“Lord, my every desire is in front of you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” Psalm: 38:9 CSB
Sighing is one of my favorite ways to pray. It fills in for me when I literally don’t have words, when I don’t know what to pray. Faced with what seems insurmountable situations, where there seems no end in sight, a sigh can be the best form of expression.
My mother sighed all the time. As a widower left with three teenagers, she had a lot to sigh about. All of us handled our grief differently, all of us in different self-destructive modes. And my Mom couldn’t control any of it. When I would come home with another “problem” her first response was always a sigh. At the time, I didn’t think of it as a form of prayer, but now I do. Sighing is simply taking a deep, long breath. It’s letting air in when something takes your breath away: an event, a thought, a moment.
I began to think of sighing as a form of prayer when one of my best friend’s moved to South Carolina to plant a church. We would talk about this verse a lot in the days leading up to her departure. We had grown so close in the years the Lord had given us together, the thought of not being in each other’s daily life was overwhelming. As the day grew close to their departure, the sighs grew more frequent. We knew God was leading them to plant the church. We knew the separation was necessary in order for it to come to fruition, but it was still hard letting go of what we had. It was still hard dealing with the change it was bringing about in both of our lives. There weren’t words to describe it, but there were sighs that seemed to say it all.
“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 groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 NIV
Sighing is a form of groaning. God understands us, even when we don’t have words. Just as a mother can hear the whimperings of her child, God hears ours through our sighs. When we don’t have words, we don’t need them. We can sigh and know, God understands the groanings of our heart. Try it next time you don’t know what to do. Take a deep breath, then let it go in a long, life-giving sigh. He’ll understand exactly what you are saying, as well as what you need.