Our little high school prayer group was wrapping-up the evening when my friend Clyde raised his hand. "I have an unspeakaboutable." The others of us cocked our heads with expressions ranging from "huh?" to "really, Clyde" to "what did he just say?" Catching our confusion he fumbled for a moment before saying, "you know, it's one of things I want you to pray for but I don't want to talk about." Like maybe an "unspoken" prayer request?
I always think of Clyde when I have trouble putting words to a prayer request. I may be excited but can't tell anyone else, yet. My request may actually be for the need of someone else- it's just not my place to share with others. Sometimes, it's been because my pain was to raw, my shame too deep, or my faith to small to say out loud.
If it's awkward to not be able to put words to a need and share with others, it can be distressing to not be able to put words to the request I make to God. Sometimes I'm confused, sometimes I'm angry, sometimes I'm hurting too bad, sometimes I just don't have enough faith. The fog in my head, the knot in my stomach, the fear in my heart just can't express themselves. In those "unspeakaboutable" moments of prayer I am grateful for the promise that "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness," that when we are at a loss for words and "do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit himself intercedes for us..." (Romans 8:26)