Our Prayers Need Help
Prepared by Dr. John Marshall
Romans 8:26a (Holman) In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in
In addition to being aided by hope, which helps us in this troubled life (8:25), we are also assisted by the Holy Spirit. “Weakness” refers to inherent frailties that are ours as creatures of the flesh. All believers struggle with weaknesses, but we are not left alone in our efforts. The Holy Spirit helps us.
The words “joins to help” translate a Greek word seventeen letters long. It combines three words: with, opposite, lift. Combining these three words into one gives a beautiful picture of what the Holy Spirit does.
When He sees us struggling with a burden, He moves to the other side of it (opposite us), and lifts it with us. The Holy Spirit takes a portion of our burden in order to relieve us of having to bear the bulk of the pressure.
Our burdens are not completely taken away from us. The Spirit does not do everything for us; we have a role to play. However, the sustaining hand of the Holy Spirit lightens our burdens.
This is not something we have to request; it is ours as a gift. We need this unsolicited help because one of our worst weaknesses is our inability in prayer. In fact, prayer itself is one of the weaknesses the Spirit must help us with in our lives. Paul explains why this is true.
Romans 8:26b …because we do not know what to pray for as we
Christian living often presents us with perplexing paradoxes. We know we have the right of access to our Father because we are His children.
We can “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16). However, once we arrive there, we often do not know what to say.
In the everyday problems of life, we often find ourselves trapped in the dilemma of not knowing what to pray for in a given situation. There are many times when we do not know what our specific request should be.
Always be extremely cautious when you have a purely personal request, especially when it comes to minute details. We often ask for things that would not be good for us. We cannot always discern what is best for our own selves. Hence, be careful what you ask of God.
We often ask for things that would become new sources of temptation to us. Some ask for healing, and then stray from God in newfound health. Others ask for money, and then love it too much to give God His ten percent.
We are shortsighted, biased to our flesh. Our prayers are often stamped with selfishness. We sometimes are more concerned about being indulged than we are about fulfilling our duty. We are all guilty at times of letting our wish be more important than God’s will.
The prayers of God’s people are smoke sending fragrant incenses up toward Heaven, but our prayers leave plenty of ashes behind on earth. Much of our praying is inappropriate. Even God’s best saints make mistakes when it comes to the indictment; “We do not know what to pray for as we should.”
The mighty Apostle himself had blundered in prayer. Paul had a thorn in the flesh he thrice asked God to remove. Finally, he realized he was praying contrary to the will of God (2 Cor. 12:7-10), and stopped asking.
Even Moses missed God’s will on occasions. He pleaded for Israel and asked to be blotted out of God’s book if the people could not be spared.
YHWH said, “I will erase whoever has sinned against Me from My book” (EX 32:32-33). Moses’ sentiment was noble, but not in agreement with God’s will. After this, Moses asked to see God (EX 33:18). The Lord refused this request because no person can see His face and live (EX 33:20).
Near death the venerable leader pleaded with God, “Please let me cross over and see the beautiful land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon” (Deut. 3:25). This request was against God’s will, and made the Lord angry. YHWH told Moses, “That’s enough! Do not speak to Me again about this matter” (Deut. 3:26).
Job prayed for a chance to find God and argue with Him (JB 23:3-4). Job was wrong. When God appeared, Job only said, “I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth” (JB 40:4).
Elijah pouted under a Juniper tree and prayed, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life” (I Kings 19:4b). This was obviously not the will of God because Elijah became one of only two men, along with Enoch, who never died. YHWH never did grant this request of Elijah.
Jeremiah loved his nation and pleaded with God, “Why are You like a helpless man, like a warrior unable to save? Yet You are among us, Yahweh, and we are called by Your name. Don’t leave us!” (Jer. 14:9). The great prophet was wrong. His prayer was not in God’s will. The nation had sinned too grievously to be spared, and YHWH eventually told the weeping prophet, “Do not pray for the well-being of these people” (Jer. 14:11).
The Israelites had manna, but angered God by asking for variety in their diet. They were ungrateful. God answered their prayer, but a plague broke out among them. Their prayer was not in God’s will. “He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them” (PS 106:15).
The mother of James and John asked that they be seated at the right hand and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom (Matthew 20:21). I wonder if she still felt that way when she looked at Jesus at Calvary. Do you think she wished her two sons were there instead of the two thieves?
One of God’s best gifts to us is; He often says “No!” to our requests. May Jesus deliver us not only from our enemies, but also from our own presumptuous prayers. Praise God! Jesus helps us through His Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:26c …but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…
We often do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit always does. He helps us pray, He intercedes in our behalf. The Spirit is our prayer partner.
Christ intercedes for us in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. The Spirit intercedes for us here on Earth from within us.
Jesus is an elder brother pleading our cause boldly before Father. The Spirit is like a mother leaning over her weak little child, discerning the need.
The Holy Spirit senses what we need and helps us pray intelligently. He edits our prayers and composes them properly. Jesus then takes these refined supplications and presents them to the Father for approval. The Spirit sends up the petition; Jesus gets it granted. The Spirit wants only what is best for us. Hence, sometimes He must ask Jesus to negate our prayers. The denial causes us temporary pain, but in the long run will be for our best.
Romans 8:26d … with unspoken groanings.
We know He loves us deeply because His sympathy pains cannot be expressed in words. The deepest emotions are those that cannot be spoken.
A tear says more than a hundred words of condolence. The clasp of a hand is much louder than a voice of loving words. Even so the Spirit’s groanings are understandable expressions of His love for us.
Paul told us all creation is groaning for deliverance from the bondage of this world (vv. 19-22). Then the Apostle said we believers are groaning for the redemption of our body (v. 23). In our present text we are reminded God is not apathetic. The Holy Spirit hurts with us. He senses our pain and groans with us in sighs that cannot be expressed by words.