Summary: Our relationship to God is the foundation of our lives, and prayer is what connects us to God. It is an awesome privilege. We don’t always know what to pray for, or even what to say, but God will help us and will satisfy our deepest needs—even the ones
Sermon Series on Romans 8> Reasons to be ENCOURAGED!
Reason #6, The Spirit Helps us Pray >Romans 8:26-27
“I do not know of any subject that has caused more perplexity for more Christians than the subject of prayer.” -So commented James Montgomery Boice, Bible teacher and Pastor.
Have you ever wanted to pray, but you felt so distraught, so uptight, so upset that words just wouldn’t come? Maybe your hurt was “too deep for words” and all you could do was to look upward and say, “Aaargh!” Now imagine God looking from Heaven and replying, “I got it—I understand completely.” That’s the basic message of verses 26-27. Paul’s been explaining how “we grown inwardly as we wait” for what God’s going to do in our lives (vs 23). We can expect God’s support in our struggles.
This prayerful groaning isn’t about “speaking in tongues”, but about intense, non-verbal communication. We don’t have to always pray with words—we can communicate through silence, through feelings, and by focusing on God without having to say a word. Inwardly we groan, and God hears it; He catches what no one else can comprehend. He understands our pain and longings. We don’t always know why we hurt—God knows even that. When we’re about to pray and we’re thinking, “Why do I feel so crummy?” -God already understands.
As disciples, we’re not confined to our limited, human resources. Paul says that the Spirit “helps” us. That word means literally, “to come alongside and take hold of”. In simpler terms, the Spirit lends a helping hand, enabling us to bear our heavy load. Paul also explains how the Spirit “intercedes”. This word implies rescuing someone (in the original language). An intercessor is an advocate, someone who speaks for us, in our behalf. The Spirit doesn’t remove our need to pray, but assists us in prayer. And because of the Spirit’s work in our behalf, we are secure in our salvation.
The Spirit “helps us in our weakness”—what kind of weakness? It could be physical, emotional, or spiritual. We may be discouraged, weary or burned out. But Paul isn’t talking about sin. True, sin hinders our prayers, but Paul is saying that we’re often limited in our ability to pray. We may be confused, distracted, unable to focus, or lack confidence. The reason is, we don’t “know what to pray for”. The word “know” means to know with certainty. We can have so much on our minds we may wonder, “Where do I begin?”
One place to start is by making prayer part of our regular routine, a daily discipline. A businessman stated that he used to log in his date-book, “7:00-7:30 am-Prayer”, but many times he got busy, distracted with various issues, and passed it up. He said, “Now I write, ‘7:00-7:30 am-God’. Somehow that’s a little harder to neglect!”
Have you ever asked someone to pray for you when you felt that prayer was beyond you? This is what Paul is describing--the companionship of the Spirit. When we don’t know the right words, the Spirit does, and He voices our requests in our behalf, by translating our groanings into concepts, making prayer out of wordless sighs. John Bunyan said, “The best prayers have often more groans than words.” When we’re struggling with prayer, we can rest assured that a joint-effort is underway. The Spirit is working with us, connecting with our emotions and aspirations. Paul assures us that God “searches our hearts”. He knows us far better than we know ourselves.
One reason we experience difficulty praying is that we get into a prayer rut—when we utilize only one method of prayer. We may need a fresh approach. Prayer is a cooperative effort--the Spirit assists, but we do some of the work. When we’re feeling stale, we can change our posture in prayer; we could try praying out loud rather than silently—or vice-versa. We might try writing our prayers, or singing prayer songs. We can “turn the Bible into prayer” (McCheyne), by praying what we read in Scripture. We can “prime the pump” by praying prayers of others. In our church bulletin we have a written prayer each week. Why not start with one, and then launch into your own thoughts? If your prayer time is too talkative, maybe you can introduce some contemplative silence, listening…and allow yourself to be impressed with something God has for you, there in the quiet. In silence we may do a better job of conveying our concerns to God—using actual word may prove to be a bad translation. Are your prayers too formal and serious? Maybe you need to relax and be more natural. We don’t need to use the eloquent “Thees & Thous” 17th Century language of the King James Version. Plain, sincere speech is respectful. Try using a prayer-list; but if all you do is work through your list, put it aside and simply talk to God. Is prayer easy to do? Not always. Will we always ‘feel good’ when we pray? Not always. But prayer is necessary, essential if we are to have victory in life. And we need to continue on, even if we feel we’re not very good at it. When we don’t feel effective at prayer we need to recognize that “the power of prayer is not in the one praying but in the One who hears our prayers” (Max Lucado).