A fifth privilege is granted to believers by their heavenly Father in these verses. Romans 8 has presented 4 thus far: no condemnation, life, adoption, and an eternal inheritance. In verses 26-27 Paul adds the privilege of the Holy Spirit’s help to us in prayer. How needy I personally am of the application of this one in my own life.
The Spirit helps our weakness - particularly in this context He helps our weakness in the ordinance of prayer. That’s good news. Prayer is a struggle for me. Paul nails it when he writes “for we do not know how to pray as we should.” Over and over and over I find myself not knowing how to pray. Too often I find myself just giving up and getting frustrated by my short comings. I am just flat out weak in this area. What an encouragement to know that “the Spirit also helps our weakness.” While I faint in prayer, the Spirit does not. While I fail in finding the words to pray, the Spirit knows exactly what to say. “But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”
Matthew Henry speaks to this issue of our great weakness in prayer. He speaks of our weakness in both the matter and in the manner of prayer. “As to the matter of our requests, we know not what to ask. We are short-sighted. We are like foolish children, that are ready to cry for fruit before it is ripe and fit for them. As to the manner, we know not how to pray as we ought. The apostle speaks of himself in the first person here: we do not know how to pray as we should. He puts himself among the rest. If so great a saint as Paul knew not what to pray for, what little reason have we to go forth about that duty in our own strength!”
Paul needed the Spirit to carry him in prayer. Lori certainly does as well. The good news is that in our need of His assistance He is more than willing and able to lend assistance. “The Spirit also helps our weakness.” He assists us in our praying weakness! While I am attempting to pray, He is praying. While I am searching for words that I cannot seem to find, He is forming prayers that are deeper than human language. The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. How interesting it is to note that the Spirit is interceding for us in our hearts and that Christ is interceding for us in heaven. Only a few verses forward we are told that – Christ Jesus is He who died, yes; rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Rom 8:34). We are well covered in this area by the Son and by the Spirit. “So graciously has God provided for the encouragement of the praying remnant.”
Two particulars are mentioned regarding the Spirit’s intercession for us. First, He “intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.” So often I can’t find words. So often I long for my prayers to be more than words. Sadly, so often I give up due to my stumblings in both areas. Yet, I need to be reminded that the Spirit fills in where we falter– the Spirit stands in the gap for us. He fills in where I fail! Therefore, I need to not grow weary in the well-doing of prayer! When I am incapable of forming words I need not flee from this means of grace I need to flee to the Spirit of grace. “There may be praying in the Spirit where there is not a word spoken. It is not the rhetoric and eloquence, but the faith and fervency, of our prayers, that the Spirit works, in us.” (Matthew Henry)
Second, “He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The battle of Romans 7 rages ferociously in this area. I long to do God’s will, I too often seek my own will placed above it. I see God’s declared will in the Word, I miss God’s decreed will for my life. I’m a confused creature. I struggle to truly grasp what God’s will is. Yet, again the Spirit steps in and offers me hope and help in this area too. I know not what to pray – He does. He knows it and He prays it on my behalf! “The Spirit interceding in us evermore melts our wills into the will of God.” Soli Deo Gloria!
The Spirit of God knows our weakness in prayer and He offers us assistance in that weakness. And if there is anyone knows just how great our weakness is and just how great our need is, it is the Spirit for it is He who “searches the hearts.” He can look at me in ways I cannot look at myself. He is able to cut to the true heart of the matter – he is able to see into my heart. “To a hypocrite whose religion lies in his tongue, nothing is more dreadful than that God searches the heart. To a sincere Christian, who makes heart-work His duty, nothing is more comfortable. He will hear and answer those desires which we want words to express. He knows what we have need of before we ask. Christ had said ‘Whatever you ask the Father according to His will he will give you.’ But how shall we ask according to His will. Why, the Spirit will teach us that.” (Matthew Henry).
Praying to pray,