For fifteen years I shared an office with my father – he had his own business, I had mine. One of the hallmarks of our relationship was deep friendship – we respected and understood each other, we were there for each other through the thick and thin of a rather fractured family life. We had a way of being together, especially in the workplace, in amiable silence – there were days when only few words passed between us. Wordlessly he taught me by example the unconditional love of God. He was constant, he never wavered in his presence or affection, his love was dependable and steadfast. My father lived his love for me. He demonstrated it every day by who he was. This love required no explanation. His last words to me were “I love you.”
And with my husband there was the love of wordless grace. We were one, welded together in a bond of shared strength and love. We sat close, our shoulders touched, we held hands. We never missed a moment to say “I love you”. And so many unsaid words were spoken through the intimacy of silence. We were. We are. Together. Always.
And once there was the joy of a beloved child – the child I never had – who found a special place in the hollow of my neck to cuddle and be still, a place of security and safety to be at peace in childlike trust. This love is quiet and universal, a love of innocence untainted by the world.
When we grieve often it’s simply not possible to find words that express our sorrow, our pain, our inmost needs. We don’t even know what to pray for - perhaps for a while we feel spiritually estranged from God, the one to whom we pray. If the loss of our loved one was sudden, traumatic, unexpected or especially cruel, death takes our breath away. We’re in shock – there are no words. Our very existence is a stream of consciousness prayer as we struggle to make sense of what’s happened and survive. When we find ourselves wordless, even unable to pray, we rest in God’s presence. In God’s powerful embrace we feel the comfort of God’s divine care. Often it’s the experience of wordless prayer that guides us through our love and loss and grief.
- God’s presence is constant, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NRSV).
- God hears 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’s speaks through our 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 experience of grief. It is God’s grace for our heart.
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
Keep me this day, O God, in the silence of your love. Amen.