“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should…”…Romans 8:26
In my view there is no other area of the Christian life more humbling than that of prayer! I can not think of any other spiritual exercise that more clearly demonstrates our absolute dependence on the enabling of the Lord than prayer. This great verse in one of the great victory chapters of the Bible serves not only to divulge the name of one of our partners in prayer, but first and foremost, to define why we need His partnership! Is prayer an area of victory and fruitfulness in your life? If not, perhaps these truths can help point you to the One Who alone can make that real.
First of all take note of the use of “our” and “we” in these verses. “OUR weakness…WE do not know…as WE should…” The picture is made crystal clear. When it comes to prayer, we are inherently weak. “…the Spirit also helps our weakness”. Why is that so? Why is it so obvious in this area of our life? Sometimes it is the lack of results that leads to feelings of inadequacy and spiritual inferiority. Sometimes it is wandering thoughts. Often times that leads to orally confessing our frustrations about prayer. Immediately the devil jumps on the opportunity to accuse and abuse us, because he is after all, “the accuser of the brethren.” (Revelation 12:10) Remember, he cannot read your mind. The Bible nowhere says he is omniscient, but he can hear your words, and he is a master strategist, feeding on your statements of fear and lack of faith. All of this generally results in our failure to pray. Even though we know we should. Even though our heart longs to have fellowship with God, some allow their frustrations to lead them to either quit praying altogether, or to pray in a forced, meaningless manner. Paul’s testimony in the previous chapter was, “For the good that I want, I do not do…” (Romans 7:19a) So we hopefully have come to learn that we are weak in our doing when it comes to prayer.
We are also weak in our knowing, “…for we do not know how to pray as we should…” One of the key lessons to be learned is that for prayer to be effective, prayer must be selective, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (I John 5:14,15) This is of course in perfect harmony with Jesus first recorded teaching on the subject of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, where He instructed us to pray to the Father in heaven, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. (Matthews 6:10b) Obviously, to fulfill this condition, we need help. We need the assistance, the enabling of the Godhead to know what the will of God is!
This is no small insignificant lesson! In a sense we spend an entire lifetime learning the fullness of both the lesson of our inadequacy, and of the Lord’s sufficiency, and His desire to provide for us!