Wordless Groans at the Lord’s Table

5communion8_JNBy 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 helps us 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—it’s a time 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 we are feeling so overwhelmed we do not know how to pray. Granted, there are some concerns for which we know exactly how to pray. If a child is sick, we pray for healing. If a relative or friend is beginning a journey, we pray for traveling mercies. But there may be personal, family, workplace, or church problems that are so confusing we just do not know how to pray. All we can do is groan . . . inwardly. But then the Holy Spirit steps in: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26)

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, retired after serving as president of Emmanuel Christian Seminary for 15 years, still lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. 

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