Prayers without Words

God Hears Our Groans

God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. Exodus 2:24

On my knees beside the bed, I knelt to pray. My mind whirled and my heart ached. But no words came. Several minutes passed before I whispered, “Help me, God. Help me.”

“Help me, God!”

Ever been reduced to silence before God? Tragedy or crisis may drive us to him, but when we get there—alone and broken—anger, confusion, or pain may render us speechless. When we do gather some words, we may hurl them at God in fury or dismay: “Why, God? … How could you?”

That seems to be the Israelites’ situation when the book of Exodus begins. For many years, the Israelites had been oppressed by their Egyptian slave masters who “made their lives bitter with harsh labor … [and] worked them ruthlessly” (Exodus 1:14). In desperation, the “Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out” (2:23).

The Hebrew word translated “groaned” refers to “the crying out, the groaning of the oppressed.”[1] It suggests extreme suffering—mental, emotional, or physical. The Israelites’ physical pain was severe, but the mental torture may have been worse. Where was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph? God’s people felt helpless, hopeless, so they cried out … maybe not to any god in particular. The Scriptures say only that they cried out and God heard them (2:23–25).

That comforts me. When the oppressed cry out, the God of the Universe hears them. And he answers them.

In the Israelites’ case, God commissioned Moses: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt … So I have come down to rescue them … Now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (3:7–8, 10).

Those verses fill me with hope. When I’ve tumbled into a pit of despair or bewilderment, when I don’t know what to say to God, he hears my groans and he responds. The apostle Paul wrote, “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 through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

What’s so painful you can’t express it? Kneel before the Lord anyway. Let the Spirit take over. He’ll speak for you; he’ll also comfort and sustain you until your pain turns into praise for the God who hears your groans.


Read Exodus 3:1–12. This chapter records the first conversation Moses ever had with God. What does God reveal about Himself and His relationship with His people? Do you see God that way? Why?

Read Romans 8:26–30. What relationship do you see between verses 26­–27 and verses 28–30? What is the Holy Spirit’s job? What is God the Father’s job? What is our job?

Read Psalm 40. What verses convey David’s desperation? What verses convey his trust in God?

Denise K. Loock

This devotion is part of our Dig into Prayer series.

[1] “H5009 – nĕ’aqah – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (NIV).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 29 Apr, 2019.


  1. Thank you, Nancy and Denise! I have heard the phrase, “Only a groan will reach his throne…” and take great comfort in this. Thank you for the excellent post!

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