Spiritual Groaning

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.
Romans 8:26-27 NLT

As human beings we are weak, Paul writes. And it is true. Compared with God’s strength, our every thought and deed must appear weak to Him. We certainly have deaf ears, when it comes to hearing and understanding what God wants of us. The extent of our weakness can be found by comparing who and what we are with Jesus. As He made His way around Palestine, His every move, every prayer, every attitude, was recorded by faithful men, and accounts left us in the Gospels. To His disciples, Jesus was an open book, and He left them a legacy that changed the world after He died. But Jesus encouraged those first disciples by trusting them, teaching them, and showing them what a child of God could be capable of. He loved them to the end, as we read in John 13:1, “Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end”. 

But Jesus also encouraged His disciples practically. In Mark 6:7,12-13, we read how He trusted them to further His mission to His people, “And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. …  So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil”. Jesus of course knew that once He had returned to heaven His disciples would need help and he promised them an amazing Helper, the Holy Spirit. We read in John 14:26, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you”.

Paul wrote to the early Christians in Rome about the Holy Spirit’s help for them, and he gave them an example of how weak they were – “we don’t know what God wants us to pray for”. He included himself in this statement, and, by implication, us modern pilgrims as well. Occasionally, we may get a direct revelation from God, such as Ananias did when he was told to go and pray for Paul (Acts 9). But for the majority of our lives, we don’t really know what God wants us to pray for. We can get a good idea from Scriptures. We can follow the prayer Jesus left us – the “Lord’s Prayer”. But anything specific? Paul wasn’t a “pie in the sky” sort of person, and he knew all about human limitations. He knew that we particularly would need much prayer in a world that has always been hostile to Christians. So he informed his readers that the Holy Spirit was there to fill the gap in our communications with God. He would pray for us. But he then referred to the Holy Spirit praying for us with “groanings”. Here was something deeply spiritual, embedded within us, and able to communicate with God without us even knowing what it was. Communication directly from our spirits communicating with God, but bypassing our minds.

Paul concludes by informing the Romans that God Himself knows what the Holy Spirit is saying through these “groanings” and that this will be in accordance with God’s thoughts and His will for us. And these “groanings” were prayers pleading for us. We may, or may not, be aware of any of this. Tongue-speaking Christians will perhaps understand in part the process that is going on within us. But there is something very reassuring about the Holy Spirit within us, praying and pleading on our behalf. I don’t know about you, my readers, but I need the Holy Spirit within me. Those pleadings are essential. I need all the help God can give me in this increasingly secular world. 

Dear God. We need more of Your Spirit within us, each and every day. Without Him we are a weak and lost people. Amen.


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