bible christianity

the groaning language of prayer

The other day, a friend of mine at Carey college was sharing with me and a few others how grieved he’d been lately (due to various tragic things happening to people close to him). He mentioned lying in bed and trying to pray, not knowing what to say, and eventually just offering an extended, rumbling, inward groan to God…

Now, prayer is both a simple and mysterious thing. It’s simple – in that it is simply a giving-sharing-offering of one’s thoughts, concerns, feelings, stresses, hurts, anxieties, etc. to the One who we believe ‘hears’ prayer (more on ‘hearing’ in a moment). But it’s also a complex and mysterious thing, complicated by various (mis)understandings about both God and prayer (not least the popular ‘magic genie’ [or fairy] idea of God).

I’m not wanting to answer every question here about prayer, but rather reflect on this idea of groaning to God…

We believe that the Creator ‘hears’ our prayers. Mind you, God is spirit, so He (with the exception of God Incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth) has no ears, of course. But God’s lack of physical ears doesn’t render Him unable to hear us.

Also, God (with the exception of God Incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth) is not a human being from one particular time, place and culture; so another thing that God doesn’t ‘have’ is native language. But God’s lack of a native language doesn’t render Him unable to understand us…

Which makes me think again, of my friend and his groaning to God… I wonder that this kind of ‘gut-level’ groaning is perhaps more ‘speaking God’s langauge’ than the high, lofty, supposedly ‘eloquent’ prayers that most pray-ers offer…

This groaning, questioning, wrestling, searching, wondering, ranting, moaning (you get the point) kind of praying is not what you’d hear in most churches. However, it’s what you’ll see in most prayers in the Bible.


Some of the lyrics of the Jars of Clay song ‘Oh My God’ come to mind just now…

Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away, and a mother cries

(full lyrics here)

I think the prayers of many Christians have more to do with a calm, cool, collected ‘firm belief’. Our souls (our selves) are not grafted upon His grief.

Christian theologians (especially the likes of Jurgen Moltmann, author of ‘The Crucified God‘) have long emphasised the Cross of Christ as a vivid ‘snap-shot’ of the nature of God.

The God who with no body takes on flesh and feels the worlds’ pain.

The God with no beating/pumping heart takes one on and has it pierced with the worlds’ grief.

The God with no ears takes them on and listens to our groaning.

…and thus making the invisible eternal activity of God visible.

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” – John 1:18

4 replies on “the groaning language of prayer”

It is for this reason that any discussion about the ‘Christian God’ doesn’t start with some invisible unknown entity, but with the person of Jesus.

Too often we get caught up in philosophical discussions about the reality of some being outside of the material and the discussions get lost in the ‘unknowable’ when it should center around something very material and very physical – Jesus himself.

[[comment imported from old post at site]]

hi dale,

i feel comforted by your article.

i did pray the groaning prayer a lot.

i pray in words, i pray in tongues and i pray in groaning. i rcognise 3 modes of prayer.

it started many years ago. the Lord highlight to me Rom8:26 and taught me the concept of groaning. i wrote down and did it.. accordingly…. i groaned…. and groaned…. i am making single sylllable sound unto GOd.

this looked mechanical… no it isn’t… to me it is a spiritual experience.

when my spirit is painful, i could not pray fluently or efficiently in tongue or in words… it was very dry , my spirit is very weak.. i would do groaning prayer.

i can stop it when i want to. i can start it when i felt this is the best form of prayer.

when i feel pain, i groan. groaning express the pain to God.

there are times i don’t feel pain, feel free in spirit then i could revert to praying in tongues an in words. usually i pray in words, speak out declaration the will of God. i can pray efficiently in words better after a season of groaning.

if you ask me what am i groaning for ?

Gpd’s open heaven , revival…..some thing too deep i don’t even understand. some thing God is able to do in future .

hope you can communicate with on this subject.

have you felt pain… well my pain is acute… yet this is not physical , nor emotional, it is spiritual

Thanks for the comment, daniel,
The only response I can think of is to just refer back to the point I made in the post – that whatever our language of prayer is (including the ‘language’ some Christians people refer to as ‘tongues’ – which I have no personal experience of), it is our (non-verbal) ‘heart’ language that God hears. This also relates to the sense of Jesus and/or the Spirit ‘interceding’ for us when we cannot find words!

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