When you can’t find the words to pray.
Have you ever bowed your head to pray, but you could not find the right words? I mean, you knew you wanted to pray—you wanted to connect with God—wanted the heart connection with your Heavenly Father, but you just did not know how to put into words what was in your heart . . . you just weren't sure what to pray.
Most times, circumstances clearly show how and for what we ought be praying--healing, comfort, peace, etc. Then, there are those times when it is difficult to tell what the right thing would be--confusing to ascertain the will of God, so what then? What words do you pray?
Let me take you to Mark’s gospel, chapter 5*, for the story of a desperate woman. I love this story because it is so simple. What the woman did, anyone could do. Here's the scene: this woman has been sick for twelve years, and has used up her money on doctors, who have been unable to cure her. The King James Version describes her as having 'an issue of blood', which means she has been menstruating for all these years. In first-century Jewish culture, she is considered an outcast because she is unclean, and she couldn't participate in ceremonial cleansing to get clean. Therefore, she could not go to the temple, and no one could touch her or they too would be unclean. By now, she is desperately lonely and beaten down.
She hears that Jesus is coming to town, and tries to get to him, knowing he can heal her. As usual, the crowds are pressing around him, so she just lunges out to touch the hem of his garment as he passes by. He stops, turns around and asks 'who touched me?' His disciples say, 'Lord, look around you--lots of people touched you.' 'No, I felt the power leave my body.' You see, when Jesus performed miracles, he felt the power pass out of his body--he was fully aware that healing was taking place. 'Who touched me?'
The woman answers, 'I did--I touched you.' She must have thought he was going to shame her then, that she should be so bold . . . but no, not Jesus. He looks at her, probably like no one had looked at her in a long time, and says, 'Woman, your faith has made you whole.'
I remember a particular time in my life when I wasn't sure what to pray . . . sure, I wanted God's will, but what was it? It was then that this story came alive for me. Though I could quote Scripture aplenty, it was not Scripture I needed. Though I could easily recite the Lord’s Prayer, that would not suffice either. It was then I became that woman in the marketplace, reaching out to touch the hem of the garment of the One who could make me whole. It was then that a one-word prayer was all I needed – a simple “Jesus.” I pictured myself reaching out to touch the hem of his garment because I knew he could make me whole. Yes, he alone could make me whole!
In the last nine years or so, as I've taught this powerful story, I brought a muslin curtain for people to cut a little piece of fabric that might have been similar to the fabric of Jesus' garment. It was something tangible to represent their faith, and his power. Folks have recounted stories of desperate times and how they pictured themselves reaching out for Jesus . . . Then, one time I was asked to go to Children's Hospital to pray with a nine-year-old boy who had a cancerous kidney that had to be removed. I had to get a 'hem of Jesus' garment into this little guy's hands, and tell him the story! I fashioned a little cape made out of my familiar muslin, put it on the back of a soft stuffed animal, and told Daniel the story. He got it. He told the nurses, he told all of his family--he had the hem of Jesus' garment, and he had faith that Jesus would heal him. Powerful.
Since then, I fashioned this little lamb pictured here--
she has the hem of Jesus' garment on her back, with a scroll tucked in that tells the story . . . the story of a woman who needed a touch from God . . . who reached out to Jesus . . . and Jesus' was enough. Hundreds of these lambs have gone out to people--to widows, to widowers, to those who need hope, and had a little faith . . . women who had a friend just diagnosed with breast cancer. . . high school students who needed hope that they could get sober. . .
When you do not know the words to pray, reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. He is enough. ‘Jesus’.
*also Luke 8 and Matthew 9