Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and author of more than 70 books on prayer and Christian spirituality. Yet, in one of his books about prayer Merton concedes: “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners all of our life.” (Contemplative Prayer)
While we might think that we can master prayer, we will always be novices in the grand mystery of intimacy with the infinite God. We ought not to be surprised when, like the apostle Paul in today’s Scripture, we must admit: “we do not know how to pray as we ought.”
We often find ourselves tangled up in situations in which we do not know how to pray. We honestly do not know what is best for us or for others. It feels like our best prayers miss the mark. Yet no sooner does the apostle Paul acknowledge that he struggles with how to pray does he say that the Holy Spirit sides with us and “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” When it feels like our prayers fizzle, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
Note closely the word “helps” in the text, as it translates the Greek sunantilambanomai, a vivid word picture composed of the following parts:
- sun = “together with”
- anti = “facing”
- lambanomai = “to help”
Put these different parts of the word “helps” together, and it’s a picture of the Holy Spirit “together with” us, “facing” us, “helping” us carry a too heavy load. The Spirit picks up the other end of our load and “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Perhaps today you do not know how to pray; the Holy Spirit does! And the Holy Spirit prays with and for you.
While there are many things we do not know, we do know this as we pray: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
The French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said, “God instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” (Pensees) The omnipotent God of the universe crowns us with dignity, making us “co-workers” together with Him (1 Corinthians 3:9). Through prayer we get to make things happen with Him.
When Lloyd Ogilvie was Chaplain of the United States Senate he said that he went about his work there with the motto: “Without God, we can’t, without us, He won’t.” (Lloyd Ogilvie, The Red Ember in the White Ash) Your prayers are powerful as the Holy Spirit joins His prayers with yours!
- Think of some problems that you have had with prayer. Then talk with God frankly about those problems.
- Now meditate on these lines from today’s Scripture taken from The Message:
God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in us and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans (Romans 8:26-27).
- Knowing that the Holy Spirit is praying with you and for you, talk with God about whatever is on your heart today.
“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.”
Andrew Murray (Quoted by Damion Clarke, Living in the Heart of Prayer)