I held her in my arms and let her cry. I didn’t know how to pray for her. I couldn’t find the words. I let her cry, and I cried with her.
Let’s call her LeThabo. At the Friday Night Youth Celebration at Anglicans Ablaze, we had a special time of ministry and prayer. I served on the ministry team. A young girl, probably around 15 or 16, came up to me for prayer. “My mother has HIV,” she whispered in my ear, “and we are poor. I’m scared.” And then she broke down in tears. How to pray for her? I thought. I was so overcome with, why, God, why? LeThabo’s story is so common here; she represents thousands upon thousands of South African young people. I prayed for her mom’s healing; I prayed for her and her siblings, but it felt fake. I was so angry. Then I could no longer find the words. We wept together, and I found myself saying to her, it’s OK to cry, just let it all out. God understands your pain and weeps with you.
I felt so helpless as I held LeThabo in my arms, but neither one of us was hopeless. I don’t understand why there is so much pain and suffering in South Africa and in the world. I don’t understand why teenagers, whose greatest concern should be their studies and who should be blossoming into life, have to bear so much pain and responsibility. It doesn’t seem fair; it’s not fair.
At the times when we can’t find the words to pray, we can weep with our sisters and brothers in their pain and trust that God hears our prayers of tears.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.