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Devotions for Every Day Life

Groans that Words Cannot Express

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

The Spirit motivates us to pray what God wants prayed. Paul asserts that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” While it is not entirely clear whether it is the Spirit or the pray-er who groans, the fact that we have a personal interactive relationship with the Spirit means that both the Spirit and the person praying experience strong deep feelings. The “groans” of which Paul speaks may be understood as intense yearnings of the Father for the accomplishment of His purposes, yearnings that get birthed in our hearts by the Spirit. These yearnings become the grist of our intercessory prayers. For example, when believing parents pray that prodigal sons or daughters will return to the faith, they do so with the yearnings of the Father. When we pray for persecuted Christians or the surviving family members of martyred believers, we do so with deep groans of God. The Holy Spirit is the Father’s agent in getting us to pray what is on His heart.

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The Spirit enables us to pray. When it comes to prayer we may be “strength-less” but we are not helpless. Paul reminds us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” The word “helps” is a Greek word that literally means “take hold of together with against.” The Spirit is not so much praying for us as He is praying with us. He is “taking hold of prayer together” over “against” our weakness so that with His help we can pray as we should. We still do the praying, but we are not alone in doing it. Imagine a person trying to move a heavy log alone. The log is very heavy and he is too weak to lift it. But someone steps up to “take hold of it together” with him. Together they are able to move the log. It’s like that with us and the Holy Spirit. What we are unable to do in our own strength, we can do with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious God, I am so thankful that I am not left on my own to determine how I should pray. Thank You for the power of the Holy Spirit, who helps me to pray in the midst of my weakness, and during times when I just don’t have a clue what I should ask. How amazing to know that when I don’t have the words to speak, the Spirit intervenes on my behalf. There are times when I feel so deeply about the situation of another, or about the circumstances of my own life that I am unable to verbalize what is on my heart. Thank You for knowing what is in the depths of my being, and for allowing the groans of my spirit to be heard!

–Adapted from Praying God’s Heart (Prayers that Make a Difference) by Alvin VanderGriend. This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.

Prayer Points

Praise God for his glorious grace freely given in his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:6). Thank him for an outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:17). Confess those times when the exercise of your freedom has become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Cor. 8:9). Commit yourself to walking in the freedom of God’s Word (Ps. 119:45). Ask God to make you a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).

Pray for people you know who are still slaves to sin. Ask God to show them through you that he has not deserted them but is waiting patiently for salvation to come to their house (Acts 16:29-32).

Prayer Points taken from Patterns for Prayer by Alvin VanderGriend.  This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.

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