When Your Prayers Have No More Words
By Carter Conlon
Have you ever come to the point when your prayers have no more words? I certainly have been there. You feel as if all that is left inside of you is a whisper coming from the dust. Although you have an inner groaning for something that only God can give, you are so tired that you cannot even make any more appeals to God over it.
In the book of First Samuel, we see that Hannah found herself in such a state. “Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13). It was a wordless prayer! She longed for a child, but the Lord had closed her womb. Every year, Hannah went to the temple of God during what was supposed to be a time of thanksgiving, yet she felt utterly empty inside. To make matters worse, “Her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:6). This is a type of you and me going to prayer and the enemy saying, “Is God really faithful to you? Look how empty you are. Look how little life you have produced. You are not doing anything that is giving glory to His name. Your whole purpose on the earth is not going to be fulfilled!”
Hannah’s adversary was provoking her, in a sense, to believe that perhaps God had found some secret displeasure with her that caused Him to close His hands of generosity over her life. The Scripture says that she wept and did not eat.
Her husband, Elkanah, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1:8). But Hannah had come to a place where she was not pacified with such comforts. It is like when you have an inner desire for something God has promised you or destined your life to be, but people all around are urging you, “Just cheer up.” Nevertheless, an inner sorrow remains because you know in your heart that your life is not amounting to the fullness it was intended to be. Hannah knew the life that was supposed to come through her had not been conceived, and she could not be comforted.
The passage continues, “Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1:9—10). Interestingly, Hannah’s day was somewhat similar to ours. The nation of Israel at that time was on the very edge of defeat; in fact, just a short season later, the Ark of the Covenant would be captured by the Philistines. In the natural, everything looked hopeless. A backslidden priest was leading the nation, deaf and dull to the moment in which they were living. His two sons were greedy and immoral. The only thing left to do at this moment is what Hannah did–she prayed as much as she could.
You see, this has always been God’s remedy for critical times throughout history. He looks for that person–the one who, in the natural, would appear to be the least usable in the Kingdom of God. In a moment such as this, Hannah was just a barren woman full of disappointment and bitter in soul. She was in such anguish that there were no more words to her prayer.
THE TURNING POINT
However, there came a turning point for Hannah that changed everything and allowed God to do something that only He could do. “Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head’” (1:11). This was the moment when barrenness gave way to conception!
The scriptures tell us that afterward, Hannah “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the Lord’” (1:18—20). Hannah literally put it all into the hands of God and said, “Lord, if You will do something supernatural and give life to me, here is the promise I make to You: I will not use it for myself, but I will bring it back to You for Your glory.” And by the end of her prayer, she walked away and was no longer sad!
You see, this is the moment that changes everything. It is when you and I say, “God, if You will do something in my life, I will bring it back to You for Your glory. I will not be silent about it. It will be a testimony of Your mercy and grace all the days of my life!”
I believe that is the moment God is often waiting for. I am sure there were a lot of prayers offered up in the temple when Hannah was there. Prayers of “give me this” and “I want that.” The Scripture does say that God is good and that He delights in giving us good things. But, as it says in the book of James, there are prayers that are prayed so that we can “consume it upon ourselves” (see James 4:3). We ask, but sometimes God says “no” to those prayers until we finally get to the point where we have no more words left. All that remains is a groan that says, “God, if You will, then I will.”
I remember the day I prayed such a prayer. I had so many issues and struggles in my life when I first came to Christ. I had a horribly bad temper; I was extremely selfish; and I was hurting everybody around me. I finally got so fed up that one day I went into my kitchen and prayed, “God, if You will touch my life and set me free, I will live for You all of my days.”
Suddenly, I had an encounter with God right there in the kitchen that I will never forget for as long as I live. The presence of God literally came into that room. Pastor Teresa was there and witnessed it. The Lord touched me in a way that I still cannot fully explain. He miraculously released me from these issues of character that had held me for almost my entire life up until that point. Sure, I could have gone to counselors for the rest of my life, but I probably would still not be free. I could have tried to encourage myself with all the words that people could offer me or whatever my own heart could muster, but I would most likely still be the same man today that I was then.
But you see, the Word of God came, and I believed Jesus when He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I allowed the Word of God to touch my heart, and as the Spirit of God came, the darkness in my life had to give way to the light of God. The prison doors were commanded to open; the blindness in my eyes was washed away by His presence. Suddenly, I began to see a future. And just like Hannah, I walked out of that kitchen no longer sad but instead filled with hope. I was confident that the God who had touched my life in such a powerful way was now going to lead me into something that would give Him glory. Since that time, I have been practically all over the world. I cannot count all the people who have heard the testimony of what God has done for me!
And so here is my message to you today: God is no respecter of persons. What He did for me, He will do for you if you will simply yield to Him. Let His Word touch you in your barren place–anywhere you do not have any hope of bearing life or ever going forward.
Simply pray a prayer of surrender, saying, “Lord, if You will touch me, I will bring the freedom, the blessing, the life that You birth through my life all back to You for Your glory!”
Of course, it must be a genuine prayer. Hannah did exactly what she had promised the Lord she would do. When God granted her a son, Samuel, she brought him back to the temple after she had weaned him. Consider how costly that must have been to her. This son was the desire of her heart, and she was bringing him to Eli, a backslidden priest–into a temple that looked like it was going to fall apart, as a season of captivity was encroaching upon the nation. Yet Hannah still chose to bring the most precious thing in her life and give it to God for His glory.
The rest, of course, is history. Samuel was probably the greatest judge ever raised up in Israel, and he remained a righteous man all the days of his life. He turned the nation back from the brink of judgment to the service and worship of the one true God. Isn’t it amazing that all of this came about from a prayer that had no words?
I encourage you today to take heart! If you have a prayer that no longer has any words to it, you are actually in a good place. You are positioned for God to do a miracle. You are in a place where you finally understand that it has to be all God and none of you. All the Lord is asking of you is, “Bring it back to Me.” And as you genuinely yield the answer to Him, you will be astounded at what He will do in and through you to bring glory to His name!
This newsletter is an edited version of “WHEN YOUR PRAYERS HAVE NO MORE WORDS”, a sermon given on April 20, 2021. Other sermons are available by visiting our website at tsc.nyc. You are welcome to make additional copies of this sermon for free distribution to friends. However, for all other forms of reproduction or electronic transmission existing copyright laws apply. This sermon cannot be posted on any website or webpage without permission from Times Square Church. Scripture taken from the New Kings James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from other versions are noted.