Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:

3:9–20—Conclusion: OT confirms that humanity is under sin’s power
(January 26th 2019)
Romans 8:26–27—The Spirit intercedes for us according to God’s will.

26 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.
27 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.

Because the evils of this age disappear in stages, we are still subject to many of those evils as we await the consummation of our salvation. Now we see one of the ways the Father tenderly cares for us in our present weakness.

Jesus Christ, on the cross, suffered for us. The Holy Spirit, living inside us, suffers with us. Christ intercedes for us from heaven. The Spirit intercedes for us as the Father’s on-the-scene reporter. Whatever goes wrong in our life, the Spirit knows exactly what to pray so that the Father’s will is achieved.

Richard Longenecker wants God’s people to appreciate the “good news” of this message. The Spirit’s help and intercession are “a highly significant resource” especially for our praying, but also for the living out of our present earthly lives. This divine resource “is far greater than anything that those who are apart from Christ and the Spirit possess.”

The Spirit’s help
Although Paul might be seen to imply that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us without any praying of our own, the Greek word for “helps” suggests otherwise. In the only other place this double-compound word occurs in the NT, Luke tells of Martha’s struggle to prepare a meal for the Lord after she invited him to her house. Bothered that her sister Mary was not helping, Martha implored the Lord, “Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40).

Martha did not intend for Mary to take over all the duties, as this paraphrase of her request—based on the meaning of help—makes clear: “Tell her to help me by taking hold of her end of the task” (Everett Harrison). Paul’s use of the same word here in verse 26 indicates that as we pray, the Holy Spirit joins with us in prayer to the Father.

Not knowing what to pray
Our weakness is the result of our incomplete sanctification. As we encounter the perplexities and evils of this age, we are too shortsighted and self-centered to know the will of God and therefore even to know what is best for us. These verses give us the confidence to pray despite our weakness. When we don’t know what to pray, we pray anyway, knowing the Holy Spirit is praying inside us, for us, precisely according to God’s will.

We conclude, therefore, that for God’s people who pray in the name of Christ there truly is no unanswered prayer, even when we pray unwittingly for things that are counter to God’s will and against our own best interests. Our challenge is to trust and be patient with God’s answer.

We can have this same confidence when we pray for others without intimate knowledge of their needs. This may be what Paul means when he exhorts us to pray “in the Spirit” for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). Whether praying for ourselves or for others, our prayers will align more effectively with the will of God the more we know his word and walk in the Spirit. Until the consummation, however, we will always need the Spirit’s intercession to empower our prayers.

Groanings too deep for words
The Spirit intercedes for us in a language imperceptible to us but understandable by the Father and the Son. The Spirit’s groanings parallel our inward groans (verse 23) as we suffer in this world while longing for the redemption of our bodies. How heartening it is to know the Holy Spirit not only senses our every pain but also rejoices in our growing desire to see the Father accomplish his purpose in our lives.

The weaker my body the stronger my hunger for the promised consummation, and yet I tell the Spirit to ignore for the time being my groanings. Truth be told, I am content with my current assignment on this earth.

He who searches hearts
The Spirit’s intercession is effective because of the Godhead’s omniscience and harmony. The Father perceives the innermost thoughts of my heart, so he knows my heart better than I know it myself, and certainly he knows the mind of the Spirit who resides in my heart. This divine knowledge is mutual, for the Spirit also knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

The Father who seeks to build his family, the Son who intercedes from heaven, and the Spirit who intercedes from within our hearts are on a mission to accomplish their purpose. How can we doubt that they will?

These two verses advance Paul’s argument for the reasonableness of our hope. We will follow him as he takes the next logical step: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”