Prayer paralysis

My room was set up similarly to this picture I found online.

A week ago at this time on Monday morning, I was finally getting some sleep–on a bed in my hospital room.

That explains why I didn’t post a meditation last Monday and why I didn’t do much writing last week. (Providentially, I’d scheduled a few news articles to post on my blog.) Now, a week and many tests later, I know that I don’t have an acute cardiac condition. I still have some questions about my health and I will have additional appointments, but it seems I should be able to function normally. I’m trying to trust and rest in the Lord. Just like every issue in life, some days (even some hours!) this is easier than others.

Although I often struggle to write (see my blog post on Paralysis prescription), I rarely find it difficult to pray. I love to pray God’s words back to him. I enjoy leading devotions with groups of women. I’m happy whenever someone asks me to give thanks for a meal or ask a blessing before a meeting. I’ve hosted many prayer gatherings in my home and in the park. I’ve regularly met with other women for prayer. I pray first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but my entire day is bathed in prayer. For me, praying is almost like breathing.

That’s why the most terrifying part of my very brief hospital stay was my inability to pray. While I was in the Emergency Room and lying inside the CAT scanner, I seemed to have forgotten how to pray. I simply couldn’t think of what to say. My brain couldn’t frame the words.

My husband held my hand and prayed with me in the ER, but he couldn’t pray with me when two nurses were working on me or during tests in a strange, sterile room. At those times, I could do no more than repeat, “Father, Father, Father.” But I knew that was okay:

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6, ESV)

Because the Spirit of Christ lives in me, I can cry, “Father, Father, Father” when I am weak and my mind can’t form an articulate prayer. The Bible assures us that the Spirit intercedes for us during such times:

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 (Romans 8:26-27, ESV).

The Spirit sanctifies even our inarticulate groanings and presents them as a fragrant offering to God. When our brains can’t frame the words, God looks past our feeble prayer attempts into the depths of our hearts. He understands our fear and confusion. He sees our faith. The Spirit is the ultimate editor who turns our pain into praise that pleases God.

Most Christians probably consider Romans 8 one of their favorite Scripture passages. But did you ever think about its progression? Did you realize that the above two verses come directly before this beloved verse?

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, ESV).

The comfort of the Spirit pleading for us in our weakness is quickly followed by the assurance that God works all things for the good of those who love him. My husband often reminds me that we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.

Since I’m a naturally private person, it isn’t easy for me to share my weaknesses of flesh and faith. But I believe God calls me to write this. I trust that he will bless this effort and use it, as he uses all things in my life, for the good of those who love him. And I love him.

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6 thoughts on “Prayer paralysis

  1. I hope that things go well for you. I can relate to your experience. Sometimes when we need to pray the most it seems the hardest to do for some reason. That doesn’t mean we aren’t trusting in Christ, though.

  2. Thank you for writing this. If you have no objections, I’m printing copies (properly attributed) for a meeting of on-call chaplains at our local hospital. I believe your post will be helpful for us.

  3. This is beautiful, Glenda,

    I know exactly what you mean about prayer paralysis; the same thing has happened to me, as I suspect it has for all of us. I have every confidence many will find comfort in knowing they’re not alone in this. The second comment on this blog post confirmed that God’s already using it!

    I’m blessed to have such a friend who, out of love for the Lord, is willing to share her heart. You’re always an inspiration to me.

    Been thinking of you and your five grandsons. How’s that new baby and his proud big brother?

    – Y

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