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June 12, 2010
Lost for Words
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Romans 8:26-27

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In this series of sermons, Philip De Courcy warns the church not to settle for two-thirds of God. Christians often fail to grasp that through faith in Christ, they were not only given the gift of eternal life, but they were also given the giver of eternal life—the Holy Spirit—as a further gift. That puts the Christian at a great advantage because the Holy Spirit lives to bring God, vast as He is, within the narrow circumference of our lives.

More From This Series


Okay. Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Romans eight in verse 26. We’re in our ongoing series of studies on the person and work and ministry of the Holy Spirit and the life of the Christian. Romans 8:26. Likewise, the spirit also helps in our weaknesses for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now, he who searches the heart knows what the mind of the spirit is because he makes intercession for the seance according to the will of God. If you’ve ever been abroad then you know how difficult it can be to communicate with the locals in a country that doesn’t speak English. And sometimes that experience can be frightening on the one hand and frustrating on the other. Frightening in the sense that since you can’t communicate, you’re not sure if you’re being deceived.

It’s rather frightening to be in a situation where you really aren’t sure of all that’s going on. It can be frightening to that degree. It can be frustrating to another degree and that some of the easiest tasks can become hard, like the ordering of a cup of coffee can turn into a UN negotiation. It can be frightening, it can be frustrating, but all of that is settled if you’re there with a tour guide, if you’re there with someone who can act as an intercessor or an interpreter for you. And as I’ve thought about that, would you not agree with me this morning that sometimes as Christian’s prayer can seem like a foreign language and prayer can seem like a foreign land. If you’re new to the faith, you struggle with how I ought to pray. It seems such a foreign language. It seems such a foreign land, and even if you graduate from how I ought to pray, sometimes you’re stuck at what you ought to pray.

Paul acknowledges that here in Romans chapter eight he says, “Sometimes we don’t know what we ought to pray for.” That’s why it’s encouraging this morning to come to a verse like this where Paul reminds us that we have a tour guide, that we have someone who’s willing to act as an intercessor and an interpreter for us. We have someone who’s our prayer partner that speaks the language of heaven itself that can communicate with us and for us in the whole realm of prayer. And so, I want to come to Romans 8:26-27 this morning, and as we continue to look at the advantageous ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, we want to pay some attention to the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Christian’s prayer life. We’ve looked at a number of aspects of his ministry in our life and here is another one.

It is the spirit of God who enables us to pray and convinces us that prayer is something more than talking to oneself. Look at verse 14 in Romans chapter eight, the very chapter we are in, “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of again the fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry. Abba, Father, the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” The Spirit of God enables the Christian to pray. But if you go on down the chapter, the verses we just cited, the spirit of God not only enables us to pray, he ships our uninformed and unformed prayers through his own intercession for us, making them conformable to the will of God. And if a prayer is made conformable to the will of God, then that prayer becomes acceptable to God.

My strategic then is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Christian’s prayer life. It is the spirit of God that makes the Christian active in prayer, and it is the spirit of God that makes the Christian effective in prayer. And I think you would agree with me this morning that that’s a ministry of the Holy Spirit that’s often overlooked. And so, let’s begin to look at this text. There’s three things I want to cover this morning, but before we do that, let’s just get our bearings. I want you to notice the word likewise that begins verse 26 and introduces us to the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit on the behalf of the Christian because that word likewise links what Paul is about to say to something Paul has already said. And you and I always want to be careful that when we come to a text, we don’t take it out of its context, it’s been said and needs to be said again, a text out of its context becomes a pre-text for trouble.

So, what is the context? Well, the word likewise connects. I believe Paul’s thinking to some of the verses that have proceeded, especially verse 24 and 25, for we were saved in this hope. But hope that is seen is not hope for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Paul is saying, “Just as hope mitigates our suffering in this present world.” Remember, this is a fallen world. This is a world that’s burden and groans to be released at the redemption and return of Jesus Christ. How do we persevere in the midst of the pain and perplexity that is life. We do it because we’ve got a hope and just as hope mitigates our present suffering.

So does the work of the Holy Spirit mitigate our confusion in prayer. Likewise says Paul, “The Spirit also helps us.” There’s hope and there’s the intercession of the spirit. Now there’s three things here. Number one of you taking notes are confusion. When it comes to prayer, we often find ourselves confused. Likewise, the spirit also helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought. We know we ought to pray. Jesus said, Luke 18:1, “Man ought always to pray.” We know that prayer is a duty. We know that prayer is a delight, but we also come by experience to realize prayer is a difficulty. We know that we ought to pray, but sometimes we don’t know what we ought to pray and that’s what Paul is addressing here. Sometimes we’re not sure what to pray in a given situation. I think that Paul is addressing a particular situation in your life and my life where we come to a place where we’re confused.

I don’t think Paul’s talking about prayer in general because I think we know what we ought to pray for in general. In fact, Jesus gave us a map. Jesus gave us a playbook when it comes to prayer. His own disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus said, “When you pray, say.” So, we know what we ought to pray generally, but there’s sometimes in a hospital or beside a bed or you’re making a life decision, you’re not sure what is the particular will of God. What is the best decision you can make given this particular personal set of circumstances? And there you stand scratching your head. Have you ever been there? Then Paul joins you with some words of advice, some words of encouragement, in a multiple-choice world, in a confusing set of competing circumstances. And then in the fog of our own dense emotions, it’s not always easy to determine what we ought to pray.

And by the way, I don’t think that gets any easier the older you get. In fact, I think this issue works in reverse. The more mature you become, the longer you’ve lived in Jesus Christ, you’ll probably find yourself more confused than ever. Now that sounds strange, but Paul Cedar who used to teach at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena led the EV Free Church movement for a while. He says this in his helpful book on prayer. The more mature I am in my prayer life, the more not less, but the more I depend on the Holy Spirit for help in my praying. The reasons are obvious. When we pray self-centered prayers, it’s easy for us to figure out what we want and when we want it, but when we begin more earnestly to seek God’s will and desire God’s agenda over our own. Increasingly, our prayers become more focused on surrendering to the Lord and making ourselves available to be used by him and in any way he desires.

Do you catch his point? We pray such babyish simple prayers early on and we really don’t think at any major deep level, but the more we grow, the more we try to understand the will of God, sometimes the more complex it becomes. What brings about this ignorance? What brings about this impotence in prayer? What brings us to a state of confusion? I think our text and the context yield two things, our world and our weakness. In the wider context, Paul acknowledges that the church lives in a messed-up world. In fact, if you look at verse 22 and verse 23, you’re going to see that you have a groaning church in a groaning world. Look at verse 22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and laborers with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also have the first fruits of the spread. Even we ourselves grown within ourselves waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body.”

Let me simplify the thoughts. The world is living under the we of Adam’s disobedience and the subsequent curse of God. We are living outside of paradise. We’re living in a world that’s marked by darkness and death, deception. Life is not what it once was. Life is not what it should be. Life is not what it’s going to become. We’re living in-between times and the creation groans, and we groan. That’s why we sigh, we cry because life brings us to a place of confusion and consternation. We live in an upside-down world and if you live in an upside-down world, sometimes it turns your prayer life inside out and you’re not sure what you ought to pray for in a given set of circumstances. We live in a world wrapped in mystery, shrouded in darkness, deceived by Satan, and mismanaged by man.

We live in a world of flawed people, fallen people, and flawed people, and fallen people, even with God’s grace don’t always know how they ought to act or how they ought to pray. We are in a world that is but a shadow of itself. We’re in a world where men struggle to be what God created them and redeemed them to be. And if that’s the case when you and I agree, you’re going to have prayers that are not what they could be. If you and I are never at any point all that God would wish us to be, I got to assume what’s true for me is true for my prayer life. My prayers will never be all that they could be because I live in a fallen world as a fallen man. Imperfect people in an imperfect world will without doubt pray imperfect prayers. Thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It’s not easy to pray for the right thing in a world gone wrong, and I think that’s one of the reasons, but there’s not only our world, there’s our weakness. This is the main point. Our world is the surrounding context. Our weakness is actually the particular focus of the text. Verse 26, “Likewise, the spirit helps us in our weaknesses.” This is the problem. We don’t know what to pray because we’re weak. We’re weak. That’s what Paul acknowledges. Now what does that mean in a narrow sense? I think it relates to our ignorance. It’s got to. If we don’t know what to pray, that tells you something about our weakness. We don’t know the mind of God sometimes we don’t even know our own hearts and the desires that compete within those hearts. We don’t know what’s best for us and we don’t know at times what constitutes God’s best.

“His ways are past finding out,” says Paul. “His thoughts are higher than our thoughts,” says Isaiah. And when you understand that, then you can understand that’s our weakness. Our minds are finite, our perspectives are limited, and we’re blinded sometimes by our own self-interest. We can’t break free of the gravitational pull around selfish interests and focus. And so, when it comes to our prayers, God has to fill in the blanks. Sometimes our grasp on life is no more comprehensive than a certain schoolboy’s grasp on an early American history. Here’s what he wrote in his paper. The pilgrims came here seeking freedom from what landed and gave thanks to you know who now we can worship on Sunday. You know where it’s not a very good comprehensive understanding of the pilgrims or early American history, but that’s the way we can talk to God in ways because there’s so many blind spots, so many blanks to your understanding and my understanding, but in a broader sense, I think the weakness relates to our own fallen condition.

Okay. We live in a creation that groans longing to be what it was made to be but no longer is because of Adam’s sin and the consequent judgment of God. And what’s true of the creation is true of us. We’re very much part of a world that’s flawed and feeble and finite. In fact, the word here weakness is in the singular in the Greek, which means to a degree that whatever we struggle with, that’s a comprehensive condition and in fact it’s a state of being. We are weak head to toe, and I think that’s reinforced by the fact that when we read the spirit helps us in our weakness. The word help there is in the present tense in the Greek, which means the spirit of God has to continually go on helping us in our state of ongoing weakness because we are weak and therefore, we need his help all the time.

What’s the point? Simply this. We never get beyond our stated weakness. We never get beyond our stated weakness. And when it comes to our prayer lives, our prayers before God get all tangled up in our own human inability and our own human ignorance. I’ve got a book in my study called No Condemnation by Octavius Winslow, an old Puritan writer. Here’s what he says of this very verse in Romans 8:26, “Oh, high much prayerless prayer do we have to mourn over? How little brokenness of heart. How little sense of sin. How faint a taking hold of the atoning blood. How imperfect the realization of God’s relationship to us as a father. How little faith in his promises and his ability to aid, in his readiness to bless. Such are some of the many infirmities associated with our prayer.” How true is that? Do we not need to mourn over prayerless prayers?

Paul would say, “Yeah. I’ve had to. You’ll have to because the spirit needs to help us in our stated weakness for we don’t know what we ought to pray for.” Now that’s our confusion. Let me just pause and give you a practical takeaway from this whole section before we move on. Put this down, roll it over in your mind, prayer and weakness are joined at the hip. Prayer and weakness are joined at the hip. Prayer is for the helpless and for the hopeless. It’s so refreshing to grasp that God has already understood that we’re going to need help in our prayer lives because our prayer lives will never get to a place where either they satisfy us or satisfy God. Someone’s going to have to make some satisfaction for us and that’s not only the ministry of Jesus Christ, but that’s also the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

We’ll get to this in a moment. We have two advocates. We tend to emphasize one advocate in our evangelical theology, but we have a second advocate. The Holy Spirit has been sent to help us in our struggles with prayer because of the world we live in and because of the state of weakness we exist in. Therefore, tippet, tired, troubled sins can take encouragement from the fact that prayer is not for the got it all together kind of Christian but for the weak and needy kind of Christian. Think about this. I think Paul is saying implicitly is he not that prayer begins when we are out of answers and at the end of our own rope. Prayer begins when we get there. This is a word for a sinning and struggling sin. Your sins or your confusion are not a reason not to pray. They’re the very reason you want to pray in your weakness in your feebleness.

This is a word to the new Christian who’s reticent to pray in public or pray in small groups because you know what? I can’t measure up to all these mature Christians who seem to have their act together when it comes to prayer. What mature Christians? They’re weak from the moment they’re born to the moment they graduate to heaven. We all pray in a state of perceived weakness and maybe we need to convey that some more even as mature Christians in the way we pray, so we don’t give people the impression we’ve got it all kneeled down. We don’t. There are times we don’t know what we ought to do. We’re not sure what God would have us do and there we are in a state of absolute confusion, consternation. Thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But do remember that God is attracted to your weakness.

God is attracted to your weakness because he resists the pride, and he gives grace to the humble. Prayer is a sense of helplessness plus faith in God. There’s a good definition of prayer. Prayer is our helplessness plus faith in God. I like this code. I wrote it in my notes. That’s why you ought to pray as you can. Don’t try and pray as you can’t. It’s a good word. In fact, I came across a great story related to a famous professor at Edinburgh University in Scotland between 1843 and 1870. His name was Dr. John Duncan. He was an expert in Semitic languages. He became so endeared to both the faculty and the student body. He was known as Rabbi Duncan, but he was an evangelical minister, but he loved the Hebrew language, and he loved the Semitic people such were his attainment scholastically academically in Semitic languages that many students wondered what language he prayed in.

Did he talk to God in Hebrew? Did he talk to God in Aramaic? And so, two of them crapped outside his bedroom one night determined to listen to Rabbi Duncan pray they wanted to hear his grit, flights of Hebrew rhetoric and mysticism as they put the ear to the door. Here’s what they heard, “That gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Look upon this little child. Pity my simplicity suffer me to come to thee.” There’s a man who understood his weakness. He needed the help of the Holy Spirit. He came as a child with all his weakness and feebleness and ignorance, our companion. Secondly, not only our confusion but our companion. This is good. Likewise, the spirit also helps us in our weaknesses for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now he who searches the heart knows what the mind of the spirit is because he makes intercession for the sins according to the will of God. That’s beautiful.

Paul tells us that God has given us the spirit of God himself to help us in our infirmity, in our ignorance, and in our inability as it relates to prayer. He comes and prays with us, but the text seems to say he prays for us. He prays with us, but he also prays for us. And that’s why it’s not my eloquence, it’s not my expertise. It’s not some technique that makes my prayers adequate. It’s the sweet and gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit that makes my prayers adequate. We must come in the spirit of Rabbi Duncan, gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Look upon this confused little child.

The word helps here in verse 26. It’s a composite term in the Greek grammar. It’s a root word with two prefixes. That’s all you need to know. It has a word, and two prefixes are built onto the front end of that word. The word itself means to bear or to carry and the two prefixes are against and with, with against carry. It’s a word that means this to carry over and against. Okay, what’s the picture? A.T. Robertson, the great Greek grammarian Southern Baptist, he tells us in his word studies that what you’ve got here is the picture of someone lifting a log. Somebody’s on one end and over and against someone is carrying on the other end. That’s the picture. It’s a beautiful picture. When you and I go to lift our prayers up before God and we can’t get them up because held down by our ignorance, our inability, our weakness, our feebleness, we really don’t know what we ought to pray.

Sometimes we don’t even know how to pray really as well as we should. All of a sudden, the prayers get lifted because on the other end, the spirit of God takes up our prayers, the beautiful picture. In fact, I’d want to conclude that he takes the heavy lifting on the prayer log but does remind me not to misread the text. The spirit’s help in praying is not an excuse to replace our praying with his praying. This is not an excuse for us to stop praying. It’s just a reminder when we fumble and mumble in our prayers, we still got to do that like a little child coming to our father, but the spirit of God comes along over and against us to help us.

Two things as we look at this fact that our weak prayers are triggered by his strong prayers, I want you to see the spirit’s intercession. I want you to see the spirit’s interpretation. The spirit of God has said here to make intercession for us. Now we know that’s true of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you look at chapter eight in verse 34, “Who is he who condemns? That is Christ who died and furthermore has also risen who is even at the right hand of God who makes intercession for us.” But here we’re told in the very passage where the high priestly ministry of Jesus Christ is exalted. We also have the spirit of God interceding for us. They’re not in competition as we’ll see in a moment, but he takes up our key and through Christ presents it to God. What a blessing if I may put it like this. The spirit of God puts a good word in for us when we’re lost for words, the spirit of God puts a good word in for us when we’re lost for words.

The Christian has two advocates working on his behalf. We have Christ interceding in heaven and we have the Holy Spirit interceding on the Earth. The one works in the higher court. The one works in the lower court. Jesus Christ works in the court of heaven. The Holy Spirit works in the theater of our hearts. And there is a happy harmonization between the prayers of Christ and the please of the spirit. Listen to these words by William Hendriksen, the great Presbyterian commentator on this very thought. Romans eight teaches that believers have two intercessors. Guys, think about this. We have two advocates, two intercessors the Holy Spirit in Christ. Christ performs his intercessory task in heaven. The Holy Spirit on Earth. Christ intercession takes place outside of us, the Holy Spirit’s within us that is in our very own hearts. Christ prays that the merits of his redemptive work may be fully applied to those who trust in him.

The Holy Spirit prays that the deeply hidden needs of our hearts needs, which we ourselves sometimes don’t even recognize may be met. Christ’s intercession may be compared to that of a father, the head of the family, the Holy Spirit’s intercession can be compared to that of a mother kneeling by the bedside of a railing child and presenting our needs to the heavenly Father. There’s more work to be done in that. Somebody needs to do some more study in that. This beautiful thought that we’ve got Christ in heaven. The Holy Spirit on Earth, Christ praying outside of us, the Holy Spirit praying within us, both working together to present our prayers to God and our prayers are going to get answered. Maybe not all together the way we understand because remember sometimes we don’t know either what to pray for or actually what in the world we are praying for, but they do get answered because Christ is praying in the high court and the Holy Spirit is praying in the low court, one in heaven, one in our hearts. That’s a great thought.

April 2001, in the midst of an Israeli-Arab conflict, the motor kid carrying the security service chief of Gaza comes under bullet fire from the Israeli troops. The frightened security official calls Yasser Arafat. Yasser Arafat calls the United States ambassador, the United States ambassador calls the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Colin Powell calls Ariel Sharon and the Israeli prime minister calls his troops to stop firing. All happening in a few moments. It’s good to have connections in high places, isn’t it? When the bullets are raining down, my friend, we have a connection in high places and low places. When we find ourselves in the midst of life and there, we stand scratching our heads asking the Lord what is next and we don’t know what to pray for. Well, we have for our confusion, our companion, the Holy Spirit. Do you see the spirit’s intercession? And secondly, do you see the spirit’s interpretation?

This is an interesting verse. He intercedes for us, but then Paul goes on to explain what that intercession is. He prays for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The spirit has said to intercede for us with groanings that cannot be uttered, groans that words cannot express. That’s the meaning of the text. Size, yearnings that are too deep for words. Divine articulations from the spirit to the Father on our behalf for stuttering, stammering, sense. That’s beautiful. Leon Morris in his commentary on Romans wants us to note that the text doesn’t strictly say that the spirit groans himself. It says he intercedes with groans or in groans that cannot be uttered. And Leon Morris would make this connection and I tend to agree with him that those groans are our groans. They come from the spirit, but they’ve been taken from us.

Okay. He’s interceding for us. He’s coming alongside us. He’s over and against us, so he hears us some night in our bedroom at our office desk with our head done, our heart broken, our mind’s confused and the spread’s listening in and helping us. And he hears our heart in a way we don’t even understand it and then he takes it and conveys that to the Father with groans too deep for words to express. It’s beautiful. What’s going on is in our state of confusion, the Holy Spirit comes along, and he grasps what our needs are. He grasps that within the will of God and then he presents a prayer that is so perfectly tailored for our situation, a prayer that you and I just don’t have the mind of the heart to pray. We’re so weak, so fallen, so flawed, so feeble. This is a phenomenal passage of scripture because you see there’s a whole argument being built up here.

Go to verse 22, “For we know that the whole creation groans.” Look at verse 23, “We ourselves groan.” Look at verse 26, “And the spirit himself groans.” James Montgomery Boice says this of that string of verses that sets before us, the groaning of the creation, the groaning of the Christian and the groaning of the Holy Spirit. He says this of that there is a meaningful progression to the word groan. Here’s what he’s saying. “This world groans. It’s imperfect, burdened. We’re down with the consequences of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, moral, environmental, physical, so forth, so on. And if you and I are living in it as flawed people, we’re going to groan. There’s going to be days we wish we didn’t live. There’s going to be days we wonder what life is all about. And so, the world groans makes us groan and God doesn’t leave us in our own sorrow and our own sign.

The Holy Spirit comes alongside over and against us and he hears our hearts cry even when we don’t have the words to express the hearts cry and then he takes that perfectly and presents it to God. Is that not wonderful? Phenomenal? Encouraging? That which the Christian struggles to express the Holy Spirit, cogently, clearly expresses perfectly in intercession according to the will of God. Here’s what we’re saying, “The spirit of God knows us, and God knows the mind of the Spirit.” Verse 27, “Therefore, that which cannot be put into words is nevertheless heard in heaven, loud and clear.” What we’re really saying here is that the Holy Spirit is the clearing house for our prayers. He sorts them out and he takes the weak prayers, and he makes them strong. He takes the unfinished prayers, and he makes them complete. He takes the childish prayers, and he makes them mature. He takes the wrong prayers, and he makes them right.

That’s why I still want to pray even in my confusion because they’re getting fixed on the way up. In fact, that’s a thought I stole from Carolyn Nystrom in a book she coauthored with J.I. Packer. She says this, “God fixes our prayers on the way up. Some people get so entangled in the various dos and don’ts of prayer, so transfixed by the problem of sorting out what is our part and what is God’s part so bogged down, fret in over whether they are as mere flawed humans that they should ask anything of a holy and almighty God. There’s no way to get it right. Romans 8:26, however provides wonderful release from this paralysis, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself prays with groanings too deep for words. We as praying persons are being prayed for by the Holy Spirit himself and those prayers get fixed on the way up.”

That’s beautiful and I like what Packer says in response to that, “If God does not answer the prayer we made, he will answer the prayer that we should have made that was made for us by the Holy Spirit.” That is cool, gives us boldness, gives us confidence, helps us rest. A couple of practical points here to get to the last one. I got to say this. I’m not trying to be unduly controversial. It has to be said. It must be pointed out that this section giving what we have already come to understand of it in no way addresses the issue of tongues ’cause this very passage and these very verses are used by some to justify private prayer languages or colossalia, but that cannot be the case for a number of reasons.

Number one, the gift of tongues is expressed in words that are then interpreted. According to Corinthians, they are not inarticulate groans. While this prayer offered by the Holy Spirit may be wordless, let’s not conclude it was meaningless. The Holy Spirit conveys it in a way understandable to the Father. Secondly, the gift of tongues is only given to some according to one Corinthians. While this is an issue and a privilege here in Romans 8:26-27 for all Christians. And thirdly, the two previous uses of the word groan in Romans eight give no hint of some mysterious prayer language. It’s the sigh of the human heart. It’s the cry of the heart. It’s the sobbing sorrowing heart that the spirit of God hears and prays for another thought. We don’t need to fall over ourselves trying to find the right words to pray to God.

That’s another implication. We’ve clarified that it is nothing to do with private prayer languages or colossalia. But on the other hand, we do want to take this practical PowerPoint home and live it out. We don’t have to try and find the right words to pray. He knows what we need before we ask. He knows our limitations. He knows our walk in this world. Is it spiritual twilight experience where we only know in part and therefore God is not looking for eloquent, perfectly parsed, perfectly phrased prayers. He knows we’re weak and he’s already sent us the Holy Spirit. So, don’t try and impress God in your praying ’cause it won’t work. He’s impressed by the groaning of the Holy Spirit on our behalf and by the pleads of the Son of God at his right hand. He’s attracted to our weakness and nothing more and you and I need to remind ourselves of that.

All that God is looking for is for a hunger and a thirst after him. He’s looking for a heart disposition that longs for his grace and for his glory. Even at times when we’re dumb struck prayer at times guys is simply a heart cry to God. It can be a yearning at times. It can be a yell. It can be a grunt. It can be a groan as long as the heart disposition is right and there’s a throwing of yourself before God and his mercy asking for his guidance, asking for his strengthening grace.

Lady in our church in Ohio showed her story one day to me, brought me to tears. It moved me and I know it moved God when this all unfolded, when she heard about the infidelity of her husband. This was a godly woman ministered in our church, loved her husband. Any man would be glad to have had her, but she learns that her husband betrayed her, and she says, “Pastor, the day I learned, I find a quiet foreigner.” And she says, “I fell on the floor of one of the rooms in our home and all I could remember words, all I could do was moan and groan.”

And then I shared with her Romans 8:26 that day. May have been the best prayer she ever prayed. Do you think that God was waiting for her to get her composure together and then pray? Absolutely not. In fact, C.S. Lewis tells us that after his wife died of cancer, he wrote in a diary some of his feelings today after she died, he put this entry in, “I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought that I prayed.” But that’s okay because sometimes that’s what prayer is. It’s a groan and it’s a grunt. But the Holy Spirit who knows us and God knows the mind of the Holy Spirit. Then when the Holy Spirit starts to speak on our behalf to God that groan is interpreted, yet yell is heard. That unspoken request is understood. Is this not good? Listen, we do not have to say everything right and we do not have to do everything right for things that turn out right ’cause the prayers get fixed on the way up.

Last thought. Our confidence really a wraparound here, this tax is calculated to bring a confidence to those who are struggling to make a sense of life, to make good on prayer. Likewise, the spirit helps in our weakness, and he prays for us when we don’t know what to pray and he intercedes with groans for he who searches the heart knows what the mind of the spirit is because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Paul wants the Christian to know that their mumbled and jumbled prayers make it to heaven and beg an answer from God for two reasons. One, because he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the spirit is. We could spend some time here. I’ll break it down for you just as saying there’s no miscommunication between the spirit and the Father. There’s nothing lost in translation.

Okay? Talk to Chevrolet about that. Remember the Chevy Nova? It sold relatively well here in the United States, and so they thought that export this thing, they took it to South America and some of the Latino countries and they did an advertising splurge, but the seals remained stagnant. The sale directors were baffled until they learned that the word nova in Spanish means no go. Who wants to buy a car that means no go? Lost in translation. But what we learn here is that when we are lost for words, okay? We don’t know what to pray for. The spirit of God intercedes with groans too deep for words, so he’s groaning on our behalf to the Father. We don’t know what to pray. We don’t have the words. Then the spread is praying with groans too deep for words, but words are unnecessary because the God knows the mind of the spirit.

Simple point. The prayers never get dropped. The spirit of God knows our needs conveys that to God, God knows the spirit’s mind. Hey, pressed though the prayers are heard, and they beg and answer for God. It’s a wonderful thought. Our ignorance is offset by God’s knowledge of us and the father’s knowledge of the spirit who’s interceding on our behalf. And then there’s a second reason why we can be confident. Look at this at the end of verse 27, we’re nearly done. “He makes intercession for the sin.” Who? The spirit. How? Through groans that can’t be uttered according to the will of God. How important is it to pray according to the will of God? Really important. Prayers that begin in heaven are prayers that get to heaven. Jesus taught us, “Hey guys, you want to know how to pray? Well, here’s how you need to pray.”

You need to pray that God’s will gets done on Earth as it’s done in heaven. We’re told in 1 John 5:14, “If we ask anything according to his will. You get answered prayers that are prayed according to the will of God are winning prayers.” So, I think it’s pretty encouraging to realize that when you and I in a particular set of circumstances don’t know what the will of God is, someone knows the Holy Spirit knows and he’s praying for you according to the will of God. I think that’s a prayer is going to get answered. It’s a great thought and that gives us confidence. When we are stuttering and stammering, we can’t give voice to our heart’s desire. I’ve been there. You have been there. The Holy Spirit relays and portrays perfectly to God the needs of our heart and how those needs can be met within his will.

And because there’s perfect harmony between the trinity, because God knows the mind of the spirit, there’s a connection and there’s a communication going on. These are perfected prayers that are presented to God and answered. That’s the closing thought. That’s why finish with this idea. You and I need to grasp that God answers all our prayers, but not as we prayed them. Write that down. Think about it. I think there’s the truth to that. God probably answers all our prayers, but not as we prayed them. Because you see, our prayer wasn’t the finished product. The spirit had to work with it and the Son of God had to work with it, reshaping it, representing it to God. But you and I can have a calm assurance that God has perfectly heard our prayers because our heart’s desire has been perfectly communicated by the spirit, and therefore those prayers will be answered, but sometimes not as we imagine.

That’s why Jerry Sittser says this, “It could be that there is no such a thing as unanswered prayer. What we interpret as no might really be no, not that way or not yet. Unanswered prayer according to our perspective, does not mean unanswered prayer according to God’s perspective.” That’s helpful. That’s really helpful. Maybe that’s why Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer said, “We ask for silver and God gives gold.” See, we’re ignorant. We’re bound by our self-interest at times. Our perspective is limited and finite. And so, even on a good day when we seek to offer a good prayer, it’s always going to be flawed because God is infinite. He’s got a perspective that spans the ages and therefore he answers all of our prayers, but not as we prayed them. And sometimes when we ask for silver, he gives gold. That’s why the next verse will say, “All things work together for good.”

Did you notice where verse 26 started? We do not know. And verse 20, it begins, we know. What makes the difference? How do we get from we don’t know. Do we know? Because in the in-between we have this assurance that the spirit of God is perfectly presenting our hearts desires. Our confused ideas to God according to the will of God. And then God crafts answers and within his providence brings all of our life and all of its circumstances together perfectly working it for our good. It’s phenomenal. I’ve really enjoyed studying this passage. It’s been a blessing to me. I hope it’s a blessing to you even when prayer seems like a foreign language and a foreign land. Thank God for the Holy Spirit, the tour guide, the interpreter who builds a bridge between us and God because the Holy Spirit speaks our language and speaks God’s language. Let’s pray.

Lord, this has been just a wonderful study this morning. As we continue to learn of the advantageous ministry of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives. Lord, keep reminding us that we’re better off with Jesus in heaven and the Holy Spirit on Earth. He is the other comforter, and we thank you for the comfort we have received this morning in our muddled and befuddled life’s experience that when we don’t know what to pray and even how to pray it, how to articulate it, that the spirit of God listens for our hearts cry.

For our deepest yearnings and desires, and then in groanings too deep for words, portrays and relays that to our Father perfectly according to the will of God. God, help us to be encouraged today. Prayer is not about performance. It’s not about eloquence. Thank you that our future blessing doesn’t hang or fall on the brilliance of our praying, but in the adequacy of the spirit’s intercession. Oh, we thank you that probably more than we realize all our prayers are being answered, but not as we prayed them. Therefore, help us to trust you. Help us to realize there is no risk in trusting God with the answers to our prayers. And everybody said, amen.