While I hung our jackets in the hall closet, Berkeley was supposed to be settling into his room. Instead I heard him slump heavily onto the bed and give a little whimper of distress.
Poking my head into the guest room, I saw that his head had dropped forward on his chest.
“What’s wrong, Honey?” I asked him.
“Nutting,” he replied.
Guilt washed over me. I’d been so caught up in my own thoughts and worries that I’d mostly ignored his questions and chatter in the car ride to my house.
I sat on the bed beside him and took his hand in mine. “Are you worried about Daddy?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
I felt so tired. I was worried too.
“Do you want to pray for Daddy?”
So we closed our eyes, and Berkeley let go of my hand and prayed.
I wish you could experience prayer with Berkeley because it’s quite unlike anyone else’s prayers. Berkeley, my youngest brother who has Down Syndrome, does not speak in complete sentences, and he uses his hands while he prays. I’ve been his big sister for all of his 34 years; so I knew what he meant when he started his prayer by saying, “Laura and Berkeley” first pointing at me and then himself. He was telling God that Laura and Berkeley were right there in the room, and we wanted to tell Him something.
When Mercedes, the cat, walked in, Berkeley didn’t worry about God thinking he was being irreverent. He just interrupted his prayer to say, “Hello, Kitty” and to stroke her back. Then he started again, “Laura, Berkeley, and Mercedes,” and then his voice got so serious. He held his hand over his heart and told God that “Dad, heart, broken.” Then he prayed, “Dad, hospital, doctor fix heart. Amen.”
Such a simple, simple prayer but every single word meant.
Then I prayed. I prayed God would guide the surgeon’s hands while he performed the double bypass and heart valve replacement, I prayed Dad would heal well, and that there would be no complications. My prayer was a lot longer, and I meant all of my prayer too. However, I did not interrupt my prayer to say hello to the cat.
When we were done, Berkeley kissed my hand and then busied himself putting his things away.
Over the next few days, my prayers became more like Berkeley’s. As fatigue began to take over from the anxious waiting and waiting, my brain had trouble completing sentences. My prayers were less formal and often interrupted, but they were not less meaningful. I was comforted to know that God knew what was in my heart even though my mind was having a hard time focusing on the specifics. As the anxiety subsided, and I could thank God for a successful outcome, I also began to thank Him for the wonderful gift He has given us in prayer.
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
When we don’t know how to pray, God understands what we cannot even say.
PS In case you’re wondering, my dad is one week post, open heart surgery. He’s home from the hospital, and thanks to the prayers of so many people to our powerful God and the wonderful care he received at Overlake Hospital, he is healing well.