The harrowing photo of a drowned immigrant and his nearly two-year-old daughter stirs outrage. These are human beings; a dad and his child, a family. We scarcely have time to process the emotion before we read about sick, hungry, migrant children who are at risk in detention centers. Children? Combing lice out of each other’s hair?
Oh, my. My, my, my. We want to look away. But let’s not. Let’s not turn away. Let’s not return too quickly to our summer activities. Let’s let these reports and images prompt the deepest form of prayer.
Let’s groan. The groan is the vernacular of pain; the chosen tongue of despair. When there are no words, these are the words. When prayer won’t come, these will have to do. Sunnier times hear nicer, more poetic petitions, but stormy times generate mournful sounds of sadness, fear and dread. These sounds, these unadorned petitions of darkness, find their way into the ears of God the Father. Why? Because they are entrusted into the care of the Holy Spirit.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).
We do not know how to pray as we ought. The Spirit does. And the Spirit will. We lament the desperate conditions of immigrant families. We lament the impossible assignment given to the Border Patrol and officials. We lament the inability to find civil solutions. Let us pray for God-breathed solutions.
Lord, please help us. We need to act, help, and rescue. But first, we need prayerful empathy. This is a mess. A humanitarian, heart-breaking mess. As we are wondering what can be done, let’s do what we are called to do.