In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
The chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands stretch some 3500 miles from small atolls in the far west to the eight major islands we think of as the modern state of Hawaii. The oldest of the islands are the western atolls which once towered above the Pacific, have eroded over million of years to become small gasps of land barely visible, a hideout for ocean-faring birds. On the other hand, the eastern most of the islands, Hawaii or the Big Island, is as large as the state of Connecticut, with mountains covered with snow during the winter months, and with active volcanoes that continue to grow more land mass beyond their Rand McNally borders. But here's the secret, or not so secret: though you cannot see it, there is another island forming 22 miles east of the Big Island, rising 10,000 feet above its ocean floor yet still 3000 feet below the surface of the water. It is estimated to be 400,000 years old and is not expected to breathe its first fresh air, break the surface of the Pacific Ocean, for at least another 10,000 years. We will never live to see that day---but it has already been named, "Lo'ihi"---and someday may supercede all the present Hawaiian islands.
I tell this story to make a spiritual point---though not visible to the human eye, despite being deep beneath the surface of our daily lives, St. Paul writes that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work where we cannot see it, in our hearts and minds, even praying on our behalf because we do not always know exactly how to pray or what to pray for. Perhaps, much like Lo'ihi, the Holy Spirit has been at work in us from the very beginning and will continue until the day we die.
Now this might sound like so much sermonizing, lovely sentiments and nothing more. However, if you have children and grandchildren, you have already witnessed how small seeds of interest and talent, often lying dormant and hidden to the individual, blossom surprisingly later in life, in a high school chemistry class or a church mission trip or in some setback and loss that becomes the means for enormous change and growth. I have seen it in myself, I have seen it in my own family, I read about it in the news nearly everyday. To me it is the clearest evidence of the Holy Spirit at work---that even when days are difficult, despite chaos and confusion, even when we're not conscious of our souls or working at our faith---as the German poet, Rilke, writes: "Even when we do not use our will: God is growing".
Prayer: Holy One, give us eyes to see where you are bringing new growth and hearts that trust in the work of the Spirit which we cannot see. Amen