“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is,
because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
I am not an authority on prayer. In fact, for the most part I pretty well stink as a prayer warrior. One of my biggest problems with prayer—besides the obvious one of disciplining myself to do it regularly—is knowing what to pray for. I might think I know what I want in any given moment, but I am also fully aware that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). I might think I know what would bring God the greatest glory in any given situation, but I also know that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I also know that “a man’s heart plans his way,” while “the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). So ultimately, then, we are left to pray only for what we THINK God’s will is, or what we believe it might be.
Thank God we have the Spirit to intercede—or translate—for us, through groans we can’t understand. While that’s a comfort to me, I know that it is a source of frustration for others. Some will ask, if the Spirit is interceding anyway, and if we don’t even know how we ought to pray, then why do it at all? Well, it seems to me that there are a number of reasons for us to pray in concert with God and other believers.
- God invites us to participate in His processes. Not many perspectives on God recognize how relational He is, how He longs to be in constant communion with us. It’s a privilege that He extends this invitation to talk with Him whenever, however, and about whatever we desire. We shouldn’t take it for granted.
- The more time we spend in prayer, the more God can align OUR wills with His. I love Psalm 37:4—“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” What I love most about this verse is the meaning that sometimes eludes us. Namely, this scripture promises that, as we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will mold our desires to more closely match His desires for us. What a comfort.
- We become better in tune with the needs of others around us, and grow in compassion. At times, I’ve set out on a renewed commitment to prayer. And do you know what I have found? The more I pray, the more there is to pray about. I begin watching, listening, caring, and feeling empathy and grace for others. In short, I grow in compassion. It’s kind of like a muscle: if I exercise it more, it gets stronger. And by the same token, if I get out of the habit of regularly exercising compassion through prayer (among other things), it gets weaker. I begin to forget, overlook, focus inward, and dismiss—none of which are good traits to display as a follower of Christ.
- We learn faith and trust—in waiting, in receiving “nos” from God, in hearing “later” from Him. I am not I don’t know what’s best for me, or you, or anyone else. But God does. He is the all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful Heavenly Father. And He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). So whatever His answer is to our prayers, we can be assured that it is the right answer. And we can have peace in that.
So pray boldly, and then believe boldly in a Holy Spirit who is forever advocating for you and compensating for your weaknesses in the courts of God. And praise the Lord when He answers—no matter what that answer is!