“For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
Anyone who has been involved in family life in any capacity likely understands this passage. Whether a struggle with a sibling, deep concerns over a parent, times of agony while raising children, or working through a difficult situation with a spouse, sometimes our distress is so deep that even a Glory Be feels difficult.
It’s during these painful family times that I lean on Paul’s assertion that the “Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” This verse gives me relief; I can relax a bit and truly trust that my intentions during my times of desolation will be brought forth to God by the Holy Spirit. And all will be well.
Strategy of Hope
You might think that my life is simple now—my sons are grown up, married, employed, and my husband and I are retired. My worries and prayer life can relax, right? Truly, family strife doesn’t end here. New challenges come our way keeping us on our knees. Whether for our adult children, grandchildren, spouses, aging parents, siblings, etc., God nudges us constantly toward prayer.
Once our kids leave home, our spiritual influence steadily drops off. They might carry on with their childhood faith lessons, or even strengthen them. Or they might become lukewarm, or let their faith fade away.
Whatever their adult spiritual paths, we must trust in God. There is, however, a hope-giving strategy: We can pray for them. While they might (and probably will) ignore our words of advice, they are unable to escape our prayers; perhaps especially when our prayers are so full of heartache that we must lean on the Spirit’s groanings on our behalf.
Our prayers—whether for our adult children, grandchildren, siblings, spouses, parents, nieces, or nephews—will bear fruit. Perhaps not the exact fruit we would like to see, but God will hear and answer the prayers in his way and in his time frame.
Three Hail Marys
When my oldest son, Seamus, was in college and my influence on him was dwindling, he called one day to say hello. He mentioned that he and some buddies would soon be taking a road trip through a few major cities in Texas. Suddenly, my heart dropped and the tears gushed forth. Dozens of horrible possibilities flashed through my mind, and I didn’t want him to go. But he stood firm; he was establishing some newfound boundaries.
Finally, after going through a dozen or so tissues, I asked Seamus if he would please say three Hail Marys as he was pulling out of the driveway for his road trip. He readily agreed, and my heart immediately settled.
Oddly, I found out some years after that phone call that there is actually a long-standing devotion called the Three Hail Marys Devotion. I was astonished! I thought the Three Hail Marys was my idea! The traditional one is a little more complicated with more specific rules (you can find lots of information online); mine is more spur-of-the-moment—to help soothe times of worry and stress.
The Three Hail Marys has since become somewhat of a family tradition. If something is making me feel ill at ease, I ask my sons (and my daughters-in-law) to do this practice, and they respond favorably. I quietly add my own prayers, knowing that the Holy Spirit is working with me, and I feel comfort.