Romans 8:26, 27
Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought…
In the previous verses the twofold "groaning" has been set forth - of nature as subjected to vanity, and of redeemed man as still sharing the heritage of vanity in himself and in his relation to the world around. "We hope for that we see not:" and this hope, though it be of the character of patient waiting, is yet also of the character of intense desire. But are our desires merely vague, unauthorized wishes for some fancied good, which God may not be purposed ever to grant? Nay; for what might be otherwise but the vague wishes of our burdened hearts are intensified and authorized by the spiritual life which is in us - are, indeed, the promptings, the groanings, of that very Spirit of God who is the Author and Sustainer of our spiritual life. And as such they are according to God's will, and, being according to his will, are the sure pledge of their own realization. The general truth here set forth is that, in all our times of weakness in this mortal life, when we are ready to faint, the Spirit sustains us; the special application of the truth is that, when "in praying we cannot express to God what the blessing is which would allay the distress of our heart" (Godet), the Spirit of God inspires us with holy aspirations, which are not indeed to be formulated in human words, seeing that they are touched with something of the infinite, but which react in comfort on the heart, as conveying in themselves an assurance that the almost infinite craving shall be infinitely satisfied.
I. OUR INFIRMITY.
1. In this life of trial, in which evil is so largely mingled with good, and in which, therefore, as regards our perfect redemption, we have to "hope for that which we see not," we are called to exercise both a passive and an active waiting.
(1) Passively, we are to wait until the day dawn and the shadows free away.
(2) Actively, we are to do God's will in this present world, and by so doing to hasten the advent of that day. But how often we prove our "infirmity"! our strength is weakness. How sometimes the heart is well-nigh crushed beneath the load, and we are tempted to say impatiently, "Would that it were morning!" And how dispirited we are then for the work of the kingdom!
2. And this general infirmity manifests itself specially in our inability to pray aright for the good which we confusedly desire. Oh, who has not proved this? The evils and mysteries of life almost daze our spirits; we strive in vain with our vision to pierce the impenetrable darkness. "Who shall show us any good?" So, coming before God, we do not find our accustomed relief: "we know not how to pray as we ought."
II. OUR HELP.
1. Amid all our weakness, however manifesting itself, the Spirit helps us. He gives us the patience to wait, and the strength to bear the burden and to do the work. Yes, that which of all things else is hardest, "to labour and to wait," earnestly to pursue our appointed task in spite of the mystery and distress of life, that is made possible by the good Spirit's help. Nay, even more, an inspiration comes from him which makes us zealous for the extension of his kingdom, and we urge our way with strength renewed; for our way is his way, and it tends to the accomplishment of his perfect will.
2. But especially, as these verses teach us, the Spirit helpeth our infirmity when "we know not how to pray as we ought" Oppressed by the mystery of life, torn by its cruel-seeming evils, knowing that these things ought not so to be, that they will not so be in a perfect state, we yet can scarcely realize our own desires, and cannot pray for the things we need. Then comes the inspiration from on high, and our heart goes forth towards God in aspirations prompted, and therefore warranted, by God. And the very desire, so born, gives rest. We may not know its full meaning; we are but partly conscious of our true need as regards that future for which we sigh. And therefore we may certainly not articulate all our desire in syllables of human speech to God: the groanings "cannot be uttered." But they are heard; they are understood; they shall be answered. For the Spirit that is in us is the Spirit who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10); and he therefore "maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Oh, what a pledge is here of our sure fruition of all good! We do not vainly and wrongly sigh for the perfectness of the new world; God himself sighs in us, with us, for this consummation. There is truly a groaning in nature itself for deliverance; there is a groaning in ourselves for "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;" and there is a groaning, in and with ours, of God's Spirit likewise, for the doing away of all contradictions such as now are, and the ushering in of the day of God, the perfect day. Here, then, is the law of a spiritual instinct, which, like all true instinct, however vaguely it may be conscious of its exact purport, is yet the pledge of its own realization. Let us, then, not be ashamed to hope, to intensely hope, for that we see not, for the hope is heaven-born. But because of the very divineness of the hope itself, and the consequent certainty of realization, let us with patience wait for it. - T.F.L.
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.