The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness
26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27, ESV)
“Likewise,” means in the same way.
In the same way as what?
Our salvation is great and glorious. The God of the universe, creator of all things, because of His great love for us, has given His only begotten Son, in order to both pay for our transgressions and to give us eternal life. In addition, He has given us His Holy Spirit, so that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us. By the power of this Spirit and because of His grace, He has freed us from the law of sin and death. As a result, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Although we enjoy this great salvation, we are not yet perfect. In other words, we still sin, we still have diseases and this physical body will die. Romans 8:23 explains:
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. ()
Why do we groan inwardly? In order to understand that, we must look back to Romans 8:20, where it says the entire created order was subjected to futility, and we are part of creation. It is as part of creation that we experience pain, suffering, disease and death. Therefore, we wait; we eagerly wait for the completion of our salvation when all things will be made new. A new body, a new heaven and a new earth are all part of our great and glorious salvation. Since we do not yet enjoy these new things, we wait in eager anticipation, and we groan inwardly as part of a creation that has been subjected to futility.
In our groaning, the Spirit helps us. Throughout the eighth chapter of Romans, we see the Holy Spirit at work. In Romans 8:2, the law of the Spirit sets us free. In Romans 8:11, the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells within us. In Romans 8:15, He is called the Spirit of adoption by which we call out “Abba! Father!” We have received the “firstfruits” of the Spirit, and the Spirit gives a foretaste of what is to come.
When Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” it is pointing out that in the same way the Spirit helps us in all things, He helps us in our weakness. Now, we need to look at what is meant by the word help and the word weakness.
First, it is encouraging to look at the word used for help in Romans 8:26. The actual word is “συναντιλαμβάνεται” (sunantilambanetai) here is the definition:
properly, to give assistance with full initiative because closely-identified – supplying help that exactly corresponds to the need.
[Note the prefixes: /sýn ("closely identified with") and /antí ("corresponding") which each nuance the root (/lambánō, "aggressively lay hold of").
This word occurs only twice in the New Testament, and looking at its other occurrence will help us to understand its meaning. In Luke 10, it is used in the story of Mary and Martha. When Jesus visited their home, Martha busied herself with preparations for a big meal. Martha was greatly troubled with much to do. While Martha was frantically working, Mary was placidly sitting at Jesus’ feet listening. Martha went to Jesus and said, “Master, tell my sister to come beside me, take hold of some of the work and help carry the load!”
That is what this word means, and that is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He comes beside us and takes hold of the load with us and gives help. However, this is not all the Holy Spirit does for us. As I have already pointed out, the Holy Spirit does many things for us and in us. In John 3, we learn that it is by the Holy Spirit that we are reborn. In John 16, we learn that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and the coming judgment. In the Epistles, we learn that the Holy Spirit gives us gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ.
When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in John 16, He said:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. ()
The word that Jesus uses in this instance is a completely different word from the word we looked at from Romans 8:26. The word translated “Helper” or “Comforter” in John 16:7 is “Παράκλητος” (parakletos) and means helper in the sense of counselor or lawyer. Therefore, along with helping carry the load, He is our comforter, our counselor and our teacher.
In addition, Romans 8:26 says, “...helps us in our weakness.” What is meant by this word “weakness?” The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Romans 8 begins by explaining that the law could not save us because of the weakness of our flesh. It continues by telling us that living according to the flesh leads to death. The flesh is weak. Verse 18 speaks of our suffering. Suffering points out our weakness. We are powerless in the face of age that slowly erodes our strength and diseases that afflict us. We are powerless in the face of sin and unable to save ourselves. In all these things, the Holy Spirit helps us. Romans 8:26 defines our weakness as “For we do not know how to pray as we ought.”
This is our weakness in a nutshell. We do not know how to pray as we ought. There is a proper way to pray. But, it is not in form. It is not in memorized prayers. It is not in posture. The way to pray is reflected in the end of verse 27 that says, “... the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The Spirit prays as we ought to pray and that is according to the will of God.
Jesus told us to pray like this:
Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. ()
Jesus tells us to pray for God’s will to be done. Here is where we need to have confidence in God, because we need to know that God is good. We can trust Him. Romans 8:28 takes us here when it says:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ()
This verse assures us that God is at work for our good.
Prayer is the means by which we express our requests and desires to God. When I was a child there was a day, I mean literally a day, that I prayed earnestly for a pet monkey. Now, as an adult, I am glad for the monkey’s sake and for mine that I did not get the monkey. I did not know what was good for me nor did I understand the implications of my request. This is an obvious example of a childish and foolish request. Many requests that we make are neither childish nor foolish. We pray for many serious things. We pray for life and death matters. We pray for healing of a loved one. We pray for financial situations and family problems. Our weakness is that we do not know what we need in each of these situations. We know what we want. We have many fears and anxieties, and we may think we know what is best. However, we are weak. God says:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ()
God always works for our good. However, what I think I need may not be good from God’s perspective. He knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning. Therefore, only He knows what is truly for our good. Our weakness is that not only do we not know all things, but our flesh also deceives us and we ask for selfish or self-centered things, or we ask with wrong motives. This is where the Holy Spirit helps us. This is why the text says, “... the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26, ESV) His groaning implies that He feels the pain and the urgency of our situation. He is not insensitive to the pressures and strains we feel.
What is more, the text says the Holy Spirit’s groanings are too deep for words. Have you ever felt like no one understands, cares or knows what you are going through? We are often trapped into feeling alone, but this is a trick of the devil. A believer in Christ is never alone. We all have deep emotions that go beyond our ability to express or put into words. The Spirit intercedes for us based on our deepest needs.
Romans 8:27 says:
And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ()
This phrase “he who searches hearts” refers to God. Psalm 139 speaks of God searching our hearts when it says:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. ()
God the Holy Spirit knows our thoughts and what we are going to say before we say it. He knows our deepest thoughts, desires and concerns. He knows what we truly need. It is this intimate knowledge of our inner working that is the basis for His deep intercession for us.
God is working for our good. This is why James 1:2-4 says:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ()
God is working so that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that Romans 8:28 is saying that all things are good. In this fallen, sinful world, many bad and evil things happen and exist. And, do not make the mistake of thinking that Romans 8:28 promises good to everyone. The text explicitly says that God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The key is to understand that when we accept Jesus as our Savior we are given the right to be children of God. We are His children. As His children, we are confident that God works at all times and in all circumstances for our good, not just what seems good to us but for our true good. A passage similar to James 1:2-4 is Hebrews 12:5-8.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. ()
In everything that happens, God treats us as His children. He desires that we grow up in Him and become mature and complete. Part of the meaning of working all things for our good is His discipline and training of us.
All who accept Jesus Christ as Savior are partakers in a great and glorious salvation. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and helps us in our weakness, interceding for us because we do not know how we should pray. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, let this be your confidence and hope. Do not be shaken by trials, troubles and uncertainty. It is this confidence that will allow you to face various trials with joy, not a “yippee this is fun” joy but a confident settled hope in the Lord.
Commit this verse to memory in whichever version you choose:
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: ()