The Groaning Of The 
Why Is He Effective?

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 39c of 83

26Likewise 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. 27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

[In our previous two articles what is meant by the Spirit groaning and why He needs to groan on our behalf. In this concluding part of our study, we must consider why the Holy Spirit is effective in His groaning on our behalf. –JJL]

3.  Why is the Comforter’s Groaning Effective?

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God

Who is he who “searcheth the hearts”? It is clear that in this context, the apostle Paul is referring to God the Father. God says through Jeremiah: “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins” (Jer 17:10). Paul says: “he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” Now, the word “knoweth” in this context is not simply to be aware of, but to recognise, understand and to approve.

So what Paul is saying is that: “God our heavenly Father recognises, understands, and approve what is the mind of the Spirit. Although the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered, God the Father understands Him, He approves of His intercession. Why? Because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. He is after all, God, himself.

This is a comforting statement is it not?  We read in 1 John 5:14—

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”

This statement ought to comfort us and encourage us to pray. But as soon as we begin to think about the implication of what John is saying, we begin to get discourage. If we pray according to God’s will, He hears us. But how can we pray according to God’s will? A careful study of 1 John indicates that to pray according to God’s will is to pray in accordance to His Word in terms of manner, time and content. But who is sufficient for these things?

It is no wonder that after I preached on the verse some years ago, a young man came up to me and said: “I now find it very difficult to pray. There are so many things to look out for that I am at a lost. How can I ever pray according to God’s will again?”

Thank God that we can. How? Because the Holy Spirit is interceding on our behalf with groanings that cannot be uttered. And the Holy Spirit is making intercession according to the will of God.

In a way, what Paul is saying is that as a child of God, you can’t go wrong in your prayer. You have two advocates in prayer. Christ is interceding in heaven (v. 34), and the Holy Spirit is interceding in you. He will guide you. He will fill up that which is lacking. He will make sure that your prayers are acceptable in the sight of God.

But of course, this does not mean that we do not need to pray. The Holy Spirit intercedes when we know not what to pray, not when we fail to pray.

In a certain way, the Holy Spirit is like a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist helps someone who has a disability to regain the use of his limbs. He guides him and he helps him to flex his muscles. Sometimes when the patient is too weak, the physiotherapist may even physically help him to move his limbs. But a physiotherapist will only do that much. If the patient refuses to get up and do the exercises, he would not be able to help him.

This is how the Holy Spirit helps us. If we do not exercise ourselves in prayer, we must not expect the Holy Spirit’s help. But if we do, the Holy Spirit will always help us.

But remember that the Holy Spirit does more than a physiotherapist. He intercedes for us as a Comforter or Advocate.

He would not speak for us if we would not pray. But if we pray, He corrects our errors when we pray contrary to God’s will and He would speak for us when we have no words.

He supports us in our prayers so that we never pray alone. As our Larger Catechism puts it in Q. 178, “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of His Spirit.” As the sons and daughters of God we will never pray alone. The Spirit of Christ will be there to help us.

Let us therefore take heed to the exhortation of the apostle Paul to…

“[Pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph 6:18).

And let us take heed to the exhortation of Jude to…

“[Build] up [ourselves] on [our] most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20).

As the sons and daughters of God, we need never fear that our prayers will be useless, for the Spirit of Christ will always intercede for us.


What do we say to these things?

Simply this: We will not be able to glorify and enjoy God perfectly today for we cannot pray perfectly today. But let us not neglect to pray. Let us thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

But let us not stop at thanking Him. Let us rather exercise our privilege in prayer. God is pleased when we pray. And in so far as prayer is fellowship with God, prayer gives us a foretaste of heaven. It makes us yearn more and more for glory to come. If you will not pray you will not grow. Prayer is to our soul, what breathing is to our body.

Have you been struggling with your prayer life? Do not despair. You are not praying alone. The Spirit of Christ is making intercession on your behalf every time you seek to pray. So do not give up praying simply because you find it a struggle to pray.

To cease praying because you find it a struggle, is to be like an injured man refusing to co-operate with his physiotherapist. So do not cease to pray. You are not alone in your struggles. The Holy Spirit understands your struggles. Every time you pray, He is making intercession for you with groans that cannot be uttered.

Dear reader, when was the last time you pray in your closet? May I urge you to return to your closet? Go to your closet today. Do not let the word of God fall by the wayside. God the Holy Spirit has revealed to us that He stands ready to help us in our prayer. Shall we refuse His intercession by refusing to pray? Will you not begin to pray again? Amen

—JJ Lim