Earlier this week, I was putting my eight year old, Alayna, to bed, and it was her turn to pray. Among other things, she prayed, “Please help me with my attitude and all that stuff.” I seriously considered interrupting her prayer to teach a mini-lesson about word choice. I mean, stuff, really? That is about the most non-specific word in the English language. I resisted, and we continued with the rest of our bedtime routine. Alayna’s prayer and poor word choice stuck with me, though. The more I thought about it, I decided that stuff was exactly the right word for Alayna’s prayer. She knew that she had been struggling with her attitude, but sometimes she has a hard time understanding why she’s feeling so crummy and those crummy feelings lead to the attitude. She knew she needed help with those feelings, that stuff, even if she didn’t know how to describe it. And don’t we all need a little help with that stuff?
The amazing thing about prayer is that God knows exactly what we mean when we ask for help with all that stuff. In Matthew 6:7-8, Jesus is teaching his followers how to pray, and he says, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Instead of thinking about the word choice lesson I could teach, I needed to open up to what God was teaching me through Alayna’s prayer. We don’t have to use the most perfect, beautiful word choice because God knows our needs even before we recognize them. We don’t need descriptive word choice in prayer, we need sincerity. That sincerity begins when our focus is on God’s will for our lives and the sacrifice of his son. When we believe in his son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit abides in us. In Romans 8, Paul discusses the role of the Holy Spirit. Verse 9 reads, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Therefore, if we belong to Christ and have accepted his gift of salvation, then the Spirit of God lives in us. When we have those times, like Alayna, when we need help with the stuff in life, the Holy Spirit is there. “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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). The spirit doesn’t even need a non-descriptive word like stuff, he simply groans and the Lord knows our needs. Isn’t it reassuring to know that our prayers reach God’s ears with perfect understanding even when we don’t have the perfect words to say what we need?
Whatever you’re struggling with, whatever your needs, God knows. Your heart can speak to him through the Spirit without even muttering a word. Open your heart, accept Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the only way to salvation, and let him take care of all your stuff.
Lord, your power and understanding are amazing – to think that you know our every need without us having to utter a word. Today, we pray for all the stuff in our lives. The stuff we need but can’t quite explain. The stuff we’re dealing with but words can’t express the hurt we feel. The stuff we need forgiveness for but feel we’re unworthy to ask. Thank you Father for your love, your grace, and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us when we don’t have the words. Thank you for taking care of our stuff.