He looked up to heaven and groaned

November 26, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news today is from Mark 7:31-37.

Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowed. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”

He groaned. That’s what strikes me here. Lately in trying to pray for people who are seriously ill or injured I don’t know how to pray or, rather, what to pray for. I end up more of less groaning — a kind of voiceless plea to God to comfort, strengthen, and bestow peace upon those who are ill, suffering, and perhaps approaching death. I don’t know what else to pray for. It doesn’t any longer seem a proper prayer for me to ask for God to intervene or to take some specific action. I know that He can, but I don’t think that’s what He wants me to ask Him for. The healing will take place or it won’t whether I pray for it or not — at least I don’t think so. I think it is the inner healing that He wants me to pray for — for the one who is suffering and for my own suffering. Mainly to rest in Him, to experience His peace, to place ourselves trustingly in His hands. Sometimes I put all this into words and at other times it’s more like an incoherent cry or groan. Incoherent to anyone else other than God. Anyone listening to Jesus would not have been able to discern any meaning from his groan, but His Father knew what meant and asked. So all my groanings have meaning to God — groans of pain or grief or thanksgiving or pleading.

Most of the miracles — the hearings — that God performs in my life go unseen by anyone else. But I know when He has touched me, when He has wrought something that I could not do on my own, when He has responded to my pitiful, inchoate prayers. Times when He has opened my mind or my heart to something or someone I had previously rejected or scorned. Times when I have been moved with compassion to action, to actually doing something rather than just praying or talking about it. Times when I have been calmed in the midst of anguish or chaos or anger.

So often, like this crowd I am astonished. He has turned my deafness into hearing; He has turned my muteness into words of healing. Each time He touches me I am still astonished. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that sense of surprise and astonishment. In some ways I hope not. It is as if His love, His presence, is an unexpected gift. It never fails to delight me. All I can do usually is express my delight as a kind of groan. He knows it is my way of trying to express the inexpressible pleasure of my love and gratitude for Him.



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