We have undersold the power of prayer—well, I have.
Prayer seems like a great idea for some of those projects that are beyond our control.
Prayer makes me feel like I’m doing something when I’m in a circumstance where I’m limited to only prayer.
Prayer is our last resort.
But the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul:
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 ESV
These are great and encouraging words. It’s wonderful to know that even though I don’t know how to pray the Holy Spirit has it.
But there’s a little word in this bit of encouragement that tells me we’re missing it.
The word? Ought.
Oughts have become rather frowned upon in today’s Christian circles, and I’m not trying to popularize guilt and condemnation again. I’m glad the Church is moving away from the use of guilt to make us behave.
And yet, we have an ought. Thankfully it comes couched in the Lord’s great provision for our shortcoming.
What is the solution for our weakness? Prayer. The fact that ought shows up here implies to me that there should come a point in a Christians life when he is able to pray through some of his own weaknesses.
OK - that’s all good, but I’m not there—right? Are you? Maybe so.
Here’s the ah-ha for me.
When I don’t know how to pray to solve my weakness, what does God do?
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:27 ESV
He, by the Spirit searches our hearts and minds and finds the weakness and …
fixes it? - No
sends help? - No
makes us strong? - No
The Spirit prays—intercedes on our behalf.
God’s own solution to our weakness is not the taking of some action but to pray.
I’ve always thought that we pray and God acts. Or we pray and God puts in our heart the courage to act and the wisdom to know how.
But I’m thinking that the whole work is done in prayer. Words passed between mortal and immortal, between man and God. Short of that words passed between Spirit and Father.
And the result of this intercession?
All our circumstances work together for the believer's good.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28 ESV
This most famous of verses is the middle of a paragraph about how the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to deal with our weaknesses.
My circumstance shines the spotlight on my weakness, and the Spirit carries me before the Father and stands as my advocate, pleading for me—for you.
Do the circumstances dissolve? Not necessarily. Do the problems fall away? Maybe yes—Maybe no. Is a great outcome promised? You bet -
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. - Romans 8:29 ESV
Through the intercession of the Spirit, I am conformed to the image of Christ.
So what do I do with that little ought?
My prayer must become—Lord, teach me to pray. Help me partner with the Spirit and participate in my own transformation.
Teach me to pray as I ought!
Thanks for stopping by.
Have a great 4th of July!