Faith to Pray When You Don’t Know How

I gave birth to the most perfect, pink barrel-chested baby almost nine years ago. The doctor called me a rock star for lasting past 9 CM for my epidural. (Natural child birthers and other Wonder Womans, please give this win to me.) Four months later I dropped him off at daycare and kissed that precious face goodbye, walking into the drizzle of a gray April morning. The next time I saw my son he was stretched out on a hospital bed with a team of doctors urgently trying to pump life back into him. I call this my foxhole moment. The moment when as a faithless person with a humility issue (and really great hoop earrings), I fell headfirst into a dark place of desperation.

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Do you know who meets us there if we dare to look up? God. And boy does He love to welcome His children back home. I was the prodigal daughter. I’d run off to do my own thing but life knocked my arrogance right out of me.

As doctors prophesized a future of extreme disabilities and seizure disorders for my son, snatching my motherhood dreams one by one and tossing them into a dumpster, I found the humility necessary to toss up my arms and say, “I’m not enough.” This is when I began to pray, foxhole pleading prayers of “Are you there, God? It’s me Erin.”

After that Judy Blume introduction, I became an eloquent prayer warrior. I could string two words together like nobody’s business. Sometime it was Please, God. Other times it was God, please. But really, most of those early prayers were grunts, moans, sighs, and cries. Sometimes my heart beat so hard it pounded out its own prayers. I love that God hears these, and in my spirit I feel as though these are some of His favorites because our human desire to impress doesn’t get in the way.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, and even when we don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and communicates the desires of our heart straight to the Father. The Greek word for “intercede” used in Paul’s original text is a verb that originates from two root words – and get this my dear readers – when we look at the meaning of those root words, it doesn’t just mean intercede, but it means beyond, more than, exceedingly, abundantly.

When we can’t pray, when we’re really little more than a quivering, sputtering, salty-teared mess, if we believe just a little–we’re talking poppy seed, grain of sand size of faith here–the Holy Spirit will pick up the depth of our desires directly from our heart and He’ll translate all that mess for our Heavenly Father. And then He’ll go beyond that. Requesting even more than we know to ask for. Because that’s who He is. Awesome-sauce personified.

Do you know that in those early months of coming back to God I really don’t remember praying a lot? Those memories were mostly pushed out by the other emotional landmines I was trying to side-step daily. I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the past of my early faith and trying to understand its development within me, but that season has always stumped me. How did God move so much in my life, how did He impact me so greatly when I remember so little? I mean, really, how powerful can “please, God” and “God, please” really be?

I’ve learned that in any equation with God, we’ll always be the smallest number. Because God’s math is nothing like ours, and we can’t even begin to understand it – not even all of you who are amazing with numbers and love your Excel spreadsheets and budgets.

God needs very little from us, and a faith that is just beyond microscopic is enough to move mountains. Even if we can’t form the words asking God to move our mountains, even if we don’t know where the mountain is, what it looks like, or how it got there, the Holy Spirit does. Because He knows us in a way we can’t fathom, and He takes all of that confusing mess straight to God for us – translating it beyond our scope of understanding in order to do more than we can even imagine.

If you’re wondering what happened to my son and the infancy of my faith story, head to Noah’s Road. There you’ll find old blog entries and a radio interview of my testimony.

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This article originally appeared at ErinWhitmer.com.


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Erin Whitmer
Erin Whitmer is a writer and speaker whose passion is to share how, in spite of tragedy, God redeemed her once faithless life. Erin writes to inspire women struggling with motherhood and faith on her blog at www.erinwhitmer.com. She lives in the cornfield-lined countryside on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two miracle boys, Noah and Avry. She would love for you to join her at her Facebook page.