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When I Can't Pray

Romans 8:26-27

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I attended my first Conversational Spanish meeting a week ago. It is an optional meeting held on Friday Afternoons at the College for Spanish students who want to have a "safe" environment to practice the language they are learning. Until going to that meeting, the only practice I've had speaking the language is saying hello and goodbye to the few people I know who speak the language and ordering food at Chipolte, Subway and El Indio. I entered the classroom with great anticipation, but was soon drowning in frustration. Our professor broke the ice by having each of us talk about our families. The first person to speak did a wonderful job and I was able to understand most of what he said. Then it came my turn to speak. I began. <<Mi esposa y yo vivimos in Seaside con nuestro hijo menor>>. "My wife and I live in Seaside with our youngest son." Not too bad a start. But then the train derailed. <<Mi hijo major vive en...>> My professor interrupted, "mayor, not major, mayor" Instead of saying my oldest son lives in Chicago, I said, my better son. From then on, I struggled to say anything. It isn't that I'm a perfectionist, it's just that I can't tolerate making mistakes. I know, it is no big deal and I expected to make mistakes, really I did, but for some strange reason I began to fell extremely self conscious.

After we all told about our families, she broke us up into small groups. This will be easier, I thought, I won't have to speak in front of so many people. All the students in my small group had already finished the class I'm enrolled in, one of them has already completed the Spanish course offerings at the college and only came in to brush up on his skills. They spoke so well. I was tempted to just listen and not enter in, but I risked it-I jumped in with both feet, which soon ended up in my mouth. We were talking about what we did for a living-easy enough, in español Pastor is "Pastor." But then they wanted to know about my church. <<Es su Iglesia grande?>> I understood the question, they wanted to know if my church was big or small, easy enough to say yes or no, right? But for some reason I couldn't answer. I tried to explain that our church varied in size in response to the flow of the military population and that I was taking Spanish at the time to help our church reach more of the indigenous people around the church, but the thought was far to complex for my limited communication skills. I choked and answered in English. When I did, my Professor patiently translated my English words into Spanish for me, I repeated them, then the group moved on to the next person.

Romans 8:26-27 says, "...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (NIV)

I didn't understand this passage of scripture until I couldn't pray. Notice I said, couldn't, not wouldn't. There is a difference between not praying when you know you should and not being able to pray when you desperately want to. There is even a difference between not knowing how to express a feeling and not knowing what the feeling is-or should be. I'm not talking about the kind of frustrations I experience as I'm trying to learn a new language, that kind of frustration is low grade in comparison to what I'm talking about.
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