Guest Post: Groanings Which Cannot Be Uttered #CopingWithCOVID19

by Amy Grigg

Petitionary prayer is such a theological puzzle to me. I have trouble understanding why it should work, why God should need to be asked for things his children clearly need. I have trouble understanding why some prayers seem to be answered, and why others continue to suffer.

And yet.

In the 8th chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul talks about hope. And I can’t think of a time when I have needed hope more than I do now. He says: “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

Admittedly, I don’t have much patience. Since this whole thing started, I’ve been fighting a rising sense of panic, and existential dread, a sense of powerlessness against an engulfing darkness. And in that darkness, Paul’s words have resonated: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

I hardly know what to pray for. I identify so strongly with the idea of groanings that cannot be uttered, with the hope that the spirit will make intercession for us, because I just don’t know what to say anymore. I still don’t understand petitionary prayer, or why we fast, but those seem like the only things I can do in the face of overwhelming darkness. Well, that, and sew lots of masks.

Mormons are spending this Friday, Good Friday, as a day of fasting and prayer for relief from this pandemic. We’re praying for caregivers and front line workers, for those working on treatments, cures, and vaccines, for the sick and the elderly and the marginalized, for leaders of nations and local governments to make good decisions, for inspiration for each of us, for economic survival and a return to normalcy, and for each of our hearts’ groanings that cannot be uttered. And if you’re a person of faith, any faith, or even no faith at all, would you join us in fasting and prayer this Friday? Would you link your faith with mine, hesitant as it is, and plead for God to stay this plague, and to heal our land? Would you pray for God to show us a way through this darkness? Can you tell me how you’ve been interacting with God, how this crisis has shaped your faith, and the ways you need support?

Because, when it comes right down to it, I believe in the power of prayer, even though I don’t understand it. I believe in the sacredness of community, in the strength of voices united in common purpose. And it would be a blessing to have my voice united with yours.

Amy is an aircraft engineer, Sunday School teacher, and mother of two living in Maryland.

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3 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    This is beautiful. My soul has been groaning too. Your words are a balm.

  2. liz johnson says:

    This is gorgeous, Amy. I’ve been really struggling with how to pray and fast alongside everybody else when I don’t believe in petitionary prayer, either. But this has really moved me. Thank you.

  3. AdelaHope says:

    Amy, I love you and also I love what you had to say here. Petitionary prayer is a theological puzzle to me, too.

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