It is my privilege to write on prayer for the good people at Smyth & Helwys. Each month, I have opportunity to reflect on the life of prayer and the leadings of the pray-er. This month’s focus is personal in nature as prayer should be. I hope that it encourages you to keep on talking to God even when the words won’t come. “The Prayer Left Unsaid” is a record of one such experience for me. I pray that you are comforted by what I discovered during a conversation with God and that it encourages you as we strive to live without race.
“Lord, You know.” I was on the expressway one evening after work and found myself repeating these words in between long tears and deep sighs. They are not new or unfamiliar, as I had been introduced to them long before now. Once I said them, I immediately recognized whom I sounded like. It was my grandmother, Eva Mae. She’s gone now but her words and her praying life remain with me.
To my surprise, it brought immediate relief and no, I was not complaining about the traffic. I often talk to God while I drive but this surrendered expression was unplanned. I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything more. But, after saying those three words, the pressure of explaining and the pain of recounting the events, of repeating the words were gone. Only God knows how painful it was to even hold in my mind—much less place on my tongue—what I had experienced.
No lump in my throat or painful burning. No tears to hold back. No awkward or angry silence. No side effects save that of a mysterious assurance, gratitude and peace, evidence of God’s presence with me in that moment.
We say that God is omniscient and, perhaps, it may seem as if this only works in God’s favor. I mean, how can we benefit from what only God knows? But, as I learned in my car that evening, God’s knowing provides a reassurance that we are seen, heard, and understood—whether we say something or not.
The exchange reminded me of being in the company of one’s best friend. You can look at each other and just know what the other is thinking or feeling—without saying a word. You have shared food, clothing, money, and experiences. You know each other’s secrets and have covered for each other on more than one occasion. You created memories and now have a history. Consequently, there is an unspoken understanding. You know what she is thinking right now or what he would say in this situation if he were here.
The same is true of God. God is not some callous and distant Know-It-All, head shaking while saying, “I told you so,” as some would argue. No, God’s knowledge does not go to the Divine’s head. That’s a human problem.
Instead, God listens and speaks to us with compassion. God meets our thoughts before we do yet does not interrupt when we share them. God saw my words coming and finished my sentence that night (Psalm 139:2). Lord, You know how much that means to me.