From Pauses for Pentecost
The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Sometimes in our praying we come to the end of words. We don’t have the words to express what we want. Here is one common example: For some time we have prayed for someone’s healing or maybe for our own. We pray continuously, but nothing positive seems to happen. Things remain the same, or they even get worse. We begin to ask questions: Is it because we are praying the wrong way? Or have we failed to discern rightly what we need to pray for? Or is it because we have lacked faith, not prayed enough, or lacked expectation in our praying? I am sure you have experienced a dilemma like this at some stage in your praying, if not in your prayers for healing, then for some other situation.
It is encouraging to know that Paul identifies with us in our struggle to pray. He does not say, “You do not know what you ought to pray for,” but, “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” Strikingly, in response to the struggles we sometimes have with prayer, Paul does not give us a new method or tell us we need more faith. Instead, he encourages us with the good news that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in these moments and intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. The focus we need to have in our praying, as Anglican theologian Tom Smail has pointed out, is not on something more that we have to do but on what God is doing within us on our behalf.
There is a profound mystery in Paul’s words. They suggest that there is a Spirit-breathed intercession taking place within us all the time. In our deepest parts, we are in an unceasing, constant, and never-ending connection with the living God. The treasure of prayer is hidden away in the soil of our lives. There is a prayer meeting going on in our hearts 24/7! Easter people know that they are always a prayed-in people. When we are struggling to know how or what to pray for, this is exactly when the Holy Spirit helps us the most. That’s what I call really good news.
Here is an affirmation for the day. As often as you are able, affirm this truth for yourself: Because the Holy Spirit is within me, I am a prayed-in person.