The help of the Spirit

Once again, I draw this morning on the EMW Daily Devotions to bring the third part of Dr Eryl Davies’s series from Romans 8


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26

I felt distressed and in shock. My Local Education Authority informed me they would not pay my University fees though I had completed my first year successfully. I had looked forward to specialising in my chosen subject for two more years, but that now seemed impossible. I had no savings, and my parents were too poor to help. As a Christian, I found it hard to pray about it… and what should I pray for? Confused, my future seemed dark though I believed God was in control.

Do you recognise the feeling? Are you in difficult or dark circumstances? Is it a struggle to pray, if at all? Perhaps you don’t know what to pray for. This verse can help us, so let’s begin to grasp what Paul says.

We must firstly rememberthat trials, disappointments, disasters and suffering of all kinds are within God’s plan for Christians before they enter glory. Don’t be surprised, therefore, if you are facing a difficult patch in your life. This would only occur within God’s caring and wise providence – nothing happens by chance, and He is in charge all the time.

But notice, the Lord does not leave us on our own, because the Holy Spirit has been given to help Christians in prayer. Just as the hope of future glory encourages and stimulates us to continue trusting God in our sufferings so also the Holy Spirit helps us in prayer. We are not on our own. Help is available at all times. Perhaps you have rarely known this help so I encourage you to be open to what the Holy Spirit can do in your life. Your helper is the Holy Spirit so don’t despair about your prayer life. With the Holy Spirit’s help, you can really pray. Go for it! As you read the verse, think carefully about the words, and pray over them. Ask the Holy Spirit specifically to make these words real for you – whatever struggles you are facing. And remember this basic point; this help is available for ALL Christians in all churches. The Spirit’s help is not confined to a select few or to pastors and missionaries. The Lord can make these words real and powerful in your experience and in your praying. Be encouraged!

The Bible is realistic in recognising our ‘weakness‘.The word refers to our weaknesses and limitations in prayer which are common to all Christians. Our weaknesses can range from a lack of desire or ability to pray to that of struggling to know what to pray for. Paul refers to this latter fact: ‘For we do not know what to pray for as we ought‘. That is exactly how I felt when informed about my University fees. Should I pray for the decision to be reversed or ask for grace to accept the decision and seek guidance to know what I should do? I struggled to concentrate in prayer and felt unsure what to pray for. Jehoshaphat knew this type of response in what was a critical situation for his nation. In prayer he confessed, ‘nor do we know what to do …’ (2 Chronicles 20: 12). Even Paul when praying three times for the removal of his thorn in the flesh, struggled to understand God’s will, for the Lord told him. ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for MY strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you are struggling in the area of prayer, then don’t be discouraged for help is available.

Here is the help and encouragement offered: but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Notice the following points:

– God the Holy Spirit ‘himself’ helps us in prayer. What a privilege for us, but are we ignoring his help? He indwells believers and part of his work is to help us in prayer. Don’t despair!

– the amazing fact is that ‘the Spirit himself intercedes for us‘. We know that in heaven, Christ our mediator prays for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, 1 John 2:1) and his prayersare always effective. By contrast, not in heaven but rather in our hearts the Holy Spirit intercedes for us… Wow! Do you realise you have two intercessors – one within you and the other in glory?

– the present tense is used in verse 26, reminding us that the Holy Spirit is constantly interceding within us. He does not forget to do this (though we may forget to pray) and he will never stop praying within us while we are in the world and facing trials and suffering.

– the Spirit intercedes within us ‘with groanings too deep for words’. One commentator borrows the following illustration. Christ’s intercession for us in heaven can be compared to a father’s concern, love, and prayer for all the family members whereas the Holy Spirit’s intercession in our hearts is more like a mother kneeling beside the bed of her sick child and expressing the child’s immediate needs to the Father and in a way the child could not express adequately. That is so very encouraging.

Sometimes there are longings, desires and needs in our hearts which are too deep to express and this may be frustrating at times. However the Holy Spirit takes those longings, fears, desires and burdens which are deep in our hearts, making them effective intercession which the Father understands and answers. Be encouraged!

This reminds us that prayer is so much more than words. Real prayer engages the heart with the help of the Holy Spirit. That is exciting, and that is what we as Christians can experience time and time again. That was my experience hearing about my University fees being withdrawn. The sequel will be shared next time but how glad I am of the Holy Spirit’s help in my ‘weaknesses ‘. He helped me to pray on that occasion and on many occasions since. Embrace this encouragement and act on it in prayer.

Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)

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