When Tears Are All You Can Pray

Several years ago I used to help with the college service we held on Wednesday nights at our church. I didn’t do much, really, but at the end of each service several of us were available if anyone needed to talk or wanted prayer for anything.

One night a girl came up – a freshman in college – and started crying, immediately. She shared with me that sometime in the previous year she had an abortion. She hadn’t told a soul and it was crushing her.

I talked to her for a minute then just hugged her while I prayed for her. She was repentant, she was sorry, she was broken, she wanted healing for her heart. I directed her to Jesus, assured her that anything can be forgiven and suggested a few things that might be helpful.   

She walked away and I noticed that my left shoulder was soaked with her tears. I had this profound sense of how precious that was to have the remnants of a holy moment on my ordinary tshirt. I told a couple of ladies after the service that I didn’t even want to wash it and asked if that was weird. They said, “Yes- yes, it is weird.”

You’ll be glad to know that eventually I did wash the shirt, but I haven’t forgotten. She didn’t have much to say, her words were few. Her tears said it all.

Lately, I kind of feel the same way. I am aware that I’ve fallen short in some areas (I’m not even completely sure of all the ways, but I see evidence of it), especially as it relates to being a mom. When I mess up, of course, my kids are impacted. Who knows to what level it will affect them – maybe not much, maybe a lot.

I feel frustrated, I feel sad and I’m at a loss for exactly what to do. When I see behaviors and attitudes that are concerning in my children, it begins to consume a lot of mind space. 

As Christians we don’t like to say we worry, because Jesus said not to, but let’s be honest, sometimes we do.

I don’t really even know what to pray, so I just say, “Help,” and I ask for wisdom. 

I don’t believe He literally keeps them in a bottle, as the Psalmist poetically said, but I do believe He takes note and that they have value. They matter in an even greater way than the ones on my tshirt mattered to me.

Many times, words fail me in prayer, so sometimes the only prayers I have are tears. Sometimes they’re cries for help, other times they’re cries for forgiveness. Sometimes, they’re even thankfulness.

I’m reminded of the “sinful woman” in Luke 7. She showed up at a Pharisee’s house, weeping, because Jesus was there eating supper. She let her tears fall on the feet of Christ and she wiped them off with her hair. 

This astonished the Pharisee – in a bad way – and Jesus explained to him that because she had been forgiven much – since her sins were many – she loved much.

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

She never said a word, as far as we know. She just wept. She just washed His feet. No words were needed because He could read her heart.

I love that.

I often struggle for words for the deep places in my own heart, but I have a God who knows me. When I cry He reads it like words on a page and He is quick to forgive.

I’ve been forgiven of many sins and the more aware of that I become, the more I love in return. Even when I’ve messed things up, there’s no shame in being in the presence of One like that.

For the times that all you have are tears, know you are seen and heard – they are prayers, too. 

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