Summary: What should be our attitude when we allow the Holy Spirit to groan within us?

The groanings of the Spirit

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It is sometimes difficult to know what to pray for. We know that we should pray, but words escape us. Paul promises us that in such times the Spirit will intercede on our behalf, groaning within us with words that we ourselves cannot give expression to (Romans 8:26).

The Greek uses several words to express this sort of inexpressible cry. In most cases, these words refer to public mourning or public shows of strong emotional grief.

Alalazo (214) describes the wailing done by the professional mourners hired to lament a death during the official time of mourning (Mark 5:38).

Dakruo (1145) is used once in the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept (John 11:35).

Threneo (2354) also refers to the official time of mourning. This refers to the singing of songs and the acting out of what today we would recognize as performance pieces which give public expression of private grief (Matt 11:17, Luke 23:27).

Klaio (2799) refers to emotionally charged weeping. Peter wept this way after he denied Jesus three times (Mat 26:75). In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, Jesus promises that those that weep this way are blessed (Luke 6:20).

Adurmos (3602) derives from a word meaning to sink down like the setting sun. It has a sense of descending into a profound depression and grief. Rachel crying for her dead children, refusing comfort, expresses this great mourning (Matt 2:18).

People crying,

People acting out a formally designed public expression of emotionalism,

People hiring others to express something they are unable to express themselves,

People expressing regret for their failures,

People sinking to the depths of despair, not knowing a way out.

There are many ways to express the groanings coming from the depths of your spirit. However, none of these describes how the Holy Spirit groans within us. This type of groaning means something entirely different.

Elsewhere I describe the strait gate that leads to salvation this way:


"The Greek implies that the gate is surrounded by obstacles and is therefore difficult to get to." The reason I argue for this is that stenos (4728) derives from histemi (2476) a word that means to stand still. In other words, salvation requires rescue from the things of this world that stand in our way preventing access to the gate. It is from this immoveability that the word for the groanings of the Holy Spirit comes from.

When the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt God heard their groanings. Slaves cannot move freely from place to place. They can only stand in place and groan, crying out to the Lord for their freedom.

In the same way, we groan within ourselves, awaiting the redemption of our bodies. (Ro 8:23)

We groan for the dwelling place that is awaiting us in heaven (2 Cor 5:2)

We are not to complain about each other, nor should we allow our leadership to complain about us (James 5:9, Hebrews 13:17). In these verses, Luther uses the German word seufzen, which means that we are not to cause our leaders to stand silently before the Lord and sigh over us.

Have you ever been in a conversation that involved talking about somebody while someone let out a very long sigh and shook their heads? James warns us that sort of discussion should never take place.

Such groaning is much more effective if the Holy Spirit is doing it.

All of us will be in a situation where we know we should pray but we will be at a loss for words. Do not make a public show of your ignorance, spouting words simply so that they can be heard by those around you. Rather, stand firm, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you. Allow the sighs and groans of the Holy Spirit to withstand the evil one.

Wrestling involves standing in one place and engaging the enemy. It is this wrestling that requires the whole armour of God. Ephesians 6:13 describes the armour that we put on when we stand against the enemy. We need to remember that this armour is useless if the person wearing it is unwilling to stand firm against the enemy. This attitude is best encouraged by the words spoken by the combatants. How much better would it be if the saints proclaimed words that encouraged them to stand firm in their defense. Those words do not come from ourselves. They come from the groanings of the Holy Spirit that we allow to pour out from inside of us.

Some would argue that speaking in tongues is the groanings expressed by the Holy Spirit. I would tend to agree. Given the preceding, you may ask whether you should speak in tongues publicly. I would argue that what it is used for is a far more important than arguing over whether it should be done in public or not. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the substance of things hoped for. Faith is "standing firm with" those things we hope for. This aspect of faith is best expressed through warfare praying, standing firm, and allowing the Holy Spirit to petition Father God through us. If you do that as a group during a church service, then God bless you. The more of you there are the better.

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