Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought…
One reason for the lasting power of the Bible is its wide-ranging view of life. It runs through the whole gamut of feeling, touches every state. In this passage the apostle has brought heaven and earth together - has shown that creation is a unity waiting for a glorious consummation. He gives us truth fit to be "the master-light of all our Christian seeing, the guardian light of all our doing."
I. OUR HUMAN WEAKNESS. "Infirmity" suggests not so much the feebleness of the babe from a want of development, as the prostration of illness through the inroad of disease. Sin wastes the constitution, and we perceive our weakness when we proceed to act. This is the first stage of enlightenment, to be made conscious of helplessness. Ours is a condition of sighing. Like the rest of creation, Christians "groan within" themselves. They are subject to vanity, corruption, and sorrow. Afflictions deceive, comforts disappoint. At Marah the waters are bitter, and at Nineveh the gourd of one day withers the next. With what pain is thought exercised! Sin weighs us down; a cloud of passion obscures the Saviour's love; we toil, and "catch nothing." Deliverance is our cry. We stretch the head and crane the neck to hail the day of redemption. "We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened." A notable instance of weakness is furnished by our prayers. We are ignorant of the fit requests to make, and the proper manner in which to present them. There is a danger of our asking unwisely, too impetuously, for a hurtful gratification. The most needful object, what "we ought" to supplicate, we are not earnest enough about; we scarce know what it is. We look through eyes of flesh, and our vision is limited. We dislike a burden and all suffering. Like Paul, we have "thrice besought the Lord" to remove what is designed for beneficial discipline. Like sufferers under the surgeon's knife, we long for present ease rather than the removal of the real cause of disorder. Amid the whirl of life "bound to its wheel," we are liable to "mistake its end;" would fain arrest the machinery ere the clay is sufficiently impressed to make a "vessel meet for the Master's use."
II. THE DIVINE PROVISION. Help is afforded us by the Spirit of God. The very sense of dissatisfaction is a sign of the indwelling Spirit. The world wonders at the lamentation so frequent in religious biography. But to be quite content arbores deadness of soul. To deem one's self perfectly wise is a sure token of self-deceit. The Spirit breaks up the deeps of an undisturbed monotony. The Emperor Augustus desired to see the wonderful couch on which a man slept serenely in spite of his heavy indebtedness. The groaning of the Christian is an advance upon that of the natural creation. It is not merely bewailing and murmuring; it is for spiritual reasons. He is made aware of his Divine sonship, and has to reconcile his confidence in the Father with his present irksome bondage. Creation longs for development; the Christian feels his sinfulness and sighs for salvation. His groaning proves a longing for infinitude; that he was made for God, and nothing less can satisfy. Like the hart chased by pursuers, till big tears are rolling from the eyes and the moisture is black upon its sides, so the Christian "thirsts for the living God." For him, to cease to aspire is to die, as the cessation of activity in extreme cold means a fatal rest. The unwilling bondage is an "incipient liberty." This groaning is an intercession of the Spirit, an utterance too big for words, a powerful plea with God. We have the advocacy of Christ without us, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit within. "I will send you another Advocate." Such an advocacy assures us of good. The Spirit is "the Firstfruits," and the golden harvest shall surely follow to the garner. These yearnings are the earnest of the fulfilment of our largest hopes, a pledge that the Father does not mean us always to remain down-trodden and stained and imperfect in knowledge. How great the encouragement to pray! Even though we are uncertain what exactly we want, our vague aspirations are not useless. We are lifted higher by them. Prayer is God's law, though how it acts on God we cannot tell. We know that in the human sphere a father exerts his power of loving aid when his child cries in trouble. And God reads the mind of his own Spirit, urging us to pour out our hearts before his throne of grace. We may pray, then, even though we realize our inability to express our needs. We can interpret the dumb animal's pleading look, or the babe's expression of suffering; we project our spirit to them, and by sympathy understand their wants. And our broken utterances, or the stereotyped phrases of the Liturgy, are multiplied by the Spirit into a mighty intercession on our behalf. Though we fear lest we ask amiss, God will understand aright, nor grant an injurious boon. The direction of the Spirit's longing stimulated within us is ever in accordance with the judgment of the All-wise. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.