christian understanding about our CreatorRedeemerInspirer are ultimately based on, words seem to be the most sensible vehicle for this exploratory journey into the nature of God and His will for us.

So on January 4, we started with The Last Word and continued through to May 18, when I posted Knock Three Times. I sure enjoyed writing these posts and the 17 that came between them (not to mention the other seven posts penned in the same period, that weren’t really part of the Words series). I also learned quite a bit about God in the process of researching and writing.

But when I occasionally trap myself in the cage of thinking these posts were a waste of time if they didn’t lead me toward a comprehensive understanding of God, I begin to feel a little downcast.

'"Words just don't do justice to the God who created words": Yet another groundbreaking story from the spiritual journal, DUH!' former SNL news anchor Norm MacDonald might say. (Image Source)

‘”Words just don’t do justice to the God who created words”: Yet another groundbreaking story from the spiritual journal, DUH!‘ former SNL news anchor Norm MacDonald might say. (Image Source)

Words just don’t do justice to the God who created words.

Then, last week, Romans 8:26 entered the picture and put this very logical reality decisively into the category of ‘Not a Problem’.

I think God loves it when we try to stretch our understanding of Him using words (or anything else) to gain extra leverage. But we need to know, going in, that there are not enough words in any language (or all of them stacked on top of each other) to fully accomplish this task.

And that’s completely OK, because God has it covered. When we don’t know what to say to God – and I think this also applies when we don’t know what to say about God – He says it for us, and He doesn’t need anything as quaint and clumsy as language to do it.

He says it for us in wordless groans – or as the King James Version (and New King James Version) put it, ‘with groanings that cannot be uttered’.

So the Spirit of God manifests Himself in fires that do not consume, in wind that makes sound but not breeze and in prayers that cannot be uttered.

That’s a meditation-worthy statement, I think.

There’s a cute, often used, sermon illustration about a little boy who didn’t know what to pray, so he recited the alphabet, and left it to God to make the letters into the right words.

As comforting a picture as that story paints, I think it stops short of what Romans 8:26 declares: the Spirit doesn’t even need our letters, He just needs the cry in our hearts. And He doesn’t have to translate it into Heavenly language, He bypasses language altogether!

And what’s maybe even more significant is that the verse (in these translations, at least) doesn’t say that the Spirit hears our wordless groans as the prayers we’d like to pray but are incapable of praying, but that He does the praying for us!

Think about that for a Moment: The creator of the universe prays for you. About you. With you. On your behalf.


Now, it’s not news to me that in the God-Baldy partnership, He does the vast majority of the heavy lifting, but I’d always thought of prayer as my job. But apparently, He does that too.


Peace be with you.

†  †  †

About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Bible, God, Grace, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Monty Python, New Testament, Relationship, Saturday Night Live, Words, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wordless Groans

  1. Pingback: More Wordless Groans | Disciplehood

  2. Pingback: The W-Word, Part 1 | Disciplehood

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