The Holy Spirit's Intercessory Prayer
In this article we will put Romans 8:26 under a full investigation. The text explains that "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." This difficult scripture contains an important piece of information about the Holy Spirit, which, if understood properly, provides Christians with encouragement and confidence that all their needs are most certainly heard by the Father. However, if this scripture is not understood within the context of the rest of the bible, then new doctrines contrary to the Law of Christ will be born, so let's be very cautious when examining deep texts like this. So let's break this scripture down into bite size chunks that will be easier for our minds to digest and gain a better understanding of these wonderful words of God.
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses": The word "helps" in the original Greek means to "lend a hand together with." The same word is used in Luke 10:40: "But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." Applying the word "help" to the Spirit teaches us that He lends us a hand in our weaknesses. The specific weakness that Paul uses as an example is prayer. Two questions come to my mind: how does He help with prayer? And in what way is a Christian weak in prayer? The rest of verse 26 will answer both questions for us. "For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought": The word "know," according to the Greek language, is not talking about knowledge that is gained through personal experiences, but rather the type of knowledge that is natural to us (i.e. knowledge that we are born with). God, by His nature, knows exactly what we need; we do not. We don't know what will happen tomorrow or what we need to prepare for tomorrow's events; it is not our nature to be omniscient. It is God's nature to always know exactly what we need.
The next statement: "as we ought" is interesting. The word "ought," in Greek, literally means must or necessity. So Paul is specifically talking about things that we must be praying for by necessity. Now, altogether the first part of the verse states that the Holy Spirit lends a hand to us in our weaknesses, such as our prayers, because it is not our nature to know specifically what we need right now and what we will need later, but the Spirit knows, and as we will see in the rest of this verse, it is He who will make requests for us to the Father in regard to all things that we need but don't know about. The text actually says that "the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us." Intercession is an interesting word; it refers to one who happens to come upon someone who is in trouble and pleads on their behalf. Let's pay close attention to the word "Himself." It is not through our prayers that He makes intercession, it is separate and apart from our prayers, the Spirit himself pleads to the Father.
Therefore the way the Spirit "helps in our weaknesses" is not by guiding us in thought while we pray, but rather he pleads to the Father on our behalf. His work is completely separate from our prayers. Isn't it a wonderful thought to know that the Holy Spirit continually pleads to the Father on behalf of the saints? What unconquerable love the Spirit has for us! Oh, and I don't want to forget to mention that His pleas of requests on our behalf are done "with groanings which cannot be uttered." That is to say that He pleads to the Father for us in ways, words, and an intensity that is impossible for us to comprehend.
The main thing to recognize here is that the Spirit does not alter, nor modify our own prayers in any way. They are offered to the Father exactly as we said them. However, alongside of our prayers, He makes His own fervent requests for all things we need specifically that we do not even know we need.
As much of an encouraging text this is, it does not vanquish our need to pray without ceasing. The text said that the Spirit helps in our weaknesses, such as not knowing about certain things to pray for, but there are so many other things that we know to pray for or about, and these things we have the responsibility to pray for. Let us always remember that God did not advise us to pray without ceasing, he commanded it. If making prayer requests to God is ineffective, then why would the Spirit constantly do it with groanings unutterable to man?