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 (Romans 8:26, 27).
We as Christians make much, and rightly so, of the work of reconciliation that Christ accomplished for us who are in him. Through his holy life and his death he has reconciled us, who were once children of wrath and enemies of God, forever to the Father. Scripture declares also that Christ’s work of reconciliation did not end with his holy life and death but that Christ is now at the right hand of the Father pleading our case as our advocate and high priest. And though Christ has once and for all reconciled us the Church to a holy and just God through his spilt blood, there is further reconciliation needed to make us one with the Father.
Our lack, or weakness as it is called in Romans 8:26, is our ignorance of the Providence (i.e. the unrevealed will) of God. This ignorance coupled with Scripture’s command for us to pray without ceasing in all that we do has the certain potential to create disharmony between us and the Father. For example, we may pray according to God’s revealed will (i.e. Scripture) that he would spark a revival in our churches, and yet this request might be against the Providence of God. We might pray that our grandmother would be healed of her sickness, that a lost neighbor would see the Gospel as gospel, or that we might have victory over a particular sinful inclination–and all these requests, as rooted in Scripture as they might be, might be in conflict with the Providence of God.
Paul experienced this disharmony firsthand with what he calls his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12. Though we do not know exactly what this thorn in the flesh of Paul was, we can be sure that each of the three times that Paul prayed for its removal that he was praying according to the testimony of Scripture. Although his request was Scriptural, God denied his request each of the three times. Why? Because God had a greater purpose, namely to keep Paul a humble man and to prove to him that his grace was sufficient for his sustenance.
Should we then be concerned that our prayers that accord with Scripture are contrary to the Providence of God? Should we, as the context in Romans 8 dictates, hesitate to pray for the alleviation of our sinful passions and inclinations for the sake of holiness? Absolutely not! Why? Because we have a mediator in the Holy Spirit that maintains our harmony with the Father in spite of our ignorance of his Providence. Scripture says that we do not know how to pray as we ought, and for this very reason the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words (v. 8:26). And though these groanings of the Spirit are inexpressible and incomprehensible to us, we do know that they are done in accordance with the unrevealed will of the Father (v. 8:27).
Just as we praise Christ and are comforted that he has brought us close to the Father through his life and blood, we should also praise the Holy Spirit and be comforted that he is interceding for us according to the will of the Father. We should be comforted first because in spite of our weaknesses we are still one with Father through the work of the Spirit and second because his intercessions are according to the good and perfect Providence of the Father. It is the same Providence that in the following verse declares, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (v. 8:28). Praise God for his intercession and Providence!