Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What If You Have No Words To Pray?

I am empty
You are holy
Come and fill my soul with who you are
In my silence You still hear me
In the quiet of this moment
I am heard
I'm overwhelmed
And at a loss for words

The above words are from a song titled Loss For Words by Charles Billingsley. If you’ve ever been so sad, so lost and hurt that you didn’t have the words to reach out and talk to God, this song describes it so well.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

I've been a Christian since I was a very young girl. But about fifteen years ago, when a local radio station began playing contemporary Christian music, I began to draw even closer to Christ. Something about those songs reached deep inside me and grabbed something in my spirit.

And I’m so thankful they did, because some of those songs saved my life. Maybe not literally, but most definitely spiritually.

Three years ago, almost to the day, something happened that forever changed me. It was an event so unexpected and so devastating that my heart was truly shattered and I wasn’t sure I’d ever recover.

All of this happened on a Friday. I had plans for the next day to take the ferry across the water and visit my dear friend, Sharon, who lives on the peninsula. I’d been looking forward to it for a long time because we don’t get to see each other very often. But when I woke up on Saturday morning, I didn’t think I’d be able to make the trip. I’d cried all night. My eyes were swollen and my face was blotchy. Even a nice hot shower and a ton of make-up did nothing to help me look human. But still, my husband encouraged me to go. He thought spending the day with a close friend would be good for me.

I agreed. As I’ve mentioned before in my friendship post, Sharon is an incredible prayer warrior, and she gives great hugs and lots of encouragement. In fact, I knew having a nice long talk with her would bring me incredible amounts of comfort.

But as soon as I left the driveway, tears started to overtake me. I tried to pray, but I had no words. I was empty. No matter how hard I tried, I could find no words. Hoping the music would distract me, I turned on the radio. I don’t even remember what was playing as I drove the curvy roads down the island toward the ferry landing.

The road I was driving that day winds along the water, before turning up a steep hill flanked on both sides by evergreen trees. At the top of this particular hill there’s an opening in the trees, and for a moment before going downhill it overlooks a valley. On a clear day, you can see the Olympic Mountains that are across the water where I would soon be headed. But we don’t always have clear days here, so when I can see the mountains I truly feel blessed.

On this particular dark and bleak morning (which so totally matched my spirit), it was difficult to see anything through the fog. But to my amazement, as I reached the top of the hill, the fog didn’t obliterate the scenery. The treetops poked out above the fog. And snow-capped mountains towered above the treetops. A golden shimmering pink and orange glow illuminated everything. And at that most magnificent moment, this song came on the radio:

The splendor of a King
clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
all the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light
and darkness tries to hide…

Those words…those beautiful words sung by Chris Tomlin at the exact moment those mountains were illuminated above the fog…they took my breath away.

How Great Is Our God! His timing is impeccable, isn’t it?

In that moment when I was so broken I couldn’t find the words to pray, I felt bathed in the Father’s love…something I needed so desperately at that moment. I wish I could say I continued my trip across the water without shedding anymore tears. But I can’t. What I can tell you is that after I got off the ferry on the other side of the water, I had a very similar experience. Just as the sadness started to overwhelm me again, those glorious mountains peeked out again and Who Am I by Casting Crowns came on and ministered to me not just with their whole song, but with these powerful ending words:

Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me
I am Yours
Whom shall I fear, Whom shall I fear

As I drove along that day, I felt Christ’s presence in a way I’ve never felt before. I always knew He was there. I'd just never felt Him surrounding me quite like this. I knew He was ministering to me, lifting me up, holding me close, and helping me focus my eyes, my heart and soul on Him.

This happened to me a couple of more times that day, with songs such as: I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman (God, my God, I cry out: Your beloved needs You now…) and Rescue by The Desperation Band (I need you Jesus, to come to my rescue, where else can I go?). These are all songs I’ve heard a hundred times before, but now heard in a much different way.

When I started my journey that morning, I was so lost and empty I couldn’t find a way to pray. There were moments when I doubted unconditional love really existed. But by the time I arrived at my dear friend’s house, I was no longer at a loss for words. I was talking to God, telling Him exactly what I needed, and I felt so loved.

I often wonder what would have happened if I had stayed home, curled up in my bed that day, instead of making the trip across the water. Would I have eventually found the right words to pray? Would I have recognized the Lord ministering to my spirit in some other way? I truly don’t know. And I don’t want to know. I just know the words of those songs have helped me through the darkest time of my life.

When I was empty, when I was at a loss for words, God was still holy and His spirit carried my cries straight to His heart. He used that day to surround me with His love, to remind me I am His beloved child and He will love me unconditionally.

To this day, when the pain sneaks back in, He continues to seek me out with His peace and His promises, to bathe me in the warmth of His presence and His everlasting love.

I hope you never find yourself at a place of total loss, where you can’t find the words to reach out to God for comfort. But if you do, I hope you’ll remember Romans 8:26. The Holy Spirit is there—interceding—bringing our words to the Lord.

And He is listening.

Loss for Words - Charles Billingsley/Don Koch/Brian Whitehttp://www.charlesbillingsley.com/pages/page.asp?page_id=77094

How Great Is Our God – Chris Tomlin/ Jesse Reeves/Ed Cash

Who Am I? – Casting Crowns

I Will Lift My Eyes – Bebo Norman

Rescue – The Desperation Band/Jared Anderson

All photos copyright by Suzie Johnson

I was broken.

~~Romans 8:26 (New International Version)

by Suzie Johnson


  1. Thank you for sharing such a poignant moment in your life with us, Suzie. I love how the Lord uses song to comfort us in moments where we can't think. He wraps His arms around his distressed children and sings a lullaby to soothe our souls.

  2. That was so beautiful, Suzie. It definitely brought to mind similar times in my own life. Can't you just see the Holy Spirit whispering into the ears of radio DJ's? I wonder if they'll every know how many people they were intstrumental in touching.

    On my personal blog called "Awesome Inspirationals" on the sidebar, I have the story of how God gave me a song, which has turned out to be a heart cry for the Muslim people. I mentioned to the Inkies recently, I often forget that I'm a published songwriter, because the Holy Spirit guides me so strongly in that process, I almost forget I'm involved.

    Thanks against, Suzie, for sharing this beautiful, vulnerable moment.

  3. Oh Suzie Girl, I do know what that feels like! It's such an intensely sad and empty and hopeless place. It's amazing how comforting music can be, and especially Christian music. You made my heart smile when you talked about the music and the lyrics and the scenery as you made your way to your friend's home. I applaud you for having the tenacity in the midst of pain to get out of bed and go. Not always an easy mountain to climb.

    Through the years I've asked friends to stand in the gap for me when I had no words or energy left to pray. It's a comfort to know that others are praying on our behalf when we are no longer able to do so.

    Thanks for this post, Suzie. It really touched my heart and know that it will touch others as well.

  4. Amazing, Suzie. Your words. And God's grace to us.

    He is so good to us.

  5. Suzie, what a tribute to the sensitive Spirit! Thank you, dear one.

  6. "He wraps His arms around his distressed children and sings a lullaby to soothe our souls."

    Wow, D'Ann. That is so beautiful. Do you write poetry like Dina, Jilly and Deb? What a soothing, peaceful image. It's one I will cling to, I can assure you.

  7. Dina, what a lovely image. Yes, I can definitely see it. I don't think these things happened by coincidence. I really don't. He puts us where we need to be when we need to be there, surrounding us with the things that will minister to us. We just need to have our eyes, ears and hearts open.

  8. Had to come back and comment on Suzie's and D'Ann's comments. Once a month I do the music for children's church at our Sunday School. At some point I was praying about how to teach the children about worship, and God gave me this phrase. "Worship is cuddle time with God."

    Now after our rowdy praise time, we have quiet cuddle time with God. We begin with simple choruses so they can close their eyes. Then we have a silent still minute to two minutes, during which they imagine curling up on God's lap for cuddle time, talking to God, and listening to God speak to them. Sometimes they even share words from God afterwards.

  9. Good morning, Jilly. Praise the Lord for our friends who pray us through terrible situations. I'm truly sorry that you've been there, too. I do think these things that happen to us serve to draw us closer to Jesus. I was trying to find a way to find joy in the sorrow. And I found it in those lyrics and the scenery, and then with my dear friend comforting and praying for me. God is so good.

  10. Deb and Patti, thank you. Both of your comments wrapped around me and touched me deep in my heart and made me feel blessed.

  11. Oh, Dina, that is way too precious. Thanks for coming back and sharing it. I love it. That must be such a blessing. I meant to tell you, I'll visit your blog sometime soon. I can't wait to read your post about music.

    I'm off to work now, but I'm taking my laptop so I can check back in with you all at lunch time. Of course, it'll be three pm on the east coast by then. You all have a blessed and wonderful day.

  12. Suzie.

    What a beautiful posting...As I was reading it, it got the 'chills.' Our Lord is truly w/ us...always.


  13. Suzie, what a beautiful post. I have been there, in the darkest pit, and I am always astonished at the means God uses to draw me out. I thank Him for the gifts of His Spirit, His children to befriend and pray for us, and for music to direct our hearts and thoughts to Him for His glory. Thanks, Suzie.

  14. Beautiful. I know exactly what you mean. The words of contemporary Christian music speak God's truths to my heart and draw me nearer. It's not uncommon to find me either grinning from ear to ear or with tears running down my face as I drive, my radio tuned to Christian music. I thank God that from the earliest of days, as evidenced by the songs in the Bible, He knew music would play a special role in our relationship with Him.

  15. I had one of those moments this past weekend. But His love is never failing. In the darkness and hurt there was a light. And there was warmth and comfort. The pain doesn't recede entirely, but there is honey mixed with the bitterness of gall.

  16. Karen, thanks for visiting today. I totally agree with you. He is always with us, even when we can't feel him there. He won't let us go. :-)

  17. Hi Susie D. I'm always amazed at how He draws me out of the pit, too. I often wonder how people who don't turn to Him get through those extremely dark times.

  18. Hi Patricia. I'm so glad you stopped by today. I now what you mean about driving down the road grinning from ear to ear. I have a little embarrassing "story" posted on my other blog about this. I do love that He gave us music. It adds so much to my life.

  19. Lisa, my dear. I'm so sorry you had such a rough weekend. You're so right. There are some pains that will never go away. But God does soothe the hurt for us. I hope He is soothing your hurt right now and that your days are looking brighter. Lots of love to you, my dear friend.

  20. Sometimes I just pray, Dear Jesus. Keep us safe. You know what we need. Amen. Then, I go to sleep singing in my head songs like Thy Holy Wings, O Savior, spread gently over me, and let me rest securely in good and ill in thee...

  21. Suzie, thanks for sharing your beautiful and powerful story of songs bringing you light during a time of darkness. Romans 8:26 is a great verse to remember :-)

    And Dina, I love the phrase: "Worship is cuddle time with God." A wonderful way to help kids understand how much God loves them :-)


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