Last week I took my study leave in Borrego Springs, surrounded on all sides by the mountainous vistas of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is a place of stark contrasts and sere beauty, where just a couple of hundred feet from the few desolate highways which cross its vast emptiness lies a silence and a stillness too deep for words.
Last Wednesday, my daily hike took me across Palm Canyon Wash, where a gradually-stiffening ascent among rocks, Cholla and barrel cactus brought my body and breath into rhythm. I had gone out into the desert to pray. But soon my breath was coming steady and deep as I clamored among the boulders which choked the narrow defile twisting above me. There are many obstacles to prayer. But these boulders were the size of small houses now, leaving me at a loss as to how to move forward. “Do I pass over? Under? Or around?” I mused, as the spiked foliage plucked at my clothing and tore at my shins. Life can often feel this way. We struggle to climb to higher ground in our relationship with God, with others—and especially with ourselves. And obstacles like boulders block our way. Words fail, and we’re reduced to labored breathing: in and out—in and out.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the faithful in Rome, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rm. 8:26). Paul used “Christ” and “the Spirit” interchangeably in his letters. When we interpose “Christ” in this verse, a powerful truth is revealed: “…Christ helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray…but Christ himself prays for us with sighs too deep for words.” As I labored up that canyon with no other thought than to keep on going, it was Christ who was doing the praying for me, bringing me closer to God with each ragged breath I took.
Suddenly I heard the sound of water. And there among the rocks, a rivulet was flowing: cold and clean. I drank deeply, and soaked my tired feet. I had found the peace I was looking for, but not because of anything I’d done. The Spirit had led me to living water. But Christ had prayed me there…with breaths too deep for words.
Come and worship this Sunday and learn how to deepen your own prayer life in Christ.