- Lesson 7 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Living in the Spirit” focuses on Romans 8:26-27.
Paul shoots straight with his readers, saying, “We do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). This is true of everyone. There are no tier-one Christians who don’t have this problem. We know this to be true because of one crucial word Paul used in this verse: we. Yes, Paul included himself as one who did not “know what to pray for.” He needed the help of the Holy Spirit in prayer.
Paul described this as a “weakness.” To be sure, this weakness should not be understood as sin or a kind of suffering. Instead, the reason “we do not know what to pray for” relates more to our human limitations. In the Old Testament, after suffering through a series of tragedies, Job was left confused as to why all these tragedies had occurred. He was convinced his own sinfulness had not been the cause and began to question the justice of God. God responds by asking Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Through a series of similar questions, God demonstrated Job’s limited vantage point and finite knowledge base.
We are as Job was, having a limited vantage point and no foreknowledge of future events. We are ignorant of all the complex angles related to each event in our lives and do not know how things will play out. We lack the necessary information to enjoy the proper perspective. Therefore, not only do we struggle to make sense of daily events, we don’t know for certain how to proceed in prayer or even how to articulate what we need. Even when we do articulate what we believe our needs are, we often are wrong. For example, Paul claimed to have a thorn in his flesh. Though we are not certain what he was referring to, we know he “pleaded with the Lord” to remove this thorn and God would not. God responded to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Left to ourselves, there are several afflictions we would instantly remove. We may plead with God to change our circumstances and relieve us. But God often uses trials and tribulations to make us stronger. Paul learned the thorn in his flesh kept him from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). As we will see, the Spirit of God intercedes for us, praying for us “as we ought” to pray (Romans 8:26).
Owning our weakness is necessary for becoming competent in prayer. Those who excel in the spiritual discipline of prayer don’t know what to pray for any more than anyone else. However, they know that effective prayers are not based on human knowledge or strength, but rather on divine wisdom and power. In prayer, we acknowledge the sovereignty of God and our lack of control.
The Spirit “helps us in our weakness” by interceding for us (8:26). This means the Spirit comes to our aid and assists us in our prayers. Of course, the implication here is we already are laboring in prayer. We have a part in working with the Spirit by being faithful to pray, even as we own up to our limitations.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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