Romans 8:26-27

Thursday Evening Bible Study

October 2, 2008


In Romans 7, we learned all about Paul’s struggles with the flesh, the struggles with his own sin nature.  We also noticed that a particular word was the theme throughout the chapter, the word “I”.  When my focus is on “me”, I’m going to have problems.

In contrast, Romans 8 seems to be the answer to the struggles with the flesh.  Instead of the focus being the word “I”, the focus is now on the “Spirit”.

Paul wrote to the Galatians:

(Gal 5:16 NKJV)  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

:26 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.

likewisehosautos – in like manner, likewise

The word speaks of comparing one thing with another. What is Paul comparing?

Paul has been talking about the frustration that both we as humans as well as all of creation experience due to the sin that mankind has brought into the world, and as we are all waiting for the day that God will change things when Jesus comes back.

(Rom 8:22-23 NKJV) For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. {23} Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Paul is comparing groans.

Creation groans as it waits for the world to change. We grown as we wait for Jesus to come back.

Now Paul tells us even the Holy Spirit is “groaning” as He makes intercession for us.

helpssunantilambanomai (“with” + “against” + “to receive”) – to lay hold along with, help in obtaining; to lend a hand together with, at the same time with one.

Because of the combination of three words stuck together, there’s a sense of intensity in the word. It’s a “present tense”, meaning that this is something that the Spirit is constantly doing.

This word is only found in one other place in the New Testament:

(Luke 10:40 NKJV) But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me."
Martha was bothered because her sister wasn’t helping her.
In contrast, the Holy Spirit does help us.

Though this is a different word, it reminds me of another similar word used of the Holy Spirit:

(John 14:16 NKJV) "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever;
Helperparakletos – summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid


He’s here to help

Some people get some strange ideas about the Holy Spirit – probably because there are some of us people who get kind of strange around the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not going to make you weird, unless you’re already weird.
Look at the things that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives if we learn to yield to Him:
(Gal 5:22-23 NKJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control.

weaknessesastheneia – lack of strength, weakness, infirmity

What weaknesses is Paul talking about?

The weakness Paul is talking about is our inability to pray. And the Spirit is constantly helping us.

:26 For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought,

prayproseuchomai – to offer prayers, to pray

as we oughtdei – it is necessary, there is need of, is right and proper


We don’t know how to pray.

Some of us grew up in churches where “praying” meant using fancy words that don’t mean anything to anybody. We might feel like Aunt Bethany in the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase.

Chevy Chase plays the part of the goofy dad, Clark Griswald.  Clark and his extended family are gathered around the table for a holiday feast. Clark stands at one end of the table smiling and carving a golden brown turkey. Clark looks as if he is drinking in the joy of family. He raps a knife against a crystal glass to call the family to attention. Clark announces, “Since this is Aunt Bethany’s 80th Christmas, I think she should lead us in the saying of grace.” Aunt Bethany is hard of hearing. She leans next to her elderly husband and yells, “What?” “He wants you to say grace.” “Grace? Grace has been dead for 30 years,” says Aunt Bethany. The old man replies, “He wants you to say the blessing!” (play video clip)

(she actually says the “Pledge of Allegiance…”)

“Oh!” says Aunt Bethany. She bows her head and clasps her hands. One thing is clear. No one at this table is comfortable or familiar with prayer. Each member of the family awkwardly prepares for this sacred moment. Some close their eyes. Some put their hands together. Some look to each other for guidance.

Clark is amazed as Aunt Bethany closes her eyes and begins, “I pledge allegiance to the flag...” Clark is dumbfounded when everyone else joins in, “of the United States of America...”

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Warner Brothers, 1989); directed and produced by John Hughes; submitted by David Slagle,

When we started the church, I have to admit I didn’t know much about praying. I mean I knew about prayer, but hadn’t spent a lot of time consistently praying. Over the years I’ve read a lot of books on prayer. I have been in a lot of prayer meetings. As a pastor, I have learned to develop a discipline of regularly praying for the needs of the church. I have learned the importance of spending time every day in prayer. I have to admit that I think I’ve grown some in prayer over the years.
Do I think I know how to pray? Not even.
The Best Position To Pray Is..
Three preachers sat discussing the best positions for prayer. A telephone repairman who was working nearby happened to overhear the conversation. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed the first minister. “No,” the second pastor contended. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched toward Heaven.” “You’re both wrong,” the third preacher insisted. “The most effective prayer position is lying prostate, face down on the floor.” The repairman could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted, “the best prayin’ I ever did was hangin’ upside down from a telephone pole after my safety strap broke.”

I don’t think that even some of us pastors really know how to pray.

Because of this verse, I’m not sure we’re ever going to “arrive” when it comes to knowing how to pray.

Why don’t we know how to pray?

1. We ask with the wrong motives.

(James 4:1-3 NKJV) Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? {2} You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. {3} You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
It’s really hard to tell sometimes just what our motives really are. I think that often our motives are really a mixture of a lot of things. I doubt we ever have completely pure motives on anything.
I think there are even times when we want to ask for something, but we know that we have improper motives, so we don’t ask. But the thing would have been the right thing.

2. We don’t understand what really needs to be done.

Our passage here indicates that we don’t know what is “necessary”.
When it really comes down to it, we don’t really know everything. We don’t really know the things to be asked for.
Things aren’t always what they seem. We often make our judgments on situations based on what shallow, surface things we can see. But often the truth about a matter can be far below the surface.
A Tale of Faulty Inferences
The train rushes across the Hungarian countryside. In a compartment sit a mother with her attractive daughter, a Nazi officer, and a Hungarian official. When the train passes through a tunnel, the compartment is engulfed in darkness. Suddenly there is the sound of a loud kiss followed by a shattering slap. When the train emerges from the tunnel, no one says a word, but the Nazi officer’s face bears the unmistakable signs of having been slapped.
The mother looks at her daughter and thinks, “What a good daughter I have. She certainly showed that Nazi he can’t fool with her.”
The daughter looks at her mother and thinks, “Mother sure is brave to take on a Nazi officer over one stolen kiss.” The Nazi officer stares at the Hungarian official and thinks, “That Hungarian is clever. He steals a kiss and gets me slapped, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The Hungarian official stares blankly as he thinks, “Not bad. I kiss my hand and get away with slapping a Nazi.”
Things aren’t always what they seem.
You can find a person obnoxious for some reason and just want them to go away. But God may want you to be a part of their life to bring healing and help to them. God may want them to be a part of your life, to teach you how to understand and be patient with others.

What if God’s higher priority is not your comfort, but their salvation?  What if God would rather have you endure them a little so they might get a taste of grace and mercy.

Here I am praying for them to go away, and God wants them to stay.

I don’t know what to pray.

I find that this is part of the difficulty when it comes to counseling. When you’re counseling with an individual, it’s not uncommon for them to not quite tell you the whole story. When the counseling involves a couple, I find that you’re rarely going to hear the complete story until you’ve talked with both people. Things aren’t always what they seem.
But God sees and understands everything.
(Rom 11:33 NLT) Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!
He knows just what needs to be done.

There was a time when I was a red lump of clay. My master took me and he rolled me and he patted me over and over and over. I yelled out “Let me alone” but he only smiled and said, “Not yet”. And then I was placed on a spinning wheel, suddenly I was spun around and around and around. “Stop it I’m getting dizzy,” I said. The master only nodded and said “Not yet” Then he put me in an oven, I’d never felt such heat. I wondered why he wanted to burn me and I yelled and I knocked on the door and I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips. As he nodded his head he said “not yet.” Finally the door did open “whew”, and he put me on a shelf and I began to cool. “That’s better” I said. And then suddenly he grabbed me and he brushed me and he began to paint me all over. I thought I would suffocate, I thought I would gag, the fumes were horrible. And he just smiled and said, “Not yet”. And then suddenly he put me back into an oven, not the first one but one twice as hot, and I knew that I was going to suffocate. And I begged and I screamed and I yelled , and all the time I could see him through the opening, smiling and nodding his head, “Not yet, not yet” . And then I knew that there was no hope, I knew that I wouldn’t make it . I was just ready to give up when the door opened and he took me out an he put me on a shelf .Then an hour later he came back and he handed me a mirror and he said “Look at yourself”. And I did. And I said, “That can’t be me, I’m beautiful!”

We don’t often understand what needs to be done, we don’t know how to pray.

:26 but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

makes intercessionhuperentugchano (“over” + “in” + “hit the mark”) – to intercede for one; from tugchano to hit the mark; to reach, attain, become master of

Present tense – He’s always praying for us.

We don’t know what to pray for, but the Holy Spirit’s prayers always “hit the mark”.

groaningsstenagmos – a groaning, a sigh; This is related to the words in verses 22,23, the groaning that creation and us humans do.

While our “groanings” are just noise, the Holy Spirit’s groanings are productive.

which cannot be utteredalaletos (“not” + “spoken”) – not to be uttered, not expressed in words


Praying in the Spirit.

Jude tells us that we are to be praying “in the Spirit”.
(Jude 1:20 NKJV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit
Paul also mentions prayer in the Spirit.
(Eph 6:18 NKJV) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;
1. One aspect of “praying in the Spirit” involves the gift of tongues.
“Tongues” is praying in a language you didn’t learn by any natural means.
(1 Cor 14:12-17 NKJV) Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. {13} Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. {14} For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. {15} What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. {16} Otherwise, if you bless with the spirit, how will he who occupies the place of the uninformed say "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you say? {17} For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified.

He uses the terms “tongues” and “in the Spirit” synonymously. They mean the same thing.

Notice that praying with “tongues” is something that seems to bypass the mind – that’s why I’d consider it in the class of groaning “which cannot be uttered”.

2. Another aspect of “praying in the Spirit” is what we see here, the Spirit doing the praying, groanings, no words.
I wonder if this isn’t part of what was going on with Samuel’s mom, Hannah:
(1 Sam 1:12-13 NKJV) And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. {13} Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. …

She had this pain inside her. She prayed words in her heart, but no words came from her mouth.

Sometimes it’s just hard to speak.  God understands.

3. A last aspect of “praying in the Spirit” is allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt you to be praying according to the will of God…
I think God wants us to learn how to listen better to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

A little girl in England, Josie Caven, was born profoundly deaf. Growing up, she often felt isolated because of her inability to hear, but that changed after receiving a cochlear implant during the Christmas season. At the age of 12, she heard clearly for the first time. The first sound she heard was the song “Jingle Bells” coming from the radio.

Was Josie’s hearing restored? Yes—completely. Was she hearing well immediately? Not exactly. Her mother said, “She is having to learn what each new sound is and what it means. She will ask, ‘Was that a door closing?’ and has realized for the first time that the light in her room hums when it is switched on. She even knows what her name sounds like now, because before she could not hear the soft ‘S’ sound in the middle of the word. Seeing her face light up as she hears everything around her is all I could have wished for this Christmas.”

Josie’s hearing was restored, but that restoration introduced her to the daily adventure of learning to distinguish each new sound in the hearing world. It’s the already, and the not yet.

"Christmas Carols Music to the Ears of Deaf Girl,"

One of the problems we have in responding to the Spirit’s promptings is that we don’t always “hear” it.  We don’t recognize it.

Elijah learned that God didn’t speak to him through earthquakes or fires, but instead with a “still, small voice”

(1 Ki 19:12 NKJV)  and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

Personally, I think we often have too much noise in our lives to hear what God is saying.

Sometimes it’s just an impression that you need to be praying for someone. Sometimes it’s something that reminds you of a person – pray for them.
Learn to listen to the prompting of the Spirit.
Hard of Hearing
Three old guys are out sitting on a bench. First one says, “Windy, isn’t it?” Second one says, “No, it’s Thursday!” Third one says, “So am I. Let’s go get a soda.”
A man was telling his neighbor, “I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it’s state of the art. It’s perfect.” “Really,” answered the neighbor. “What kind is it?” “Twelve thirty.”
Dill Rummel, a woman from a church in Illinois, once told her pastor the story of how a colleague of hers was hospitalized for ten weeks. Her name was Colleen, and she had broken her back in two places. Despite the doctors’ efforts, her back wasn’t healing. Dill was very busy, but she knew God wanted her to visit Colleen. In fact she felt God wanted her to lay hands on Colleen and pray for healing—something that was pretty “out there” for Dill at the time.
When Dill finally got around to going to the hospital, she and Colleen chatted for quite some time about real estate and everyone they knew. Over the course of her visit, Dill eventually summoned up the courage to say, “Would you like me to lay hands on you and pray for you?” Colleen readily agreed. Dill told me, “I did not feel warmth dribbling down through me or anything, but I did what God wanted me to do.”
About three weeks later, the doorbell rang, and there was Colleen standing on Dill’s front porch. She explained that the day after Dill had visited her, the doctor sent Colleen to the lab for some X-rays. They showed where the two breaks had been, but they were completely healed.
Colleen eventually started coming to Dill’s Bible study. One day, when they were talking about that famous painting of Jesus knocking at the heart’s door, Dill explained that the artist didn’t put a door handle on the outside of the door, because we must open our hearts from the inside. Later that day Colleen prayed these words: “Lord, I guess if you’re out there and I can open the door, I want you to come in.” That day Colleen was born again.
Submitted by Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois

Pay attention when the Spirit is prompting you.

:27 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.

searchesereunao – to search, examine into; from ereo – speak, say – the idea of searching by asking questions

There’s a lot of “he” words in this verse. Circle them and identify them to keep it all straight.

God the Father is the one who searches hearts.

(Prov 17:3 NKJV) The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts.
Sometimes He searches our hearts by probing us with questions.

:27 knows what the mind of the Spirit is,

knowseido – to see; to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive; to see with the mind’s eye, signifies a clear and purely mental perception

mindphronema – what one has in the mind, the thoughts and purposes

The Father understands what’s on the Spirit’s mind.

:27 because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

makes intercessionentugchano – to light upon a person or a thing, fall in with, hit upon, a person or a thing; to go to or meet a person, esp. for the purpose of conversation, consultation, or supplication; to pray, entreat; make intercession for any one

Similar to “makes intercession”, but less intense.

The Spirit is the one who is praying for us.

according to the will of Godliterally, “according to God”. The Holy Spirit knows how to pray according to God’s will because He is God. He knows how to do prayer “according to God”.

saintshagios – “holy ones”, that’s you and I

In other words, the Spirit helps our weakness of not knowing how to pray. He helps us by actually praying for us, and even though the Spirit may pray with words that we don’t understand, God the Father understands perfectly what the Spirit is praying, and the Spirit ALWAYS prays the right things.


The answer to my groans is the Spirit’s groans

Paul wrote to the Philippians:
 (Phil 4:6-7 NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

If we will respond to our anxieties, our “groanings” with prayer, we will find the peace of God in our hearts.

I spent some time looking for the story about John Paton and came across an amazing short biography of this missionary on the internet. His father was a man of prayer. He learned to be a man of prayer. He was a missionary from Scotland, lived 1824-1907, and lived an amazing life of faith as he reached out to a pagan, wicked, cannibalistic people. Here’s one story about him:

John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present—but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.

Your situation may not be as intense or dire as John Paton’s was at times, at least not to other people, but the principle still holds.

We need to develop a new “reflex”.  When we see problems, when we experience “anxiety”, we need to respond with prayer.

Listen to the Holy Spirit.

Pray as He leads.