“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit [Himself] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
Here we come to yet another work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. In Romans 8, we have already seen that the Holy Spirit leads us (v. 1, 4, 14); indwells us (v. 9); “quickens” us, empowering us to live a holy life (v. 11-13); adopts us into the family of God (v. 15); testifies to the reality of our Salvation (v. 16); and dispenses unto us the “firstfruits” of our Salvation — those spiritual blessings that we receive in this life (v. 23, cf. Eph. 1:3). Now we come to the final work of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Romans 8: the intercession of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the child of God (v. 26-27).
Perhaps nowhere else in the Bible do we so clearly behold the sharp contrast between the frailties and limitations of man set against the strength and loving provision of God. The Holy Spirit “helps us in our infirmities“, not the least of which is our inability to even know what to pray for or how to pray for it! The honest truth is that we don’t really know what we should ask God for because we have no idea what the future holds. The best we can do is pray for what we think is in our best interest; but we have no way of knowing if the thing we are requesting would end up being a blessing or a curse. Only the Lord knows what will happen if He grants a particular petition or not, and only He knows what will ultimately accomplish His purposes in our lives.
The Spirit of God knows the mind and will of God and He also knows the hearts and needs of His people. Not only does He communicate the will of God to the believer, but He intercedes on the believer’s behalf, perfectly expressing our needs and desires to the Father in a manner that we, in our limited capabilities, can never duplicate. We groan within ourselves, suffering and travailing in the pains and hardships of this life, and the Holy Spirit expresses those cries of anguish and distress to the Father with an unutterable intensity, breathing meaning and purpose into them with words no human lips can form.
The Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and the petitions which He brings before the Father will never go unanswered. But we must understand that the Spirit’s “praying” for us is not simply a paraphrase or re-interpretation of our own thoughts and desires. As Verse 27 shows us, He searches our hearts but He also knows His own mind; He makes intercession according to the will of God. The Spirit of God does not seek the path of least resistance for His people nor is His goal to simply bring us relief and comfort as quickly as possible. For the Lord brings us into the storms, not that we might perish, but that we might learn to trust Him therein. God is more interested in shaping us into the people He wants us to be than granting us a pain-free life of ease.
A fellow-blogger, whose posts I regularly read, quoted a wonderful poem a few weeks ago which I believe is a perfect closing for this post:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.*
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
(*This poem is attributed to an unknown Confederate soldier and has been called “The Creed for the Disabled”)