Weakness in Prayer
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26,27
Most of my Christian life I have recognized these verses as a key and very interesting passage of scripture. But I could never quite get my mind around what they actually mean. Knowing the importance of prayer, or at least trying to know it, I have made real effort to understand what Paul is saying. I’ve gone back and forth in my ponderings between a couple of extremes.
On the one hand, the verses seemed to be saying that if I would surrender to the Holy Spirit in my prayer life, I would be helped somehow to enter a higher dimension of prayer. You know, to become one of those mighty men of prayer we read books about. Locked away in the prayer closet hours on end wrestling with unseen forces of evil, perhaps using a special prayer language and groanings to demonstrate great earnestness before the Lord.
Don’t hear me wrong, I do feel that there is a place and time for intense wrestling with forces of evil and the influences of the world. I have experienced extraordinary times of faith and power in prayer, and am certain that there are many men and women whose prayer lives serve as good models. It’s just that, for the most part, I always come back to being a pretty ordinary, even wimpy, prayer warrior. I come to the other extreme. At times I have wondered if these verses were saying, “Don’t try so hard to be a prayer warrior, you can’t do it. The Spirit is the one groaning. He is going to pray for you.” That sounds pretty good. But if that is the case, what is my role? And why is there so much exhortation throughout the Bible for us to pursue a consistent prayer life?
So here it is…. finally I think I have discovered the balance between these extremes and a beautiful truth about the Holy Spirit helping us in our prayer weaknesses. I just said it… it is one of those powerful and meaningful little words hidden in the verse, “in”. The Spirit helps me “in” my weakness, not necessarily out of, or from my weakness. And he is helping me, not doing it instead of me. There are still mysteries in these verses, and certainly alot of mystery about what makes prayer effective. But I am encouraged by this text to continue on in my prayer life, despite my continual weakness, and even take joy in weaknesses as I open my heart to the Holy Spirit for his wonderful and real help. May God bless and strengthen you in your own journey and growth in prayer. LL
Prayer is the heart’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed
The motion of a hidden fire
That burns within the breast
Prayer is the burden of a sigh
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near