You May Not Know What to Pray, but the Holy Spirit Does
A lot of us say we want to live by faith, but the moment we can’t see or understand what God is doing, we throw up our hands and say, “Are you even there, God?”
We want to live by faith, but we also want to be able to understand why every bad thing happens. We want to be able to say, “Oh, I see. I get it now.” But that is not walking by faith. That’s walking by sight.
Faith means trusting God even when you can’t see him. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8, faith means waiting to experience resolution until the end.
While we wait to experience the glory of eternity, we can trust that God is working. And, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is perfectly interceding for us:
“In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
– Romans 8:26–27 CSB
What does it mean that the Spirit groans in us? Paul uses this word “groan” to mirror what creation is doing, and it reveals a couple of things about the Holy Spirit.
First, that groan indicates deep emotion. We may not often consider that Jesus experienced emotions, but one of the most moving scenes of Jesus’ life takes place in John 11 when he weeps at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. In the same way, the Spirit feels our pain with us.
I don’t know about you, but in my lowest moments, I don’t want answers so much as I want someone. I want to know that I’m not walking through the valley of the shadow of death alone. And this is precisely the assurance that Romans 8:26 gives us. When we weep, the Spirit of God weeps with us.
While we wait to experience the glory of eternity, we can trust that God is working. And, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is perfectly interceding for us.
This is good news in a society that too often tries to deal with pain by minimizing it. How often have you heard someone going through a tough time be told, “Well, at least …” My guess is you’ve been on the receiving end of this more than you’d like. And, if you’re honest, you’ve probably offered that kind of line, too.
Suffering, however, is not a competitive sport. Just because someone else got hit by a truck doesn’t make your chronic knee pain hurt less. Just because someone else has terminal cancer doesn’t mean your infertility is any less of a struggle.
Thank God that the Spirit doesn’t meet us in our pain with “At least …” The Spirit knows our pain is real. Jesus knows it’s real. They feel it with you, and the Spirit groans even more deeply than you do.
But the Spirit doesn’t just empathize with us. Groaning also indicates the Spirit’s wisdom. The Spirit prays “according to the will of God.” He prays the will of God perfectly over us, that God’s good purpose will be accomplished to the letter.
The assurance that he is praying for us is something every follower of Jesus can rest in.
One of the greatest prayer warriors to ever walk the earth was my childhood pastor, Dr. Sheehan. He would always respond to a need by saying, “I’m praying for you. But more importantly, Jesus is.” Romans 8 says, “So is the Spirit.” The whole Trinity is involved in the work of bringing good from your suffering.
Be encouraged: In your moment of pain, when you can’t even express the words yourself, the Holy Spirit is praying for you.