When All We Know to Pray is the Alphabet
By Joy Lucius
I once read a story of an elderly gentleman who passed his young granddaughter’s room one night and was taken aback by the way she was down on her knees, repeating the alphabet in a worshipful tone.
“What are you doing?” he stopped and asked.
“I’m saying my prayers,” explained the little girl. “But I can’t think of the right words tonight, so I’m just saying all the letters. God will put them together for me because He knows what I’m thinking.”
Have you ever felt like that little girl? I have. All of us have probably felt that way at some point. But unlike that little girl, our prayers don’t come out quite as easily as our ABCs. Sometimes it is almost impossible to put into words exactly what we feel, especially in the darkest, toughest times of life.
For instance, the tragedy in Las Vegas is almost too much to take in and process. Even detached from the scene, in front of a television, I still find it hard to put into words what to pray, or how to even begin to pray, when I see all the people and pain involved.
Take the policemen and investigators as examples. I have no idea how they are still functioning. I bet they have not slept eight hours in the past four days. Every time I see them in press conferences, trying their best to stand strong and resolute for their city, my heart hurts for them.
Think of all the first responders and medical personnel who had to triage and care for over 500 injured people. Keep in mind that most of those individuals are just everyday folks. They were not trained on battlefields, so how can they even verbalize what they saw and what they had to do?
What about the families of those killed and injured? Fifty-nine families are suffering in a way I cannot pretend to understand. And since I cannot imagine their pain, I will not attempt to try and put it into words. It would be presumptuous and insensitive to even try.
So, like the little girl and her alphabetical list, I just keep speaking the victims’ names, looking at their precious pictures, and believing God can put my fragmented pieces of hurt, despair, anger, sadness, fear, and confusion into prayers He alone can understand and answer. I trust the Holy Spirit living in me can and will give voice to the deepest cries of my heart and to every heart touched by this tragedy.
For He truly is our Comforter. And right now, I am so glad Jesus did not leave us without hope or comfort. Instead, He left us His precious Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and even pray for us. When we don’t have a clue how to pray, He takes the pain of our deepest burdens and prays for us. What a sweet, precious deal—the Lord Jesus Christ praying in us, through us, and for us.
Things look grim right now, but the same deal is available corporately to our nation as well. All we have to do is heed His words from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Now, like you, I have seen and heard this passage quoted over and over in the last few months, and maybe you are also like me, in that I don’t hold out much hope for a national spirit of repentance.
And I realize this Scripture is directed to believers, the people who are called by His name, but even this knowledge leaves me doubting. How can this Scripture ever be fulfilled when the lines of demarcation between the world and us are blurry at best?
Maybe that’s why this little girl’s prayer spoke to me so deeply. I feel like only God knows how to heal our land right now. Even our prayers seem inadequate for the task. Yet, in this dark time, we must pray. We have His hope in us, and He is the complete, perfect answer to this darkness. So, we must prevail in prayer.
I realize praying at a time like this isn’t easy, definitely not as easy as ABC. But prayer is imperative. So, let us allow His Spirit to pray for us, and through us, and with us for Las Vegas and for our nation.