Wordless Groans at the Lord’s Table

By C. Robert Wetzel

“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

We often find our congregations preparing for the Lord’s Supper with an appropriate Communion hymn followed by a meditation that enables us to focus on the meaning of this sacred event. This is followed by what some call the “words of institution,” such as the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. The presiding elder then offers a prayer of blessing over the bread and cup.

As we partake, we focus our thoughts with thanksgiving on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and the new life he has given us through our baptism (Romans 6:4). But then comes a time of personal prayer, as others are being served, when we can pour out our hearts to God. It can be a time of bringing the week’s concerns . . . or joys . . . before the Lord. There may well be times when we feel so overwhelmed we do not know how to pray. Granted, there are some concerns for which we know exactly how to pray. If it is the sickness of our child, we are going to pray for healing. If a relative or friend is beginning a journey, we pray for traveling mercies. But there may be other problems, be they personal or in our families or in the workplace, or even in the church, that are so confusing we just do not know how to pray. All we can do is groan . . . inwardly. But it is at this point that the Holy Spirit himself steps in and “intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Not only are we groaning, the Holy Spirit is groaning! With this assurance, we can simply pray, Lord, will you, in your wisdom and power, be at work in this distressing situation. And please let me know what I am to do . . . if anything!


C. Robert Wetzel is chancellor at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, Johnson City, Tennessee. 

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1 Comment

  1. Administrator Author
    March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    (This comment is being posted on behalf of a reader who serves in ministry.)

    Let me sincerely and humbly seek some advice here. I am a leader in a small church. We have a couple that can be very encouraging with affirmative head nodding, verbal affirmations like, “yes”, hand raising during singing and prayers. But another thing they do is presently having negative results. They are frequently (and I mean no sarcasm) grunting and groaning during prayers, discussions and teaching. Some people are annoyed and bothered. I see people trying to sit further away. Some complain to me and say, “Why do they do that?” “I can’t hear over their grunting.” Also we are a new church where we are “slowly” attracting non churched skeptical seekers.

    What do I do, if anything? I do have some ideas, but I will appreciate any other ideas.

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