Brother “Aquila” emailed me following my posting of Golden Nugget
Thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, not comforted! Behold, I will set thy stones in antimony, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; and I will make thy battlements of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones. And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah, and great shall be the peace of thy children, (Isaiah 54:11-13).
Spoken prayer is audible, and normally it is distinct, and generally, it is public. Unspoken prayer is inarticulate – it is too deep to be voiced in words, but it is heard– heard in secret by God.
When passing through seasons of trial and sorrow, when the waterfloods of grief and bereavement overflow the soul, when depressed by one’s moral state or circumstances, when the pressure seems well-nigh at breaking-point, and prayer seems torpid and dead, what a relief, what a comfort it is to know that the priestly eye of Jesus “searches the hearts” (Romans 8:27), eager, as it were, to detect, to decipher anything there that is for God, and that He interprets the groanings of the spirit and makes intercession accordingly.
Can He heed a groan? Yes, even a groan. He counts a groan as a prayer – not only the groanings of the Spirit, “which cannot be uttered,” but also the groanings of our own spirits. A groan may speak anguish or longing desire. We may “groan, being burdened” (2 Corinthians 5:4) – groan for deliverance. We may likewise groan because what is awaiting us up there is so enchanting that we yearn to enter into it (2 Corinthians 5:2). “The whole creation groans,” and Paul adds, “we also ourselves groan,” Romans 8:22,23. Sometimes that is all we can do. Sometimes we may even groan, “O wretched man that I am!” But we never add: “Who shall deliver me?” (Romans 7:24) if we know who He is. But every groan to God is heard. “Lord, … my groaning is not hid from thee,” Psalms 38:9 (KJV). Thank God, it never is.
But He can also heed a sigh. A sigh has not that intensive force which a groan has, it is softer. Yet how affecting it sometimes is. The weeping prophet was full of sighs: “I sigh” “her people sigh” – “her priests sigh” – “my sighs are many,” Lamentations 1:21, 11, 4, 22. The weeping Saviour, Jehovah’s servant-prophet, often sighed, yea, “He sighed deeply,” Mark 8:12 (KJV).
For ever on Thy burdened heart,
A weight of sorrow hung,
Yet no rebellious murmuring word
Escaped Thy silent tongue.
The Psalms breathe His sighs. They reveal what Jesus felt as He suffered. In the Pentateuch we have the figures; in the prophets, the forecasts; in the gospels, the facts; in the epistles, the fruits; but in the Psalms, we have the feelings of Christ as He suffered.
Every sigh He heaved was to God, and, like the frankincense of the meat-offering, it went up to God. Every divinely prompted sigh we utter to God is heard. Ay, and, poor weary soul, it may mean more to Him than ten thousand words, however eloquent – “For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord,” Psalms 12:5 (A.V).
No faintest sigh His heart can miss,
E’en now His feet are on the way,
With richest counterweight of bliss
Heaped up for every hour’s delay.
He also heeds a tear. The great men of the Bible were often great weepers – Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah. “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. The Man of sorrows mingled His tears with those of His bereaved and beloved ones. He wept, too, over Jerusalem. He wept also in other ways – ways too mysterious and sublime for us to understand (Hebrews 5:7). Oh! let us ponder His tears well – ponder them till every fibre of our moral being pulsates with holy emotion.
Whilst guarding against what is natural sentiment, yet we should cultivate spiritual emotions. A tear in the eye of a child may be very appealing and do what words fail to do. God treasures the tears of His people. He has a bag for their transgression, a book for their thoughts and words, a bottle for their tears (Job 14:17; Malachi 3:16; Psalms 56:8). David was not satisfied with a divine record of his tears being kept – he wanted them preserved. “Put my tears into thy bottle.”
Even in public let us not check the tear when it starts. John Bunyan said he liked to see “Mr Wet-Eyes” among the saints. I once saw a brother in tears at a prayer meeting, though he spoke not a word. I murmured, “Amen,” to his unspoken prayer. The woman of Luke 7 said nothing with her lips, but her tears said a good deal. Paul speaks of his “many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4); John wrote, “I wept much” (Revelation 5:4); Timothy was in tears about the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:4, 8). We need to steep the gospel seed in tears (Psalms 126:6). Who can estimate the worth and power of a tear shed before God in prayer?
Then there is a look. Solomon prayed, at the dedication of the temple, “When they shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this house,” 1 Kings 8:38. What a mute appeal, yet how pathetic! How many a pious Israelite, in captivity or alienation from God’s house, feeling the plague of his own heart and otherwise oppressed, looked towards God’s house, like Daniel at his open window, and got blessing. We can look toward heaven to a Person. “They looked unto him, and were enlightened (Psalms 34:5) – that is the way of relief and happiness. Try it, dear troubled one. Perhaps you say, I have looked but have got no relief. Look again– look till your spiritual vision becomes calm and clear. Jonah said when down among “the weeds” and at “the bottoms of the mountains” and tempest-tossed by “the flood,” “breakers,” and “billows,” “I will look again toward thy holy temple,” and he did. Then he was able to add, “And my prayer came in unto thee,” Jonah 2:3-7.
Then there is a desire. How cheering and reviving it is that even a desire can cleave the mighty space between earth and heaven and be heard above. “Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek,” Psalms 10:17. Every desire born in the renewed affections after Him is cherished and fostered by Him. “Lord, all my desire is before thee,” Psalms 38:9.
Are we so overwhelmed that we cannot even groan or sigh; so low that we cannot give vent to even a tear or a look: so utterly cold, inert, and hopeless that the soul feels it is prayerless? Yet, surely there must be a desire after God if there is life! Beloved, that is prayer!“With my soul have I desired thee in the night,” Isaiah 26:9. Amid impenetrable gloom that may sometimes enshroud us, when the soul seems shut out from God, and the heavens seem like brass, when there is neither moon nor stars to lighten the darkness of our night – then, even then, we can rest in a quiet waiting, heaven-inwrought desire after God, and be encouraged by knowing that even the desire of the heart is graciously heeded and interpreted by Him as unspoken prayer.
S. J. B. Carter
From his notes before 1938