I have a song replaying in me from my father's funeral last week. It's not the song I thought would accompany me during these grieving days. The funeral was so lovingly planned, and each song chosen for the way it spoke of him. Each song except this one. This was the only song that the church insisted was non-negotiable because the singer did not have time to learn to lead a new psalm. This song was imposed on us and I chafed under the edict. But I bit my tongue, and this is the song God is using now:
Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into Life.
And I have learned that this is often the way my soul groans. There are times when a melody will get stuck in my head, but I have learned to recognize the difference between a stuck melody and an embedded one. This is an embedded prayer, a plea from my soul because I don't know how to pray right now. Once I realized that was what was happening here, that my soul was groaning for me, that the Holy Spirit was praying for me, I turned my attention to the prayer.
We were shepherds for many years. I know a bit about shepherding a flock. Sheep tend to be fearful. We always moved gently among them, speaking softly. We enjoyed them, smiled over them. When we needed to make a change, move them to a better pasture, immunize, shear or clip hooves, do a health check, or transport them, we always planned ahead to minimize their stress. We knew that any change from their normal routine would be scary, and we did what we could to lessen the fear. Asking God to shepherd me feels like an act of submission. It feels like falling into Him, trusting Him. It is different from asking Him to rescue me. That feels more passive on my part. Asking for shepherding feels active and yet acknowledges my weakness and His Compassion, Strength and Mercy--all things I need right now.
And so I sat yesterday, joining myself to the groaning of my soul, and I noticed the rest of the words. My soul's prayer is that My Shepherd would move me beyond my wants and fears. I want my father back. I want more time. I want a do-over. I fear that I let him down. That I will let him down. These are all included in the feelings of grief I am experiencing right now. Asking God to move me through these things and beyond them from death into Life--yes. I didn't know to pray for these things, but this is the right prayer today. And I feel Him shepherding me through, not pulling or yanking, but allowing me to plod slowly through this field.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.