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Romans 8: 26c
In this passage Paul presents us with the most common and conscious of our limitations:
"But the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
Here we see the Holy Spirit set forth as our helper and promoter of our prayers.
Alfred says, "The Holy Spirit of God dwelling in us, knowing our wants (needs) better than we,
- He is the source and strength and food of our devotional life.
- He moulds us into the praying frame.
- He suggests to us praying thoughts.
- He forms in us the praying habit.
intercedes in our prayers, raising us to higher and holier desires than we can express in words,
which can only find utterance in sighings and aspirations."
The Spirit of God actually makes intercession for us.
Intercession (Gr.enteuxis) is one of the four forms of prayer. (1 Tim. 2: 1-2)
The intercession of one person for another in the belief that the other will benefit has profound
implications as to human relations before God.
The belief that the Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession to God for the Christian
has the most profound implication of all as to the eternal relations within the Godhead.
When the Holy Spirit intercedes for a believer, the believer's own heart is the channel
through which the intercession finds its way to the throne of grace.
This intercession is not apart from, but in and through our consciousness.
The children of God have two divine intercessors.
Christ is our intercessor in the court of heaven. (Cf.v.34; Hebrews 7: 25; 1 John 2: 1)
Vs. 34: "... It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again,
who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
Hebrews 7: 25: "Wherefore he is able to also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by
him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."
1 John 2: 1: "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
The Holy Spirit is our intercessor in the theater of our own hearts. John 14: 16, 17:
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may abide which you forever; Even the Spirit of truth;
whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him:
but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
Too seldom has the intercessory activity of the Holy Spirit been considered.
While acknowledging Christ's intercession, let us also acknowledge the Spirit's intercession.
The Spirit intercedes "with groanings which cannot be uttered."
The "groanings" are the concrete ways in which the intercession of the Spirit comes to expression.
They define the content of His intercession.
The groanings are the intercessions of the Spirit, and the groanings are the way in which these intercessions
are registered in the hearts of God's children.
So, there is the twofold intercession before us.
One is that of Christ Himself.
The other is the intercession of the Spirit of Christ.
The one is an intercession for us, as it is a speaking in our behalf.
The other is an intercession in us, as it is an enabling of us to speak for ourselves.
The Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession for us, so far as He helps us to pray.
(Matthew 10: 20; Galatians 4: 6)
Note the difference between Christ's intercession and the Spirit's.
Christ intercedes for us in heaven at the Father's right hand. (Vs. 34)
The Spirit intercedes in our hearts upon earth. (Galatians 4: 6)
Christ's intercession is a meditory intercession between God and us. (1 Tim. 2: 5)
The Spirits is an auxiliary intercession to us, whereby He helps us to go to God.
The Spirit's intercession is the fruit of Christ's, and what is done by the sinner
through the intercession is accepted of God through the intercession of Christ.
The difference is like that between one who draws a poor man's petition for man,
and another who presents it to the king and gets it granted.
The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us by diverse operations:
We are to always pray in the Spirit, as in Ephesians 6: 18; and as in Jude 20.
- By sanctifying us and putting into us a need and a desire to approach God in prayer.
- By putting our hearts into a praying and humbling position.
- By suggesting to us the content of our prayers.
- By helping us with all prayer and supplication.
Paul knew that there are times when men sink into silence through the very intensity of their desires.
He knew that there are times when people are so conscious of the burdens of their mortality that they
can do nothing but groan with sighs too deep for words.
We are not alone in our struggles because the Spirit Himself takes hold of us in our perplexities.
He lends intelligence to our desires.
It is as though He Himself speaks through our wordless longing, and verse 27 assures us that He will be heard.
The Holy Spirit is the divine source and motive of intercession in our inmost being,
and He moves in the soul in such a way that His mysterious groaning mingles with ours.
All praying is not formulated in words or is articulate in thought.
There are sighs that are too deep for words, just as there is sorrow that is too deep for tears.
True prayers may or may not find voice in words, even when it is most articulate.
It may have its root in desires that cannot be uttered.
But the Holy Spirit will impart a meaning to such desires which they would not have of themselves.
He will clothe them with a shape and value which is altogether beyond anything that we could define.
He draws out our longings towards the will of God by this inward activity which is as distinct at it is unique.
It is comparable with His activity when He constrains the heart to cry,
as it would not cry, if left to its self, "Abba Father." (8: 15)
Our longings are often of a vague and indefinite character.
Our religious feelings are often earnest and real, yet shapeless and indeterminate.
So our prayers, which are but our endeavors to utter what we feel, are often nothing better than a groan
-- groanings that do not need expression in speech.
In this wordless and unutterable longing of the soul, there is One who is helping us:
"With groanings which cannot be uttered."
These groanings cover those longings and aspirations which well up from the spiritual depths,
and cannot be imprisoned within the confines of everyday words.
Although these sighings or groanings of the children of God are here ascribed to the Holy Spirit,
it is not to be supposed that the Divine Spirit can be subject to such emotions or perturbations of the mind.
But it is so represented because He draws forth these groans from our hearts and excites them there.
So it is our hearts that groan, but the operation and emotion is from the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit who produces them must not be confounded.
Augustine said, "Not in himself, and with himself, but in us he groans, for he makes us groan. He
inspires in our hearts groanings and aspirations and desires which are too deep for words." (Verse 26)
The phrase: "with groanings unutterable," has received some fanciful interpretations.
Paul does not write the Greek word, "alalois," which means "unuttered," which means dumb or silent.
He uses the word, "utterable," (Gr.alalntois) which cannot be expressed in any language.
The idea that some of these groanings were uttered in the Psalms cannot be considered,
for then they would not be "unutterable," as Paul states.
Some have thought that this intercession of the Spirit with unutterable groanings signifies
that He causes us to pray and to groan; and helps us to pray correctly.
But this cancels "unutterable," and does not interpret it.
Later writers state that the charisma of tongues was a speaking in non-human language,
and either identify these "groanings" with this non-human language
or conceive of them as parallel to it.
It is not even utterable.
Some think that Paul is speaking of congregational praying, but this is an unwarranted restriction.
The Holy Spirit does not groan.
These groans are ours.
One Biblical interpreter puts it mildly:
"To assume that the Spirit groans without using our own spirits is devoid of sense and of Scripture analogy."
The gate is open wide to fanaticism, when we are told that we can hear the Spirit's groaning within us,
and can distinguish it from our own.
The cry of the infant is interpreted by its mother.
The sigh of the sick person is as good as words.
So, the groaning and the weeping are voices in the ear of God.
They are neither uttered nor utterable.
They are not able to even come to our lips in articulate sounds.
Since they are locked in our hearts, sound is unable to convey them in any way.
"We ourselves within ourselves groan." (Vs. 23)
Underneath all our uttered prayers of distress, and all our audible groans are these deeper ones that remain in our spirit.
These, even these, since they are the deepest of all the Holy Spirit utilizes in making His great and effective intercession for us.
Whether we render the Greek term by the word, "unutterable," or "unuttered,"
we must note that the groanings are not expressed in articulate speech.
They are not requests or petitions or supplications which are formulated in intelligible utterance.
While far from being devoid of content, meaning, and intent; they transcend articulated formulation.
Thayer: "Although we have no definite conception of what we desire, and cannot state it in fit
language (as we ought) in our prayer, but can only disclose it by inarticulate groanings, yet God
receives these groanings as acceptable prayers inasmuch as they come from a soul full of the Holy Spirit."
To have Him use our poor human groanings, which cannot even be uttered in anyway or in any manner,
and to be assured of this -- is comfort for our souls.
James Montgomery caught the meaning of this text when he wrote:
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at firstname.lastname@example.org