Do you remember sitting in prayer meetings or small gatherings and sharing prayer requests? Someone would mention a sick grandma or math test tomorrow, and then there'd be the inevitable series of "unspoken... unspoken... unspoken..."

How do you pray for unspoken requests? How do you keep your mind from wondering what is going on in their life that's too embarrassing to share?

There may be times when it's right and even helpful to uncover what isn't being openly expressed. Many people may be carrying burdens they aren't able to share. It may not be an embarrassing prayer request -- but rather something they're not even able to put into words.

The Bible calls these groanings.

"For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water." (Job 3:24)

"For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)

Dr. William Toffler, MD, an Oregon physician, recognizes how important it is to listen for what is not being said. How well physicians listen and respond to their patients "has a profound effect... on their view of themselves and their inherent worth."

When a patient says, "I want to die," it may simply mean, "I feel useless."

When a patient says, "I don't want to be a burden," it may really be a question, "Am I a burden?"

When a patient says, "I've lived a long life already," they may really be saying, "I'm tired, I'm afraid I can't keep going."

And, finally, when a patient says, "I might as well be dead," they may really be saying, "No one cares about me."

Source -- Choice is an Illusion: What People Mean

We may never have conversations quite like these with the elderly in our churches, but one thing is certain, listening to them with your heart is beneficial and healing. You may sense a groan meaning life is difficult or discouraging. You may perceive a frustration or a fear.

An underlying purpose of LIFT is to "perceive the burdens of others and make them lighter." Perceiving... sensing... understanding... is carried out with our hearts, not our ears.

An elderly or chronically ill person may silently be pleading for someone to hear what he is not saying in words. If you listen closely with your heart, you may hear an unspoken request, "Please give me hope, a sense of worth, and reassure me that I'm not forgotten by God."

Truly listening will enable us to minister to their deepest needs.

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