Summary: When God’s people are suffering they don’t always know how to pray. Thanks to God’s gracious promise that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf!
I have many fond memories of my late grandmother. One of my favorites was the way she always argued about who would pay the bill at the restaurant. It would never fail. I’d invite her out to lunch and we’d have a nice visit together until the waiter brought the bill. It was as if my grandma grew four extra hands. She’d grab at the bill in the blink of an eye. Then we’d pursue in our usual argument over who’d pay, and she always seemed to win the argument.
I outsmarted her though. Right after ordering, I excused myself as if I were going to the restroom, and then I tracked down our waitress and explained that I’d like to pay the bill. The bill was paid before we were finished eating, and my grandma had no idea until it was too late. She sat and sulked saying, “I was going to pick up the tab.” (Of course she always tried to stuff some money in my pocket afterwards.)
I enjoyed picking up the tab for my grandma. It was an honor. Today, we learn that the Holy Spirit has the same joy and privilege in our prayer life. Now, he doesn’t pay for lunch but THE SPIRIT PICKS UP THE TAB. He does so 1) when our prayers are lacking. The Spirit also picks up the tab and helps us along 2) when our hope is waning.
1) When Our Prayers Are Lacking
Have you ever been tempted to walk out of a restaurant? Maybe the service was really bad, or the food wasn’t very good. If people have to wait too long in line, then they’re going to be tempted to leave and go someplace else. We have the same attitude towards God at times. We Christians have every reason to be eternally grateful for what God has done for us; yet, St. Paul reminds us that we aren’t. The truth is we aren’t always grateful. The reason for this is because we live in a sinful world.
Last week the apostle Paul told us how we are in a time of waiting. We are waiting to be delivered from this sad, moaning world. And during this waiting period called “life” we pray. We pray that God would deliver us from all the troubles of this life. We want God to heal our sick family member suffering with cancer. We want God to put an end to war and poverty. We want God to give Wall Street a booster shot. We want God to bring a little rain to the neighborhood. The list could go on.
Before you know it, your prayers look something like a restaurant receipt. You order up a huge list of complaints and demands and expect God to pick up the tab. After all, we’ve been taught to pray, “Thy will be done”, so God better hop to it, right? He’d best work out good in our lives.
We expect a certain kind of service from God regardless of what God has said. We expect God to deal with every intimate detail, smooth over every bump, solve every problem or argument, and generally make our lives worry-free.
I’ve met so many people who claim to be upset with God because he’s never “delivered the goods.” A lot of people think God is some sort of divine pizza delivery boy who’s supposed to whip up some concoction to satisfy their every whim and fancy and deliver it to them piping hot.
Someone once said, “Pastor, I’ve given up on God. I’ve prayed to him, but he just doesn’t care.” Have you ever found yourself praying to God and asking, “Where’s my ‘pizza?’ God why don’t you do what I ask?” Maybe you’ve been tempted to stop praying to God because it seems the order just isn’t getting through, and you always seem left with the bill.
So, we find our prayers are lacking because, sometimes, we just don’t know what to pray for. Quite often, the pressures of this life can be so heavy; the struggle so severe, that the best we can muster is a groan or sigh. Each of us, at one time, resembles the classic image of a frustrated Charlie Brown. It’s always pictured in the next cartoon frame after Charlie has just messed something up – a badly thrown pitch, a kite caught in a tree, whatever. The picture that follows is one of Charlie Brown with head tilted back, mouth opened wide, and above a single word: AARRGGHH! Sometimes, that’s the best we frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned Christians can rally.
We’ve perused the menu of life. We’ve considered all the options, sampled all it has to offer, and the best order we can place to God is: ARRRGGHH! This is because we are weak and we live in a vicious world. This is also because we don’t have insider information on the will of God. We’re often left wondering what God is up to. The truth is we don’t always know, we’re weak: ARRGGHH!