He who searches the heart knows the meaning of the Spirit’s unbroken prayers and, looking into the depths of the human spirit, interprets its longings, discriminating between the merely human and partial expression and the divinely inspired desire which may be unexpressed.  If our prayers are weak, they are answered in the measure in which they embody in them, though perhaps mistaken by us, a divine longing.  Apparent disappointment of our petitions may be real answers to our real prayers.  It was because Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus that He abode, still, in the same place where He was, to let Lazarus die, that he might be raised again.  That was the true answer to the sisters’ hope of His immediate coming.  God’s way of giving to us is to breathe within us a desire, and then to answer the desire in-breathed.  So, longing is the prophecy of fulfillment when it is longing according to the will of God.  Those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness” may ever be sure that their bread shall be given them and their water will be made sure.  The true object of our desires is, often, not clear to us, and we err in translating it into words.  Let us be thankful that we pray to a God who can discern the prayer within the prayer, and often gives the substance of our petitions in the very act of refusing their form. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Romans 8.26.

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