When We Miscommunicate Our Prayers

Reading Time: 4 mins

We won’t use the right words, but the Holy Spirit is interceding with and for us, as we pray.

When I was in college, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. To this day, I’m still “undecided.” I went into a meeting with my advisor, a communications professor, and he suggested communications.

“It is a great degree if you have no idea what you want to do.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said.

I enjoyed my classes. I wrote a little, tested out public speaking, and learned about the millions of ways communication can go wrong. Even with all of those classes, my communication skills sometimes leave something to be desired. Most often, I fail to communicate to those I’m closest to.

Our kitchen remodel project of 2013 is a perfect example of my lack of communication skills. During this project, I received a practical lesson on how much can go wrong getting the ideas I have in my head to the ears and mind of another. I’ve written about this story before, but as a quick recap:

Our first home was an ongoing project. When we moved in, the linoleum in the kitchen was peeling off the corners of the floor. The countertops were goldenrod yellow. The fridge had sides so thick it could have doubled as a bomb shelter and was a mossy green color. The living room flooring was simply painted subfloor with a carpet remnant stapled to the center. I was constantly dreaming of ways to make it aesthetically pleasing and more functional.

My husband and I had already agreed on the parameters for our kitchen remodel. Removing cabinets was not in the agreed-upon current project. We discussed it, but without a specific start date. During the current project, we would remove a wall, move the front door, do a little sheetrock work, and put new flooring in the once bedroom soon-to-be entryway.

In those first few years of marriage, I also did a fair amount of reading on loving my spouse well. The most recent book I had read listed five different ways people give and receive love. I had been experimenting on which love language my husband was. I was about to find out that surprise acts of service were not on the top of my husband’s list.

In my head, this house was our project. We would constantly be working on it. In my head, the natural next step would be to spruce up the kitchen. After all, we would have this spacious new entryway, and the kitchen would be the first thing people would see.

One afternoon I was able to get both of the kids down for a nap at the same time! It was a particular near miracle since the oldest was phasing out of nap time. In my head, this was the time to strike. I would remove the cabinets and the soffits while the kids napped.

With a crowbar in hand, the job did not take long. I was able to remove all of the cabinets except one and all of the soffit. The new entryway was filled with cabinets. Only one cabinet remained dangling above the stove because of its precarious position, and my seven-month pregnant belly, I was unable to finish that one cabinet.

While I was surveying my work, I heard my husband’s truck tires coming up the gravel. He was home early! “How exciting,” I thought.

My husband walked in the door, ready to finish the flooring, only to see the floor covered in what his brain interpreted as a disaster. This act of service I had spent my afternoon on was, in his eyes, an act of terror.

He looked at me. He looked at the floor and immediately sat down. I thought something must have happened at work. Did he lose his job? Was there an accident with one of the trucks? I assumed something devastating must have happened for him not to be excited about all the work I had done.

Work had been great. There had been no accidents. He was still gainfully employed. My project and my lack of communication concerning it - this had been the devastating news for his day.

I was mystified by his inability to see the goodness in all of it.

Since then, we have had a lot of conversations about the importance of communicating the ideas we have to one another.

Our prayers are heard and understood, not because we are eloquent but because of the work of God.

I miscommunicated in many ways. The biggest ‘miscommunication’ was not using my words. I didn’t even tell him of my grand ideas. I had made assumptions because of my background that did not line up with his growing up years. It was obvious to me that we would continue work. It was obvious to him we would halt all home projects during the busy spring season. We had only been married for three years, and we were still learning about one another. After eleven years, we are still learning how to communicate with one another.

The kitchen remodel is not an isolated incident. We have had numerous miscommunications and will have them until one of us no longer walks this earth. Miscommunications happen both with those we know casually as well as with those we know intimately.

I often wonder how prayer is even possible. How can I communicate with God? My words are limited. My knowledge of him is limited. I can’t even communicate with my husband. I sometimes wonder how much I miscommunicate in prayer. I worry about what I can do to make my communications with God better. I wonder what I can do to improve my prayer life. Knowing all the ways communication can go awry leaves me wondering about my words to God.

Even with a degree in communication, a career in public speaking, substitute teaching, and communicating with four very different kids over the years, communicating to God is still daunting to me.

Prayer is something I’m hesitant to do in person. When I pray on my own, I find my thoughts trail off. I find myself making a grocery list or working through a scheduling problem in my head.

We don’t have the same life experiences as God, but he has witnessed each one. We won’t use the right words, but the Holy Spirit is interceding with and for us, as we pray. I’m not always going to form the ideas I have into words well. I will make poor assumptions. I’m learning more and more about who God is every day, but I will never know it all.

Thankfully prayer is not about my ability to communicate my ideas to God. There is not a formula for prayer. We can find all kinds of different pointers on praying, and many of them are a great help: using the Lord’s prayer as a guide, the acronym ACTS, or even journaling our prayers. There are many different ways to help us in our prayer life.

What has given me the most comfort over the years is Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

I’m not praying on my own. The Holy Spirit is interceding with groans too deep for words.

With all that can go wrong in communication, what a comfort it is that we are not praying alone. The Holy Spirit is interceding with groans that will not be misinterpreted by himself or the other parts of himself, the Father or the Son.

Our prayers are heard and understood, not because we are eloquent but because of the work of God.