Anyone who has kids knows what it’s like to be a translator. Kids learn to speak slowly, starting with a few jabbered syllables. Then they add in a word or two, accompanied by gestures that are also hard to understand because their motor skills are still developing as well. When kids start using sentences, they’re partly real words, and partly nonsense syllables. It’s can be hard to understand kids.
I have a very talkative son. He talked late, but now he talks continuously. He talks to us, to his little brother, to grandparents on the phone or on video calls. He chats with the neighbours out his bedroom window when he supposed to be having quiet time. He talks to the cashier at the Burger King drive thru. He never stops talking.
He’s still a little hard to understand at times. He has trouble with a few letters, like s and f. Sometimes I have to translate for him. One of our neighbours in particular has trouble understanding him. Our neighbour says he, “Doesn’t understand toddler.” Whenever we run across people who don’t “speak toddler”, they look to me to translate.
I know what my son is saying most of the time. I spend all day, every day, with him. I know the words he uses, and the gestures he uses. I know the shows he’s watched, and the lessons he’s had this week. I know what’s been on his mind, and what he’s been talking about all day. I know his go-to topics. I know his favourites. I know what’s been bothering him. I know my son. I know what he’s saying because I know his heart.
Sometimes when I pray, especially during the past couple of years, I feel like a toddler. I don’t know what to say, or what words to use to express the things I’m thinking and feeling. I stumble through half-finished pleas and end up repeating the same things over and over, not sure what I want to say next. It’s been a hard year to pray. There’s so much turmoil in the world right now, and it’s way over my head to even figure out what direction we should be heading in. There are times I just sit there and think about all the things I need to pray about, and hope God gets the general idea.
I need a prayer translator. Someone who knows what’s been on my mind, and the issues I’ve been struggling with. I need someone who knows the articles and social media posts that haunt me. I need someone who knows what I lie awake at night worrying about. I need someone who knows what I’m trying to plan for the future. I need someone who knows what I’m hoping for. I need someone who knows what I’ve missed in the past year, and what I’m looking forward to when we finally get out of lockdown. I need someone who knows how hard it’s been helping my children through this past year, and someone who knows where I’m succeeding and where I’m failing as a parent. I need a mom-like translator.
When it comes to prayer, I have one. Romans 8 26-27 says, “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (HCSB)
God’s Spirit lives in believers: guiding us, reminding us of God’s word, reminding us of our relationship with God, and helping us pray when we can’t get the words out. He knows what’s been going on in my life. He knows what’s been going on in my head. He knows me. He knows my heart. He “speaks toddler”, and can help me express myself when I can’t do it alone. God’s Spirit prays with me, because He knows what I mean. I can look to Him for help, just like my son looks to me for help if he’s struggling to communicate.
I find it comforting that God always knows what I mean, even if the best prayer I can manage doesn’t involve anything profound – or even anything comprehensible. It’s good to know that I can sit there, just mulling over all the things I need to bring to God, and let Him sort through it. It’s comforting to know that He’s not confused by my inability to express what’s on my heart. He still knows exactly what I’m feeling. I have Someone who can translate my heart into prayer, and that’s such an amazing gift.