One of the hallmarks of the relationship shared with my father was deep friendship – we loved each other, we respected each other, we understood each other in a private way that required few words. We were there for each other through the thick and thin of a fractured family life. We had a way of being together in amiable silence. Though we worked side by side, there were days when much was done but little was said. More by how he lived than what he said, he taught me the unconditional love of God. His was a constant, dependable, unwavering presence. His love was affectionate, circumspect, and steadfast. My father lived his love for me. He demonstrated it every day in who he was. This is the love that requires no explanation or elaborate words. As he lay dying, I whispered, "I love you, Papa." With fading breath his last words to me were “I love you, too.”
Marriage to my beloved husband was a relationship of wordless grace wrapped in pure joy. We were one - true soul mates, bound forever in shared strength and mutual love. We sat close, our shoulders touched, we held hands. “I love you”, was the language of our life with unsaid words spoken through the intimacy of silence. We were. We are. Together. Always.
When we grieve often it’s simply not possible to find words that adequately express our sorrow, our pain, and our inmost needs. We don’t know how to pray and cannot articulate that for which we want to pray or feel that we should pray. Perhaps for a while we feel spiritually estranged from God and find neither the words nor the impulse to pray. If the loss of a loved one is sudden, traumatic, unexpected or especially cruel, death takes our breath away. We are in shock – there are no words. As we struggle to make sense of what happened, often our every thought is a stream of consciousness prayer. When we have no words and feel unable to pray, we find safety, comfort, and care in the silence of God's unfailing presence. Often it is the experience of wordless prayer that guides us through the shock, pain, and sorrow of grief.
- God’s presence is constant, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NRSV).
- God understands our heart, especially when we have no words, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (Psalm 146:6 NIV).
- God’s love is steadfast, “Let your steadfast love become my comfort” (Psalm 119:76 NRSV).
- God’s love is unconditional, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10 NRSV).
- God speaks to us through silence, “Peace! Be Still!” (Mark 4:39 NRSV).
- God’s love is safe, “I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33:6 NIV).
- God’s love is peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27 NRSV).
Wordless prayer is an expression of grief in which we fully experience the presence, the wondrous silence, and the grace of God. We have only to listen as God speaks wordless love into our heart and soul.
Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 NRSV