Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
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(26, 27) A second reason for the patience of the Christian under suffering. The Spirit helps his weakness and joins in his prayers.

(26) Likewise.—While on the one hand the prospect of salvation sustains him, so on the other hand the Divine Spirit interposes to aid him. The one source of encouragement is human (his own human consciousness of the certainty of salvation), the other is divine.

Infirmities.—The correct reading is the singular, “infirmity.” Without this assistance we might be too weak to endure, but the Spirit helps and strengthens our weakness by inspiring our prayers.

With groanings which cannot be uttered.—When the Christian’s prayers are too deep and too intense for words, when they are rather a sigh heaved from the heart than any formal utterance, then we may know that they are prompted by the Spirit Himself. It is He who is praying to God for us.



Romans 8:26

Pentecost was a transitory sign of a perpetual gift. The tongues of fire and the rushing mighty wind, which were at first the most conspicuous results of the gifts of the Spirit, tongues, and prophecies, and gifts of healing, which were to the early Church itself and to onlookers palpable demonstrations of an indwelling power, were little more lasting than the fire and the wind. Does anything remain? This whole great chapter is Paul’s triumphant answer to such a question. The Spirit of God dwells in every believer as the source of his true life, is for him ‘the Spirit of adoption’ and witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. Not only does that Spirit co-operate with the human spirit in this witness-bearing, but the verse, of which our text is a part, points to another form of co-operation: for the word rendered in the earlier part of the verse ‘helpeth’ in the original suggests more distinctly that the Spirit of God in His intercession for us works in association with us.

First, then-

I. The Spirit’s intercession is not carried on apart from us.

Much modern hymnology goes wrong in this point, that it represents the Spirit’s intercession as presented in heaven rather than as taking place within the personal being of the believer. There is a broad distinction carefully observed throughout Scripture between the representations of the work of Christ and that of the Spirit of Christ. The former in its character and revelation and attainment was wrought upon earth, and in its character of intercession and bestowment of blessings is discharged at the right hand of God in heaven; the whole of the Spirit’s work, on the other hand, is wrought in human spirits here. The context speaks of intercession expressed in ‘groanings which cannot be uttered,’ and which, unexpressed though they are, are fully understood ‘by Him who searches the heart.’ Plainly, therefore, these groanings come from human hearts, and as plainly are the Divine Spirit’s voicing them.

II. The Spirit’s intercession in our spirits consists in our own divinely-inspired longings.

The Apostle has just been speaking of another groaning within ourselves, which is the expression of ‘the earnest expectation’ of ‘the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body’; and he says that that longing will be the more patient the more it is full of hope. This, then, is Paul’s conception of the normal attitude of a Christian soul; but that attitude is hard to keep up in one’s own strength, because of the distractions of time and sense which are ever tending to disturb the continuity and fixity of that onward look, and to lead us rather to be satisfied with the gross, dull present. That redemption of the body, with all which it implies and includes, ought to be the supreme object to which each Christian heart should ever be turning, and Christian prayers should be directed. But our own daily experience makes us only too sure that such elevation above, and remoteness from earthly thoughts, with all their pettinesses and limitations, is impossible for us in our own strength. As Paul puts it here, ‘We know not what to pray for’; nor can we fix and focus our desires, nor present them ‘as we ought.’ It is to this weakness and incompleteness of our desires and prayers that the help of the Spirit is directed. He strengthens our longings by His own direct operation. The more vivid our anticipations and the more steadfast our hopes, and the more our spirits reach out to that future redemption, the more are we bound to discern something more than human imaginings in them, and to be sure that such visions are too good not to be true, too solid to be only the play of our own fancy. The more we are conscious of these experiences as our own, the more certain we shall be that in them it is not we that speak, but ‘the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in us.’

III. These divinely-inspired longings are incapable of full expression.

They are shallow feelings that can be spoken. Language breaks down in the attempt to express our deepest emotions and our truest love. For all the deepest things in man, inarticulate utterance is the most self-revealing. Grief can say more in a sob and a tear than in many weak words; love finds its tongue in the light of an eye and the clasp of a hand. The groanings which rise from the depths of the Christian soul cannot be forced into the narrow frame-work of human language; and just because they are unutterable are to be recognised as the voice of the Holy Spirit.

But where amidst the Christian experience of to-day shall we find anything in the least like these unutterable longings after the redemption of the body which Paul here takes it for granted are the experience of all Christians? There is no more startling condemnation of the average Christianity of our times than the calm certainty with which through all this epistle the Apostle takes it for granted that the experience of the Roman Christians will universally endorse his statements. Look for a moment at what these statements are. Listen to the briefest summary of them: ‘We cry, Abba, Father’; ‘We are children of God’; ‘We suffer with Him that we may be glorified with Him’; ‘Glory shall be revealed to usward’; ‘We have the first-fruits of the Spirit’; ‘We ourselves groan within ourselves’; ‘By hope were we saved’; ‘We hope for that which we see not’; ‘Then do we with patience wait for it’; ‘We know that to them that love God all things work together for good’; ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors’; ‘Neither death nor life. . . nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’ He believed that in these rapturous and triumphant words he was gathering together the experience of every Roman Christian, and would evoke from their lips a confident ‘Amen.’ Where are the communities to-day in whose hearing these words could be reiterated with the like assurance? How few among us there are who know anything of these ‘groanings which cannot be uttered!’ How few among us there are whose spirits are stretching out eager desires towards the land of perpetual summer, like migratory birds in northern latitudes when the autumn days are shortening and the temperature is falling!

But, however we must feel that our poor experience falls far short of the ideal in our text, an ideal which was to some extent realised in the early Christian Church, we must beware of taking the imperfections of our experience as any evidence of the unreality of our Christianity. They are a proof that we have limited and impeded the operation of the Spirit within us. They teach us that He will not intercede ‘with groanings which cannot be uttered’ unless we let Him speak through our voices. Therefore, if we find that in our own consciousness there is little to correspond to those unuttered groanings, we should take the warning: ‘Quench not the Spirit.’ ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.’

IV. The unuttered longings are sure to be answered.

He that searcheth the heart knows the meaning of the Spirit’s unspoken prayers; and looking into the depths of the human spirit interprets its longings, discriminating between the mere human and partial expression and the divinely-inspired desire which may be unexpressed. If our prayers are weak, they are answered in the measure in which they embody in them, though perhaps mistaken by us, a divine longing. Apparent disappointment of our petitions may be real answers to our real prayer. It was because Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus that He abode still in the same place where He was, to let Lazarus die that He might be raised again. That was the true answer to the sisters’ hope of His immediate coming. God’s way of giving to us is to breathe within us a desire, and then to answer the desire inbreathed. So, longing is the prophecy of fulfilment when it is longing according to the will of God. They who ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’ may ever be sure that their bread shall be given them, and their water will be made sure. The true object of our desires is often not clear to us, and so we err in translating it into words. Let us be thankful that we pray to a God who can discern the prayer within the prayer, and often gives the substance of our petitions in the very act of refusing their form.Romans 8:26-27. Likewise the Spirit, &c. — Besides the hope of future felicity and glory, which our holy profession administers to us for our support and comfort amid all the difficulties of our Christian course, we have moreover this important privilege, that the Holy Spirit of God helpeth our infirmities — The word αντιλαμβανεται, here rendered helpeth, literally expresses the action of one who assists another to bear a burden, by taking hold of it on the opposite side, and bearing it with him, as persons do who assist one another in carrying heavy loads. Dr. Doddridge here interprets the clause, the Holy Spirit lendeth us his helping hand under all our burdens or infirmities. The word ασθενειαις, translated infirmities, signifies weaknesses and diseases, primarily of the body, but it is often transferred to the mind. Our understandings are weak, particularly in the things of God; our faith is weak, our desires and prayers are weak; of which last particular Ambrose interprets this expression here; an interpretation which seems to be confirmed by what follows in the text. For we know not what we should pray for — Of this Paul himself was an example, when he prayed thrice, it seems improperly, to be delivered from the thorn in the flesh, 2 Corinthians 12:8-9. Much less are we able to pray for any thing which we see needful for us, as we ought — That is, with such sincerity, humility, desire, faith, fervency, importunity, perseverance, as ought to attend all our prayers, at least for spiritual and eternal blessings. But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us — In our hearts, even as Christ does in heaven, guiding our minds to suitable petitions, and exciting in them correspondent affections, and even inspiring us with that intense ardent of holy desire, which no words can express, but which vent themselves in unutterable groanings, the matter of which is from ourselves; but as they are excited in us by the Holy Spirit, they are therefore here ascribed to its influence. The expression, στεναγμοις αλαλητοις, however, is literally, not unutterable, but unuttered groanings. The apostle having observed, Romans 8:22, that every creature groaneth to be delivered from vanity and corruption; also having told us, Romans 8:23, that they who have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within themselves, waiting for the redemption of the body; he now assures us, that these secret groanings and vehement desires, especially under the pressure of affliction, proceed from the influence of the Divine Spirit, and therefore are not fruitless. And he that searcheth the hearts — Wherein the Spirit dwells and intercedes; knoweth — Though man cannot utter it; what is the mind — Τι το φρονημα, what is the desire, or intention, of the Spirit — Namely, of his Spirit, in thus influencing our minds, all the secret emotions and workings of which he reads and perfectly understands; for he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God — In a manner worthy of him, and acceptable to him.8:26,27 Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.Likewise the Spirit - This introduces a new source of consolation and support, what is derived from the Spirit. It is a continuation of the argument of the apostle, to show the sustaining power of the Christian religion. The "Spirit" here undoubtedly refers to the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and who strengthens us.

Helpeth - This word properly means, to sustain with us; to aid us in supporting. It is applied usually to those who unite in supporting or carrying a burden. The meaning may be thus expressed: "he greatly assists or aids us."

Our infirmities - Assists us in our infirmities, or aids us to bear them. The word "infirmities" refers to the weaknesses to which we are subject, and to our various trials in this life. The Spirit helps us in this,

(1) By giving us strength to bear them;

(2) By exciting us to make efforts to sustain them;

(3) By ministering to us consolations, and truths, and views of our Christian privileges, that enable us to endure our trials.

For we know not ... - This is a specification of the aid which the Holy Spirit, renders us. The reasons why Christians do not know what to pray for may be,

(1) That they do not know what would be really best for them.

(2) they do not know what God might be willing to grant them.

(3) they are to a great extent ignorant of the character of God, the reason of his dealings, the principles of his government, and their own real needs.

(4) they are often in real, deep perplexity. They are encompassed with trials, exposed to temptations, feeble by disease, and subject to calamities. In these circumstances, if left alone, they would neither be able to bear their trials, nor know what to ask at the hand of God.

But the Spirit itself - The Holy Spirit; Romans 8:9-11.

Maketh intercession - The word used here ὑπερεντυνγχάνει huperentungchanei, occurs no where else in the New Testament. The word ἐντυνγχάνω entungchanō, however, is used several times. It means properly to be present with anyone for the purpose of aiding, as an advocate does in a court of justice; hence, to intercede for anyone, or to aid or assist in any manner. In this place it simply means that the Holy Spirit greatly assists or aids us; not by praying for us, but in our prayers and infirmities.

With groanings - With sighs, or that deep feeling and intense anxiety which exists in the oppressed and burdened heart of the Christian.


26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also, &c.—or, "But after the like manner doth the Spirit also help.

our infirmities—rather (according to the true reading), "our infirmity"; not merely the one infirmity here specified, but the general weakness of the spiritual life in its present state, of which one example is here given.

for we know not what we should pray for as we ought—It is not the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head: but to ask for the right things "as they ought" is the difficulty. This arises partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (see on [2230]1Co 13:9 and [2231]2Co 5:7), and the large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and affections of our renewed nature; partly also from the necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual exercises, and that in our nearest approaches and in the freest outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercises is altogether befitting and well pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience.

but the Spirit itself—rather, "Himself." (See end of Ro 8:27).

maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered—that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. Sublime and affecting ideas, for which we are indebted to this passage alone! "As we struggle to express in articulate language the desires of our hearts and find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we 'groan' under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For 'the Spirit Himself' is in them, giving to the emotions which He Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf."

Likewise: this referreth us, either to the work of the Spirit, before noted, Romans 8:11; he quickeneth, and he likewise helpeth: or rather, to hope, in the foregoing verse; hope helpeth to patience, so also the Spirit.

Helpeth our infirmities; the word imports such help, as when another of greater strength steps in, and sustains the burden that lies too heavy upon our shoulders; or it is borrowed from nurses, that help their little children that are unable to go, upholding them by their hands or sleeves.

For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: one way whereby the Spirit helps us, is by teaching us to pray. Prayer doth greatly relieve us under the cross, and is a great refuge in trouble: but we knowing not how to pray

as we ought, either in regard, of matter or manner, herein therefore the Spirit aids or helps us, as it follows. But how is it said we know not what to pray for, when we have the Lord’s prayer, which contains a perfect rule and summary of all things meet to be prayed for? Though the Lord’s prayer he a rule in general, yet we may be to seek in particulars: God’s own children many times ask they know not what; see Job 6:8 Jonah 4:3 Mark 10:38 2 Corinthians 12:8.

But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us: there is a twofold intercession, one of Christ, of which we read, Romans 8:34; the other of the Spirit, of which this place speaks. How doth the Spirit make intercession for us?

Answer. By making intercession in us, or by helping us to pray. The Spirit is called, Zechariah 12:10, the Spirit of supplications. It is by him, Romans 8:15, that we cry, Abba, Father: he cries so in our hearts; Galatians 4:6, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. The Spirit of our Father speaketh in us, Matthew 10:20: he suggests to us what we should pray for; he helps us to suitable dispositions, and many times to suitable expressions in prayer: see Ephesians 6:18 Judges 1:20.

With groanings which cannot be uttered; with inward sighs and groans, which cannot be expressed by words. There may be prayer, where there is no speech or vocal expression. A man may cry, and that mightily to God, when he uttereth never a word: see Exodus 14:15 1 Samuel 1:13. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities,.... The Spirit of God which dwells in us, by whom we are led, who is the spirit of adoption to us, who has witnessed to our spirits, that we are the children of God, whose firstfruits we have received, over and above, and besides what he has done for us, "also helpeth our infirmities"; whilst we are groaning within ourselves, both for ourselves and for others, and are waiting patiently for what we are hoping for. The people of God, all of them, more or less, have their infirmities in this life. They are not indeed weak and infirm, in such sense as unregenerate persons are, who have no spiritual strength, are ignorant of their weakness, do not go to Christ for strength, nor derive any from him, and hence can perform nothing that is spiritually good: nor are they all alike infirm; some are weaker in faith, knowledge, and experience, than others; some are of more weak and scrupulous consciences than others be: some are more easily drawn aside through corruption and temptation than others are; some have weaker gifts, particularly in prayer, than others have, yet all have their infirmities; not only bodily afflictions, persecutions of men, and temptations of Satan, but internal corruptions, and weakness to oppose them, and to discharge their duty to God and man; and also have their infirmities in the exercise of grace, and in the performance of the work of prayer; though they are not left to sink under them, but are helped by "the Spirit": by whom is meant, not any tutelar angel, or the human soul, or the gift of the Spirit in prayer, but the Holy Spirit of God himself; who, as the word here used signifies, "helps together", with hope and patience, graces which he has implanted, and which he invigorates and draws forth into act and exercise; or with the saints labouring under their burdens; or with the Father and the Son, who also are helpers of the saints: and this helping of them implies, that their infirmities and burdens are such as they must sink under, unless they are helped; and which is done by the Spirit, by bringing to remembrance, and applying the precious promises of the Gospel, by shedding abroad the love of God in their hearts, by acting the part of a comforter to them, by putting strength into them, and by assisting them in prayer to God:

for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. The children of God are not ignorant of the object of prayer, that it is God, and not a creature, God, as the God of nature, providence, and grace, God in the persons of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Spirit, and with a view to his glorious perfections: nor of the way of coming to God in prayer, through Christ; nor of the manner of performing it in faith, with fervency, sincerity, reverence, humility, and submission; nor who they should pray for, for themselves, for all men, even enemies, particularly for the saints, and ministers of the Gospel; nor of many other things respecting prayer, as that it is both their duty and privilege; their own inability, and the need of the assistance of the Spirit in it; but what they are ignorant of is chiefly the matter of prayer: indeed the whole Bible is an instruction in general to this work, so is the prayer Christ taught his disciples, and the several prayers of saints recorded in the Scriptures; the promises of God, and their own wants and necessities, may, and do, greatly direct them; as for instance, when under a sense of sin, to pray for a discovery of pardoning grace; when under darkness and desertions, for the light of God's countenance; when under a sense of weakness of grace, and the strength of corruptions, for fresh supplies of grace and strength, for communion with God in ordinances, for more grace here, and glory hereafter; but what of all things they seem to be, at least at some times, at a loss about, is what to pray for with respect to things temporal, such as riches, honour, friends, &c. to have present afflictions removed, or temptations cease; and too often it is, that they pray with greater importunity for lesser things, than for things of more importance; and more from an intemperate zeal, and with a view to self, than for the glory of God:

but the Spirit itself maketh intercession, for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered; not the spirit of a man; or the gift of the Spirit in man; or a man endued with an extraordinary gift of the Spirit; but the Holy Ghost himself, who makes intercession for the saints: not in such sense as Christ does; for he intercedes not with the Father, but with them, with their spirits; not in heaven, but in their hearts; and not for sinners, but for saints: nor in the manner as Christ does, not by vocal prayer, as he when on earth; nor by being the medium, or way of access to God; nor by presenting the prayers of saints, and the blood and sacrifice of Christ to God, as Christ does in heaven; nor as the saints make intercession for one another, and for other persons: but he intercedes for them, by making them to intercede; he indites their prayers for them, not in a book, but in their hearts; he shows them their need, what their wants are; he stirs them up to prayer, he supplies them with arguments, puts words into their mouths, enlarges their hearts, gives strength of faith in prayer, and all the ardour and fervency of it; he enables them to come to God as their Father; and gives them liberty and boldness in his presence, which requires an heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ, and a view of God, as a God of peace, grace, and mercy: and this intercession he makes, "with groanings which, cannot be uttered"; not that the Spirit of God groans, but he stirs up groans in the saints; which suppose a burden on them, and their sense of it: and these are said to be "unutterable"; saints, under his influence, praying silently, without a voice, as Moses and Hannah did, 1 Samuel 1:13, and yet most ardently and fervently; or as not being able to express fully what they conceive in their minds, how great their burdens are, and their sense of their wants.

{24} Likewise the Spirit also {g} helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh {h} intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

(24) Seventhly, there is no reason why we should faint under the burden of afflictions, seeing that prayers minister to us a most sure help: which cannot be frustrated, seeing that they proceed from the Spirit of God who dwells in us.

(g) Bears our burden, as it were, so that we do not faint under it.

(h) Incites us to pray, and tells us as it were within, what we will say, and how we will speak.

Romans 8:26. The second ground of encouragement (see on Romans 8:18-31), connected with the immediately foregoing by ὡσαύτως.

τὸ πνεῦμα] The objective Holy Spirit. See Romans 8:16; Romans 8:23, and what follows, where the activity of the πνεῦμα is described as something distinct from the subjective consciousness. Köllner incorrectly takes it (comp. Reiche) as: the Christian life-element; and van Hengel: “fiduciae sensus a. Sp. s. profectus.”

συναντιλ.] The συν must neither be neglected (as by many older expositors, also Olshausen), nor regarded as a mere strengthening adjunct (Rückert and Reiche). Beza gives the right explanation: “ad nos laborantes refertur.” He joins His activity with our weakness, helps it. See Luke 10:40; Exodus 18:22; Psalm 88:13.

τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ ἡμῶν] Not specially weakness in prayer (Ambrosiaster and Bengel), for in what follows there is specified only the particular mode of the help, which the Spirit renders to us in our infirmity. It is therefore to be left general: with our weakness,—so far, namely, as in that waiting for final redemption adequate power of our own for ὑπομονή fails us.

τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξ. κ.τ.λ.] Reason assigned, by specifying how the Spirit, etc.; in prayer, namely, He intercedes for us.

On τό, see Winer, p. 103 [E. T. 135]. It denotes what of praying comes into question in such a position. Comp. Krüger, Xen. Anab. iv. 4. 17.

τί προσευξ. καθὸ δεῖ] what we ought to pray for according as it is necessary, in proportion (comp. 2 Corinthians 8:12; 1 Peter 4:13) to the need. The latter is the subsequently determining element; it is not absolutely and altogether unknown to us what we ought to ask, but only what it is necessary to ask according to the given circumstances. Usually καθὸ δεῖ is taken in reference to the form of asking, like πῶς in Matthew 10:19; but thus the distinctive reference of the meaning of καθὸ, prout (comp. Plat. Soph. p. 267 D; Bar 1:6) is neglected. Chrysostom rightly illustrates the matter by the apostle’s own example, who ὑπὲρ τοῦ σκόλοπος τοῦ δεδομένου αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ σαρκί (2 Corinthians 12) had prayed for what was not granted him. According to Hofmann, καθὸ δεῖ connects itself with οὐκ οἴδαμεν, so that the thought would be: “we do not so understand as it would be necessary.” But how much too feeble in this connection would be the assertion of a merely insufficient knowledge!

ὑπερεντυγχάνει] i.e. ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, He applies Himself for our benefit (counterpart of Romans 11:2), namely, τῷ Θεῷ, which addition is read by Origen. The double compound is not elsewhere preserved, except in the Fathers, but it is formed after the analogy of ὑπεραποκρίνομαι, ὑπεραπολογέομαι, and many other words. The superlative rendering of it (Luther: “He intercedes for us the best”) is improbable, since ἐντυγχάνει does not already express the notion of that which is much (Romans 5:20) or triumphant (Romans 8:37; Php 2:9), or the like, which would admit of enhancement.

στεναγμ. ἀλαλήτοις] i.e. thereby that He makes unutterable sighs, sighs whose meaning words are powerless to convey. The idea therefore is, that the Holy Spirit sighs unutterably in our hearts (Romans 8:27), and thereby intercedes for us with God, to whom, as heart-searcher, the desire of the Spirit sighing in the heart is known. It was an erroneous view, whereby, following Augustine, Tr. VI. on John 2, most expositors, who took τὸ πν. rightly as the Holy Spirit, held the στεναγμ. ἀλαλ. to be unutterable sighs which the man, incited by the Spirit, heaves forth. The Spirit Himself (comp. also Hofmann) must sigh, if He is to intercede for us with sighs, and if God is to understand the φρόνημα of the Spirit (Romans 8:27); although the Spirit uses the human organ for His sighing (comp. the counterpart phenomenon of demons speaking or crying out of men), as He likewise does elsewhere for His speaking, Matthew 10:20. See also on Galatians 4:6. The tongue is analogously, in the case of speaking with tongues, the organ of the Spirit who speaks. The necessary explanation of the πνεῦμα as meaning the Holy Spirit, and the fact that the sighs must be His sighs, overturn the rationalizing interpretations of Reiche: “Christian feeling cherishes, indeed, the quiet longing in the heart, and therewith turns, full of confidence, to God, but nevertheless does not permit itself any inquisitive wishes towards Him;” and of Köllner: “The Spirit gained in Christ … works in man that deep and holy emotion in which man, turned towards God in his inmost feeling, cannot, in the fulness of the emotion, express his burden in words, and can only relieve his oppressed heart by silent groanings.” A mere arbitrary alteration of the simple verbal sense is to be found in the view to which Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, and others have recourse, that the Spirit is here the χάρισμα εὐχῆς, in virtue of which the human soul sighs. Comp. Theodoret, who thinks that Paul means not τὴν ὑπόστασιν τοῦ πνεύματος, but τὴν δεδομένην τοῖς πιστεύουσι χάριν· ὑπὸ γὰρ ταύτης διεγειρόμενοι κατανυττόμεθα, πυρσευόμενοι προθυμότερον προσευχόμεθα κ.τ.λ. The question whether, moreover, ἀλαλ. should, with Beza, Grotius, Wetstein, Koppe, Flatt, Glöckler, Fritzsche, Baumgarten-Crusius, Reithmayr, van Hengel, Köster, and others, be rendered unexpressed, i.e. dumb, not accompanied with words, or, with the Vulgate and the majority of commentators, inexpressible (for the expression of whose meaning words are insufficient), is decided by the fact that only the latter sense can be proved by linguistic usage, and it characterizes the depth and fervour of the sighing most directly and forcibly. Comp. also 2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 Peter 1:8.; Anth. Pal. v. 4 (Philodem. 17); Theogn. 422 (according to Stob. Serm. 36, p. 216).Romans 8:26. Third testimony to the glorious future: the sighing of creation, our own sighing, and this action of the Spirit, point consistently to one conclusion. συναντιλαμβάνεται, cf. Luke 10:40. The weakness which the Spirit helps is that due to our ignorance: τὸ γὰρ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ οὐκ οἴδαμαν. The article makes the whole clause object of οἴδαμεν: Winer, p. 644. Broadly speaking, we do know what we are to pray for—the perfecting of salvation; but we do not know what we are to pray for καθὸ δεῖ—according as the need is at the moment; we know the end, which is common to all prayers, but not what is necessary at each crisis of need in order to enable us to attain this end. ἀλλὰ αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα ὑπερεντυγχάνει στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις. ὑπερεντυγχάνει is found here only in N.T., but ἐντυγχάνειν in this sense in Romans 8:27; Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25. In Romans 11:2 with κατὰ = to make intercession against. ἀλαλήτοις does not mean “unspoken” but “unutterable”. The στεναγμοὶ of believers find expression, adequate or inadequate, in their prayers, and in such utterances as this very passage of Romans, but there is a testimony to the glory awaiting them more profound and passionate than even this. It is the intercession of the Spirit with στεναγμοὶ ἀλάλητοι—groanings (or sighs) that baffle words. αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα is undoubtedly God’s Spirit as distinguished from ours, yet what is here affirmed must fall within Christian experience, for Paul says in the next verse that He Who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit in this unutterable intercession. It is in the heart, therefore, that it takes place. “The whole passage illustrates in even a startling manner the truth and reality of the ‘coming’ of the Holy Ghost—the extent to which, if I may venture to say it, He has separated Himself—as Christ did at His Incarnation—from His eternal glory and blessedness, and entered into the life of man.… His intercession for us—so intimately does He share all the evils of our condition—is a kind of agony” (R. W. Dale, Christian Doctrine, p. 140 f.).26. Likewise also] Probably the reference of these words is to the thought just previous; the help given to the anxious and weary Christian by a clear view of the ground and object of his Hope. Q. d., “as this view of hope calms and cheers you, so too calm and strength come from a yet higher source—from the direct influences of the Holy Ghost.”—It is possible to refer “likewise” back to Romans 8:16, q. d., “as the Spirit witnesses to our son-ship, so too He cheers our weakness.” But the reference is too remote to suit the character of this passage, where one reason for confidence is heaped at once upon another.

helpeth] Not removeth. The causes for “groaning” (Romans 8:24) remain, mysteriously permitted still, until the final rest.

infirmities] Or infirmity, as a better reading has it. The word includes all that encumbers and obstructs the “patient expectation;” and, as a special example, weakness and indecision in prayer. It may well indicate (as ch. Romans 5:6) not mere imperfection of strength, but absence of strength; a condition of helplessness without Him.

for we know not, &c.] An illustrative case of the general truth.—The “know not” cannot mean total ignorance, but ignorance in details. St Chrysostom (quoted by Meyer) gives as an example St Paul’s own mistaken prayer, (2 Corinthians 12:8,) which was not granted by the wise love of his Lord. We may instance also St Augustine’s remark on the prayer of Monnica that he (Augustine) might not leave her for Italy. He went to Italy, but to be converted there; and thus the Lord “denied her special request to grant her life-long request.” (Confessions, Romans 8:8.)

maketh intercession, &c.] The practical meaning of these profound words seems to be that the Divine Spirit, by His immediate influence in the saint’s soul, which becomes as it were the organ of His own address to the Father, secures the rightness of the essence of the saint’s prayer. E.g. in Monnica’s case (see last note) He so worked that her desire to keep Augustine by her was not a mere craving of natural love, but the expression, though imperfect, of a spiritual and intense longing (infused by the Spirit of Adoption) that her child might become a child of God.—It is true that in strict language, and no doubt in mysterious reality, the Holy Spirit is said here Himself to intercede and groan; but we mean that to our understandings such intercessions take the form of desires of ours, inspired and secured by Him.

which cannot be uttered] i.e. in all the depth of His meaning; which must indeed pass, human words, even when He inspires them. In any special case of prayer the saint may or may not use words; but, anywise, the root-desires that underlie the prayer, being the Holy Spirit’s promptings, are “unutterable” to the full.Romans 8:26. Καὶ, even) Not only the whole creation (every creature) groans, but the Holy Spirit Himself affords assistance; comp. Romans 8:23, note 2. On both sides, believers have such as groan with them, and make common cause with them;—on the one side, they have the whole creation [creature]; on the other, what is of still more importance, they have the Spirit. In as far as the Spirit groans, it respects us: in as far as He also affords assistance [‘helps,’] it respects the creature [creation].—συναντιλαμβάνεται) σὺν has the same force in this compound as in συμμαρτυρεῖ, Romans 8:16, [i.e., along with us].—ταῖς ἀσθενείαις) infirmities, which exist in our knowledge and in our prayers; the abstract for the concrete, infirmities, that is our prayers, which are in themselves infirm.—γὰρ, for) Paul explains what the infirmities are.—τίκαθὸ, what—as) comp. how or what, Matthew 10:19.—ὑπερεντυγχάνει) ὑπὲρ, abundantly [over and above] as in Romans 8:37, ὑπερνικῶμεν, and ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν, ch. Romans 5:20. Both ὑπερεντυγχάνει in this verse, and ἐντυγχάνει, Romans 8:27, are the predicates of the same subject, viz. the Holy Spirit. It is the general practice, first to put the compound verb with its proper emphasis, and then afterwards merely to repeat, in its stead, the simple form. Thus in Romans 15:4 we have first προεγράφη, and subsequently in the second place, ἐγράφη follows, which is the genuine reading.—στεναγμοῖς, with groans) Every groan (the theme or root of the word being στενός, strait) proceeds from the pressure of great straits: therefore the matter [the component material] of our groaning is from ourselves; but the Holy Spirit puts upon that matter its form [puts it into shape], whence it is that the groanings of believers, whether they proceed from joy or sorrow, cannot be uttered.Verses 26, 27. - Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for what we should pray for as we ought we know not: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because (or, that) he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Here, then, is a further source of help and comfort to Christians under present trials. Of themselves they know not what relief to crave. St. Paul himself knew not what to pray for as he ought, when he asked for removal of his thorn in the flesh; if left to themselves, their long waiting and their manifold perplexities might damp their hope; but a Helper beyond themselves comes in to succour them, viz. the Holy Spirit himself, who intercedes (ὑπερεντυγχάνει) for them. But how? Not as the Son intercedes for them, apart from themselves, at the mercy-seat; but within themselves, by inspiring them with these unutterable (or, unuttered) groanings; and they are conscious that such deep and intense yearnings are from the Divine Spirit moving them, and teaching them to pray. They may not still be able to put their requests of God into definite form, or even express them in words; but they know that God knows the meaning of what his own Spirit has inspired. This is a deep and pregnant thought. Even apart from the peculiar faith and inspiration of the gospel, the internal consciousness of the human soul, with its yearnings after something as yet unrealized, affords one of the most cogent evidences of a life to come to those who feel such yearnings. For ideals seem to postulate corresponding realities; instinctive longings seem to postulate fulfilment. Else were human nature a strange riddle indeed. But Christian faith vivifies the ideal, and intensifies the longing; and thus the prophecy of internal consciousness acquires a new force to the Christian believer; and this all the more from his being convinced that the quickening of spiritual life of which he is conscious is Divine. The psalmist of old, when he sang, "As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God," felt in these ardent though inarticulate pantings a presage of fulfilment of his "hope in God." So the devout Christian; and all the more in proportion to the intenseness and definiteness of his yearnings, and his conviction that they are from God. Helpeth (συναντιλαμβάνεται)

Only here and Luke 10:40, on which see note. "Λαμβάνεται taketh. Precisely the same verb in precisely the same phrase, which is translated 'took our infirmities'," Matthew 8:17 (Bushnell).

As we ought (καθὸ δεῖ)

Not with reference to the form of prayer, but to the circumstances: in proportion to the need. Compare 2 Corinthians 8:12; 1 Peter 4:13.

Maketh intercession for (ὑπερεντυγχάνει)

Only here in the New Testament. The verb ἐντυγχάνω means to light upon or fall in with; to go to meet for consultation, conversation, or supplication. So Acts 25:24, "dealt with," Rev., "made suit." Compare Romans 8:34; Romans 11:2; Hebrews 7:25.

Which cannot be uttered (ἀλαλήτοις)

This may mean either unutterable or unuttered.

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