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Romans 8:26-30

 

Likewise 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.  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. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

(ESV)

 

The Spirit Intercedes With Prayer

St. Matthias, Apostle

24 February 2015

Jesus certainly prays at pivotal moments in His ministry. In Mark 1, He is making the first public appearances of His ministry and very soon He disappears to pray (Mk 1:35). On the night of His betrayal He prays continually: at the Supper; for Himself, His disciples, and us in the Upper Room; and in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is ready to be offered in the eternal plan to die; a plan devised by Him from the foundation of the world. And yet now He is confronted by the enormity of His suffering (and not just its physical cost); the weight of human depravity which He is now owning to remove it from you. He is facing the implacable and stubborn unbelief of the humans who howl for Him to die, and for whom, despite their rage against Him, He has come to die. In the darkness, He gets on His knees; bloodying them. In the darkness, He cries out to His Father. In the darkness, great drops of bloody sweat ooze from His pores. Why pray? Oh, because we are in such deep trouble!

Even if we can't see or even feel our trouble we should still pray. If Jesus prays because He knows His future and our future together with Him, then we, who do not know the future, ought to pray all the more often, motivated by what is yet to come. Why pray? Because the future is yet to come.

 

We don't always know why we pray, because we cannot know the future. We are stumbly in our words, afraid, full of guilt. These are all reasons to pray more, not less. And even at that, the Spirit prays for us with utterances we cannot even express. When we are all cried out, when we don't know what we should ask for, when we don't know the future, God the Spirit intercedes for us. Paul says, "Likewise 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. 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" (Rm 8:26-27). Maybe we mumble along, maybe we don't, but the fact that God substitutes for us in our stunted prayers means that prayer is quite important to Him. When you can't, He does! Why pray? Because God the Spirit intercedes for us.

 

Martin Luther

 

"Paul does not say that the Spirit intercedes for us in temptation with a long prayer (Rm 8:27), but that He intercedes with a sigh, and one that is too deep for words. He does not cry loudly and tearfully: 'Have mercy on me, O God' (Ps 51:1); but He merely utters the words of a cry and a sigh, which is 'Oh, Father!' This is indeed a very short word, but it includes everything. Not the lips, but the feelings are speaking here, as though one were to say: 'Even though I am surrounded by anxieties and I seem to be deserted and banished from Your presence, nevertheless I am a child of God on account of Christ. I am beloved on account of the Beloved.' Therefore the term 'Father,' when spoken meaningfully in the heart, is an eloquence that Demosthenes, Cicero, and the most eloquent men there have ever been in the world cannot attain. For this is a matter that is expressed, not in words but in sighs, which are not articulated in all the words of all the orators; for they are too deep for words."

 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.6

 

Prayer

O God, Father in heaven, look with mercy upon your needy children and grant us grace. Send your Spirit, that when we cannot pray, even then we will with utterances that are unspeakable. Amen.

 

For Cathy Hagmann, who is suffering from cancer, that Christ her Lord might grant her healing

 

For David Porter, that He who granted healing to blind men, might grant healing following eye surgery

 

For the church, as she faithfully confesses her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in accordance with His Word, 'I have believed, therefore have I spoken' 

Art: GR�NEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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