When you can't find the words to pray. James #17
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Have you ever bowed your head to pray, but could not find the right words... remembering that James said, "you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it", i.e., 'Do you want help in your life? Need to see change, healing, breakthrough? Then, pray to God for goodness' sake!' But there have been times, 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 pray--healing, comfort, peace, etc. But 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 we pray? Or perhaps we are too sick or too diminished to even form words, how do we then 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 does, anyone could do. Here's the scene: this woman has been sick for twelve years, and has used up her money on doctors, 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 cannot participate in ceremonial cleansing to get clean. Therefore, she cannot go to the temple, and cannot touch anyone or they too will be unclean.
Desperately lonely and beaten down, she hears that Jesus is coming to town so she goes to find him, knowing he can heal her. 'There he is!' she excitedly says to herself. As usual, the crowds are pressing around him, so she lunges 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 has looked at her in a long time, and says, 'Woman, your faith has made you whole.'
Her life fully restored.
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; I needed a direct connection to God. It was then I became that womanin the marketplace, reaching out to touch the hem of the garment of the only One who knew what I needed. Breathing a simple "Jesus," a one-word prayer, I pictured myself reaching out to touch the hem of his garment because I knew he could change things. Yes, he alone could make me whole!
I've taught this powerful story many times, sometimes bringing a muslin fabric that may be similar to that of Jesus' garment for folks to cut a little piece to hold--something tangible to represent their faith, and his power.
This beautifully painted expansive mural moves me mightily, and I love looking at it, imagining that day in the marketplace. It is in the chapel at Magdala, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee not far from where this woman found Jesus. (Get to see it again in eight weeks!!!)
When you do not know the words to pray, reach out and touch the hem of Jesus' garment. He is enough. 'Jesus'.
*Mark 5.25-34; also Luke 8 and Matthew 9
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