One of my favorite English novels is The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge. In this story, a woman named Mary moves into a cottage she inherited from a crazy old cousin. She discovers her cousin’s journals, which tell of her life with mental illness.
In one journal, her cousin tells a story of a time when she was coming out of a particular hellish episode. An old man, a priest or vicar I think, visits her in her garden and gives her advice to which she clings for the rest of her life.
When the sickness comes, he tells her, when the nights are black, when God seems far away and there are no words, just remember these three prayers of three words each.
God have mercy.
Thee I adore.
Into Thy hands.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book (unfortunately I don’t have a copy of my own), but I remember those prayers. Whether explicit in the story, or implicit in my heart I’m not sure, but the truth I carried away is that God hears us when we have no words to pray. Those three tiny prayers embody so much of what we need to say to God, and whatever our prayers lack, the Holy Spirit fills in for us, so to speak. Romans 8:26 puts it like this: “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.” Romans 8: 34 says, “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
It’s sweet comfort to know that although our prayers seem so small and inadequate sometimes, Jesus and the Holy Spirit intercede for us before the Father. And many times on those dark days when I’ve had no words of my own, I’ve clung to those three small prayers. God have mercy. Thee I adore. Into Thy hands. And trusted my Intercessor to make them perfect.