“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You I will pray” (Psalm 5: 1-2).

Nancy Guthrie, and her husband, after receiving the bitter news of a fatal diagnosis for their infant daughter, Hope, cried out to God and in the following weeks prayed together often. Yet, as time passed, they found they prayed less—for many reasons, including the difficulty of not knowing how to pray in such circumstances. Sometimes we intend to pray, and perhaps even long to pray, yet in the crush of life or our own internal battles, we do not or cannot. We then feel guilty and lose our spiritual vitality.

Guthrie says that in those times when we don’t have the will or the capacity to pray, it’s a relief to know the Holy Spirit helps us. “When we are weak-willed and weak-minded,” she writes, “when distress has consumed our energy and emotions, the Holy Spirit helps us. And His prayers are not passionless or impersonal. He prays for us with deep devotion.”

Many books have been written on prayer, including its practice, its mysteries, and its vital necessity. We’re familiar with a variety of prayers, from confession, to intercession, to supplication, and many of us find insights and help from their experiences in prayer. Yet, we still struggle as we seek to pray our way through the demands of life. The promises we find in scripture about the Holy Spirit’s helping us in our infirmities provide a unique perspective. No matter how stumbling or incoherent our words, the Holy Spirit transforms them into powerful prayers. Guthrie assures us, “When we wonder if heaven hears our cries, the Holy Spirit is pleading on our behalf in a language heaven hears and understands.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement