Friday, March 12, 2010

When the Spirit Takes Hold of Prayer

Yesterday, I talked about taking hold of answered prayer. Today, I want to talk about when the Holy Spirit takes hold of prayer.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
In Romans 8, Paul talks about a number of things that “work together for good” for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (v. 28). Now he comes to how the Holy Spirit “helps” us in prayer. It is because we have a weakness: We do not know what or how to pray. So the Spirit of God comes to “help” us in exactly where we need it most.

This word, “help,” is very interesting and is what I want to talk about today. The Greek word for it here is synantilambano. It is made up of three components:
  1. syn, a prefix which means “together with.”
  2. anti, which means “over against” or “opposite.”
  3. lambano, the word we talked about yesterday and means “to take hold of.” In the middle or passive voice, which is how it is found here, lambano means “to take hold of in turn.”
Taken all together in the middle or passive voice, it is a picture of one taking upon himself the burden of another in order to share it with him. Like two men carrying a timber, one at one end and one at the other, or two people rowing together in a boat, either across from each other at an oar. That is what the Holy Spirit does with us in prayer. He doesn’t do it for us but with us. He takes hold of prayer and “pulls” with us because, otherwise, we would not know how to do it.

How does He help us, then? Paul says He makes intercession for us. While we are praying, He is praying with us and for us, praying on our behalf what we do not know how to pray. Paul describes it as “groanings which cannot be uttered.” Groanings or sighs “too deep for words,” is how the NASB puts it. The Greek text can mean either that they are unutterable (cannot be uttered) or simply that they are unuttered, which is how the HCSB has it: The Spirit intercedes for us with “unuttered groanings.” The point is that the Holy Spirit is doing this in us as we pray whether or not we have any other awareness of it. Although, sometimes it may manifest as a deep burden or travail we feel inside, or as a profusion of tears, or as the heaving of sighs, or perhaps even as speaking in tongues, words that have no particular meaning to our understanding but arise from the Spirit praying in us.

Now, let me ask you. Whenever the Holy Spirit prays, do you think that the Father hears and answers His prayers? Of course, He does. How could it be otherwise? In verse 27, Paul says, “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” The Holy Spirit is always praying for us according to the will of God. The Father certainly knows what the mind of His Spirit at work in us is, and the Spirit knows exactly what is in the heart and mind of the Father (1 Corinthians 2:11). God will always respond to what He Himself is doing in us and answer the prayers that He Himself produces in us.

We never enter into prayer alone. The Spirit of God is always there with us, taking hold of prayer with us. He always knows what He is doing, so we should be attentive and always follow His lead. Paul says we should always be praying with all kinds of prayers in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). The Holy Spirit bears the burden with us and knows how to get the job done. Our part is to pray in faith, knowing that our prayer, along with His, works together for our good, because we love God and are called according to His purpose.