Summary: You’re not alone when you’re in the ’groan zone.’
When We Don’t Know What to Pray
Rev. Brian Bill
On August 1st, a terrible tragedy brought strangers together to pray. I’m reading from the StarTribune.com out of Minneapolis-St. Paul (8/6/07):
“Lori Peterson, jogging on the path on West River Parkway, was about 200 feet past the Interstate 35W Bridge Wednesday when she heard an awful noise over the loud music on her iPod. It was like dynamite…creaking metal…She turned and saw a cloud of white-gray dust billow out. Water shot into the air. A road rested in the Mississippi. People opened car doors and walked off the fallen bridge onto land…Peterson put her hand on the trembling shoulder of a teenage girl, who appeared to be a new driver, as she called her mom.
“Leaving the river, Peterson stopped atop the hill at Gold Medal Park. “Does anyone want to pray?” she asked. People looked at her like she was nuts. She asked three more times; a girl raised her hand and walked over. More joined. About 15 people circled for a short prayer. As people on cell phones told loved ones they were OK, Peterson ran toward her condo at the Rock Island Lofts. She saw her husband biking toward her. She broke down in tears, and they held each other in the street.”
Last week we learned that creation is groaning and Christians are groaning. This world is out of whack and believers are bummed out. Why is that? Because grief and groaning will one day be replaced by glory. But that’s still in the future. I like how one person said it: “I’m not what I ought to be; I’m not what I will be…but thank God I’m not what I used to be!”
In our passage for today we’re going to see that not only is creation groaning, and not only are we groaning for glory, but the Holy Spirit Himself is groaning. Check it out by turning to Romans 8:26-27: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”
To get this passage into one sentence, hold on to this truth: “You’re not alone when you’re in the groan zone.” Have you ever been in the groan zone? It’s when you sigh more than you speak, when your inner agony is so deep that can’t even express it, when you cry and ask, “Why?” The families of those coal miners in Utah have been groaning since Monday. Perhaps you’re there right now.
I’d like everyone to look at me. I’m not going to embarrass you but if you’re in the groan zone, would you just drop your eyes to the floor? Let’s pray right now and ask the Holy Spirit to do His work…
Are you ready to dig in? Paul begins, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us…” This word “help” means to “take hold at our side; to receive help from one who bears our load.” One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be our paraclete in Greek, or helper. Jesus said it this way in John 14:16-17: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” This title Counselor can also be translated as Comforter. The Holy Spirit helps by counseling and comforting and convicting (see John 16:8) because He’s with us, right next to us, and He is in us.
When the Spirit Helps Us
You’re not alone when you’re in the groan zone. In our passage we see when the Holy Spirit helps us.
1. When we’re weak and weary. The Spirit who is holy helps us “in our weakness.” This word literally means “without strength” and speaks of being incapacitated. I’m really glad to know this, aren’t you? Some of us think that we have to be strong in order for God to use us. Actually, God goes to work when we’re weak as 2 Corinthians 12:10 says: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Hebrews 4:15 tells us that the Son sympathizes with us when we feel feeble: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…”
Several weeks ago I had a day in which the ugliness of sin seemed to be everywhere. As I listened to some stories about how sin and Satan were devastating lives, a strong abhorrence for sin started to rise within me. Not just what sin does to others, but what I harbor in my own heart. Later that day, I found out that someone in one of my former churches had committed suicide. I was devastated. As I slumped in my chair tears filled my eyes and I felt like I couldn’t move. When I went home that night I told Beth that I hate what sin does and I told her that I was drained. As the night went on I sensed the Holy Spirit helping me in my point of weakness and weariness.