Friday, 25 July 2014

Groans and sighs

Romans 8:26-39
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those 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 among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. God's Everlasting Love What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I rarely watch television. Even on the odd nights I'm at home, I'd rather be doing other things. So most of my news comes via the internet and social media. And I think, now, more than ever before, that must be a good thing. To read about all the awful things happening across the globe, with perhaps the odd captioned picture is hard enough, without seeing those events - and their aftermath - in glorious, or inglorious technicolour.
I'm sure you'll agree that, for those of us of a praying persuasion, it's hard to know where to start, unless it is with a litany of grief.
For murdered children
For bereaved parents
For displaced and divided families
For discarded and broken lives
For planes shot down in acts of terrorism
Or falling from the skies through technical failure or mystery
For people denied freedom
and basic human rights
For those persecuted by oppressive governments
and religious regimes
For those who see violence
as a way to peace
For those who meet conflict
with destructive force.

We need the Spirit to intercede for us. To take our jumbled thoughts and emotions and our lack of understanding, to take our grief and sorrow that's beyond words and set up the line of communication between our hearts and the heart of God. The Spirit allows that heart connection, a connection unspoiled by the things we do not know or fail to understand, unsullied by our inability to feel the depth of pain and sorrow contained in news headlines and in stories of human suffering that have long since been forgotten or never even been told. The Spirit bridges the gap between our hearts and the heart of God, not only giving us a way to connect with what is human and divine but also holding our hearts and preventing them from breaking with the weight of sorrow.
Prayer that makes a difference in our world today is not a beautifully composed and assembled form of words.
It's a sigh that connects right to the heart of God.
A sigh, that in its depth conveys the hope and the promise contained in the rest of this passage from Romans 8.

The promise that we read:
For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to God's purpose.

I've often heard offered this promise offered in times of trial.
In fact, at times, I too have used these words to comfort others.
Words that seem like such a bold and improbable promise in the light of the world's suffering today.
What can possibly be the purpose of God in Israel or Palestine, in Algeria or Afghanistan, in Malaysia or the Netherlands? Or all those other places that flit in and out of our news, so quickly replaced by the next horror story of human degradation and deprivation?
The God in whom I believe does not allow creation to suffer just so that some divine purpose can be realised.
But this God, present where there is suffering of any kind, is able to conceive of a new way, a different world, a world in which suffering is redeemed.
A God who holds out hope and promise for a suffering world.
A God who knows and who is even now fashioning a world beyond our imagining, a world that connects with those Spirit groans, built on the very heart of a God who is love.
That is the promise.
And that promise is sustained by this hope:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.
It is to that hope that we cling.
So, even when we despair at all that is happening in the world, when we see no justice, no peace, still we can see the love of God at work.
In all the myriad ways that folk reach out to help one another, to spread the love in every circumstance.
Our daily news bulletins, however we receive them, often catapult us into a pit of despair or, even worse, indifference, because we think that we cannot change the suffering of the world.
And we cannot find the words even to pray.

But - Ours is a call not to eloquence.
But to groans of prayer.
A call to connect with the heart of God.
A call to claim the promise of God.
And a call to embrace the hope that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
And, responding to that call, we will know God's purposes fulfilled for the good of all creation.
Thanks be to God.

5 comments:

Katherine said...

Thank you for this, Liz. I am going to cut and paste the prayer to share, with credit given to you, of course. It spoke to my soul on this Friday.
Blessings,
Katherine

liz said...

Thanks, Katherine. You are welcome.

Dottie Villesvik said...

Yes, I too, want to copy and paste your prayer to share and will give you the credit. It also spoke to my heart this morning. Thank you!

Holy Smoke said...


Thanks so much for the simplicity and depth of this entire passage. That prayer is certainly awesome!

liz said...

Thank you. Happy to share.