Romans 8:26-27 The Spirit Makes Intercession


Today we will see again that just as creation groans, so do Christians within themselves. And just as hope sustains us in our suffering, so does the Spirit sustain us in our weakness.

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The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses

What does likewise/in the same way refer to? “. . . as hope sustains Christians in their waiting, so also does the Spirit” (Moo, 139). Hope sustains us in our sufferings, and the Holy Spirit sustains us in our weakness. What the Spirit does is bear a burden along with us.

Weakness is not limited to prayer, but most likely refers to the whole of the fallen human condition. Yet, our inability to pray as we ought maybe best demonstrates our weakness. The Apostle introduces the issue of our weakness and then “zeroes-in-on” our weakness in prayer. Why does he do that? “Prayer covers every aspect of our need. . .” (Murray, 311). In all of our prayers we are weak. The issue is not that we do not know how to pray, but that we do not know what to pray. Maybe we do not know if we should pray for deliverance from suffering or strength to endure it. I think that unless we have a clear understanding of Scripture to apply to a certain situation, we should always pray, ‘If it is Your will’ because we do not always know God’s will for every situation. This particular weakness of our prayer lives cannot be overcome in this life. That is why we are pointed to the Spirit. With His help this lack of ability in prayer is overcome.

The Spirit Himself makes intercession

The help of bearing a burden is found in the intercessory ministry of the Holy Spirit. Because the language of the passage is that the Spirit “helps” (or comes to aid, or bears along with us) we cannot say that the Spirit intercedes for us apart from our involvement. It appears that what is meant is that when we pray, the Spirit aids our prayers. Yet, “. . . All attention is focused on the Spirit. . .” (Moo, 525). He is the One who transforms our prayers.

The Spirit intercedes for us, “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” These are “wordless” groans. Some have claimed that this refers to some type of heavenly prayer language that is inspired by the Holy Spirit and is related to the gift of speaking in tongues. I find that to be a stretch. I’ll give you a few reasons why I believe that is an incorrect interpretation.

1) The Scripture is clear that the gift of tongues was only for some believers, but the Spirit’s intercessory ministry is for all. Those who claim a special prayer language do not claim it for all believers, but only themselves. This leads to a second point.

2) Spiritual gifts are for the edification of the church, not individuals. This intercession is not a “spiritual gift.” No one can biblically claim that they have a special prayer language to use for their own benefit in tough situations.

3) I take the phrase “which cannot be uttered” to mean “unspoken” and yet tongues were definitely spoken. In conclusion, I do not believe that verse 26 refers to some type of personal, heavenly prayer language that some have called glossolalia. The groanings are those of believers, but the word is used metaphorically. Just as the whole creation does not literally groan, neither do believers. These are “wordless” groans that I take to me something like “longings” from within our hearts. These groans are not audible, but are inaudible, unspoken, unexpressed longings of Christians who desire the full restoration of all things. The Holy Spirit identifies with our sufferings and longings by coming to our aid. This is the tension of the present age. We are saved, but not fully saved. We must endure until the end. We suffer, long, wait, and pray full of hope and with the help of the Spirit.

He who searches the hearts

If verse 26 teaches that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we do not know what to pray for, then verse 27 teaches that His intercession is effective.

Searching the hearts of people is solely a divine activity. From Old Testament to New Testament we are told time and again that God sees into our hearts. He knows the counsel of our hearts. Yet, it is a good thing that the Father can see into our hearts because that is the place where the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. At the time that this intercession is taking place within us, it is undetectable to us. We do not know when this is taking place, and we do not know what the Spirit is communicating to the Father. The Father knows exactly what the Spirit is expressing because He knows the mind of the Spirit. What a great passage on the Godhead. The three persons of the triune God know each other perfectly. They are always in perfect accord. The Father knows precisely what the Spirit intends. The Father knows and responds to His intentions and not ours so that what is good and right may be done for us. As Martin Luther put it, “The counsel and will of God far excel our counsel and will.”

The Spirit prays for us and He knows the will of God perfectly. He knows what we do not know at all times- the perfect will of God. He is the One who makes intercession for the saints (those who have come to God by faith in Christ).

Conclusions and Applications

We have an intercessor in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to save all those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them from the right hand of God. And yet, we have another. The Spirit also intercedes for us from within our hearts. God sees into our depths where, in fact, the Spirit is interceding for us.

Keep this in mind- apparently the Spirit does not constantly intercede for us. Sometimes we are told ‘no’ in response to our own prayers. The Apostle Paul was told no in response to his request that the thorn in his flesh be taken away.

The measure of God’s grace is not our weakness, but the love of the Holy Spirit. God’s mercy toward us is not based on how well we pray, but how much the Spirit cares for us.

I’ll leave you with three specific applications:

1) Make prayer a habit

2) Pray in a variety of ways: adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving

3) Trust the Spirit to perfect your imperfect prayers

Hope will sustain you in suffering. The Spirit will sustain you in weakness.