“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 groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” – Romans 8:26-27
Before Jesus departed from His disciples, before His ascension into Heaven, Christ promised that He wouldn’t leave them alone and without aid. He promised He would send them another “Helper”. Jesus did just that, sending the Holy Spirit to them. We recently considered the Apostle John’s great encouragement to us regarding the important role of instruction that the Holy Spirit wonderfully provides to His people. The Spirit is the best teacher. He has been sent by Christ to teach us all things, to point us to and remind us of Christ, His lessons, the truth of His Word, and the application of it in our lives. You can read more about that here.
Here in Romans 8, the Apostle Paul shows us another marvelous role of Spirit, that being His help in prayer. In the preceding context of the verses above, Paul encourages us in the matter of hope in suffering and perseverance. Paul teaches us that while we are hoping and waiting for what we don’t see, as we have certainty of our hope that we will be glorified, we must be a praying people. Yet, what is true? Similar to how we lack knowledge and truly need the Spirit’s instruction, we also have great weakness in prayer and are in much need of His aid. This is precisely what Paul says the Holy Spirit does. Praise God and take comfort in this! God not only calls you to pray, but He is at work helping you as you pray.
If we are weak in prayer, what’s true of our weakness? Paul says, we don’t know what we should pray for as we ought. In other words, when we make our requests to God, we often don’t know what to ask (Ecclesiastes 6:12, Matthew 20:22). We often aren’t competent or accurate in judging our own condition. We are short-sighted and biased. This is so true of all of God’s children. Our ongoing struggle with sin particularly affects our ability to pray. See how Paul includes himself with us. We are all weak and distracted when it comes to prayer. We don’t pray as we ought in our own sight and strength!
Therefore, part of the strength of the Spirit’s work in our prayers is His intercession for us. As we think about this, know the trinitarian work of God in our prayers. The Father hears our prayers and answers them according to His perfect will. Christ intercedes for us in Heaven (Romans 8:34). The Spirit intercedes for us in our hearts. Matthew Henry describes the work of the Spirit this way: “The Spirit:
- as an enlightening Spirit, He teaches us what to pray for,
- as a sanctifying Spirit, He works and excites praying graces,
- as a comforting Spirit, He silences our fears, and helps us over all our discouragements.”
How wonderful this is! Though we be weak and scared in our prayers, the Spirit doesn’t leave us hanging in blindness, ignorance, or fear. No, He teaches us how we should pray and what to pray for (Matthew 6:5-13). Not only that, but see how the degree and manner of His intercession is with “groanings that can’t be uttered”, literally “indescribable, wordless groans” in the Greek. What does this mean? This can mean that they are beyond words or that they are without words. As we pray, not even knowing how, God the Holy Spirit groans “for us.”
And there’s even more! Paul says He takes our prayers and intercedes for us according to God’s will. The Spirit’s ministry of intercession is effectual. God knows the mind of His Spirit as He prays for us (v. 27). He will always hear and grant the Spirit’s prayers. Therefore, we don’t need to be afraid that our imperfect prayers and weakness will prevent us from persevering to the end or keep us from waiting patiently with hope for the final glory to come. God the Holy Spirit prays perfectly, and His requests for us are always granted.
I hope this encourages you today as you see more of the love and work of your God in and for you!