Things looked bleak for
the children of George Muller's orphanage at Ashley
Downs in England. It was time for breakfast, and
there was no food. A small girl whose father was a
close friend of Muller was visiting in the home.
Muller took her hand and said, "Come and see what
our Father will do." In the dining room, long tables
were set with empty plates and empty mugs. Not only
was there no food in the kitchen, but there was no
money in the children home's account.
Muller prayed, "Dear
Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to
give us to eat." Immediately, they heard a knock at
the door. When they opened it, there stood the local
baker. "Mr. Muller," he said, "I couldn't sleep last
night. Somehow I felt you had no bread for
breakfast, so I got up at 2 o'clock and baked fresh
bread. Here it is." Muller thanked him and gave
praise to God.
Soon, a second knock was
heard. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down
in front of the orphanage. He said he would like to
give the children the milk so he could empty the
cart and repair it.
God answers prayer. He
wants us involved in His eternal purpose. As a
loving, Father He wants us to come to Him and ask in
faith. The Spirit–filled Christian is a praying
Christian who walks by faith trusting His heavenly
Father to provide daily.
The life of the Christian
is a daily Spirit–controlled life. It is not a life
designed just for the weekend, just for Sunday, or
just for the church. It is a life designed for the
home, the school, the place of employment, the
office, the kitchen––wherever you are. It is there
that God expects us to live a Spirit–filled life.
The Spirit–filled life is not a religious cop out.
It is designed to meet the need of every moment of
your week, and to be your source of strength and
power right through all the difficulties of each
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
The Apostle Paul wrote in
Romans 8:26–27 words of encouragement for trouble
filled days. He said: "In the same way the Spirit
also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to
pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes
for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who
searches the hearts knows what the mind of the
Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints
according to the will of God."
God wants us to
One of the great
mysteries of life is prayer. God the Father takes
joy in answering prayer. It is our responsibility to
go to Him and enter into fellowship with Him. Prayer
is more than just asking God for things. It is an
attitude, a way of life. It involves formal prayers
as when we come before Him in corporeal worship. It
is also when we come before Him silently in the
classroom, a business adventure, or in a public
setting. In Ephesians 6:18, the apostle Paul asked
the church at Ephesus to pray for him in his
ministry, "With all prayer and petition pray at all
times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on
the alert with all perseverance and petition for all
There are other times
when life is just simply too big, and too complex,
and we do not know what to ask for. In such times,
we know neither what to pray for, nor how to present
our petitions, as we ought. This is when the Holy
Spirit intercedes on our behalf. He graciously
shares with us the bearing of this burden.
He gives wisdom to all
who come and ask Him. "But if any of you lacks
wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all
generously and without reproach, and it will be
given to him. But he must ask in faith without any
doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of
the sea, driven and tossed by the wind" (James
Jesus is our
perfect example of praying in the Spirit.
He was the perfect
Spirit–filled man. Luke, the Greek Physician, gives
a good summary of the Holy Spirit's ministry in
Jesus was also baptized,
and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the
Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a
dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are My
beloved Son, in You I am well–pleased . . . . Jesus
full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan
and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness .
. . . And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of
the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all
the surrounding district. And He began teaching in
their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came
to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as
was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the
Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the
prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the
book and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord
is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to
preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to
proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to
To set free those who are
To proclaim the favorable
year of the Lord" (Luke 3:21–22; 4:1, 14–18).
Why did Jesus pray? He
prayed to maintain the intimate love relationship
with the Father. Jesus experienced unbroken sweet
communion between He and His Father. Throughout the
four Gospels, we find Jesus abiding in the presence
of the Father. He sought to do the will of the
Where did Jesus pray? He
prayed everywhere: with His disciples, in small
groups with Peter, James and John. He prayed alone
in the mountains, He prayed on a picnic with His
disciples by the lakeside, etc.
Jesus prayed without
ceasing. It was His custom to pray. He prayed before
making important decisions as when He called the
twelve. He asked for the Father's guidance. He spent
the entire night paying for the Father's will.
What did He pray for? He
prayed for Himself. He prayed for the disciples to
know spiritual truths, "Flesh and blood has not
revealed this unto you, but My Father who is in
heaven." He prayed for Peter when he said, "I have
prayed for you that your faith will not fail." In
warning Peter the very night of His denial Jesus
said, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded
permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed
for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when
once you have turned again, strengthen your
brothers" (Luke 22:31–32).
He encouraged them to
pray and not to become weighed down by the worries
of life. "But keep on the alert at all times,
praying that you may have strength to escape all
these things that are about to take place, and to
stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).
Not only did Jesus pray
with a deep burden and sense of urgency for His
disciples, but He also prayed for strength for
Himself. Have you ever listened to the groanings of
Jesus as He prayed?
And He came out and
proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives;
and the disciples also followed Him. When He arrived
at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you may
not enter into temptation." And He withdrew from
them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and
began to pray, saying, "Father, if You are willing,
remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours
be done." Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him,
strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying
very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of
blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose
from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them
sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, "Why are you
sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter
into temptation. (Luke 22: 39–46).
While Jesus is yet
speaking, the mob came to arrest Him.
It is interesting as we
consider Jesus as our best example of the
Spirit–controlled man praying in the Spirit that
there is no record of His ever praying in "tongues."
People ask is this
groaning in the Spirit praying in tongues. There
seems little reason to embrace such a view. All of
creation is sighing and groaning. They are not
speaking in charismatic tongues. It is the prayer of
every Christian. The Holy Spirit makes intercession
even through our groanings.
Speaking in tongues or
praying emotionally ecstatic meaningless syllables
is not what Paul is talking about in Romans 8:26.
These are not ecstatic cries or tongues or any
special language that is mentioned here. Paul
specifically says that the praying of the Spirit is
too deep for words, or even utterance. It is
unuttered; it cannot be expressed. It is felt only
in the heart, and it never comes to the surface of
the lips. It never can be expressed. In other words,
these are those deep yearnings of the soul that all
of us feel at times for more of God for ourselves,
or for someone else. This is why we often call it "a
burden." It is a burden "too deep for words."
This word is found here
only in the New Testament. These groanings are
inexpressible, "unspoken," or "unutterable." They
are without words. Perhaps it is impossible to put
them into words.
Jesus prayed with this
same kind of intense burden for a lost world in the
Garden of Gethsemane. "Not my will, Thy will be
done." When we pray in the Spirit, we have that same
intense desire of the soul. We love for the will of
God to be done in our lives.
The Holy Spirit
does the same thing for us.
Where do you groan today?
Where do you feel the sting of sin, or the hurt of a
broken relationship? Where is the pain of an empty
chair at your supper table, or the crushing defeat
of loneliness? Is there the guilt of a conscience
that refuses to be quieted, or the disappointment of
unfaithfulness? What is the "groan" or "burden" or
"weakness" you face today?
Can you identify with
Paul in Second Corinthians 4:7–12? In part he says,
"we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that
the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God
and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every
way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;
persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed; always carrying about in the body the
dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may
be manifested in our body. For we who live are
constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’
sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be
manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in
us, but life in you."
Pounds paraphrase reads:
We possess this priceless treasure of the fragrance
of the Gospel in these old fragile clay pots in
order that the exceeding greatness of the power of
God may be manifest, as coming from God and not from
ourselves. We are hard pressed on every side with
troubles all around us, but we are not crushed, we
still have breathing room. We are perplexed and
bewildered, but not despairing. We are hunted down
by persecutors, but not forsaken by the Lord. We are
always getting knocked down, but never a knockout.
You say "Life isn't
fair." "That's not what I want out of my life."
We want to be glazed and
polished, painted, displayed and put on some safe
shelf. But that's not God's way of producing
God's way of producing
His fragrance is to take the pot off the shelf,
break it and pour out the fragrance.
A. W. Tozer said, "It is
doubtful God can bless any man greatly until He has
hurt him deeply." Or as Alan Redpath once said:
"When God wants to do an impossible task he takes an
impossible man and crushes him."
How is the pot? Where is
your weakness today? Do you feel squeezed in?
Sickness, disease, heartache, disappointment,
disaster, some crushing experience, tears, death,
shadow of death . . . (v. 11 is a commentary on v.
For Paul it meant,
"afflicted . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . .
struck down." That was the process God used to
release the fragrance in Paul's life. But please
keep in mind Paul was not alone in this process. God
was at work in Him. How did He do it?
In Romans 8:26, the
Apostle Paul writes, "the Spirit helps our
weakness." He was there with Paul in the
afflictions, perplexities, persecutions and
Helps means to lend a
hand together, at the same time with one, to help,
to come to the aid of someone. That is the word of
the Encourager, the Paraklete. A. T.
Robertson said, "Here beautifully Paul pictures the
Holy Spirit taking hold at our side at the very time
of our weakness . . . and before too late."
The beautiful thing is
His power is perfected in our weaknesses. When we
die, He lives. When we lose, He wins. When we are
weak, He is strong. When we are dependent, He is
powerful. This is what God was doing in Paul. He
does the same in us as we yield to Him. It is
walking and praying in the Spirit.
Paul reminds us we don't
know how to pray. Like Jesus' disciples we come to
the Lord asking Him to teach us to pray. Paying is
hard work. It is difficult for most of us. It takes
thought, concentration and commitment. Moreover, we
are not always good judges of that for which we
should be praying. We ask amiss. We ask for the
wrong things. I am afraid we often come to the
Father asking for things that displease Him. We pray
for things unprofitable for us in our walk with Him.
Paul prayed intensely on three occasions for the
thorn to be removed (2 Cor. 12:7–9). God did not
remove the thorn. He gave Paul grace to grow trough
the thorns in his life. In the process of suffering,
Paul grew in the likeness of Christ.
We do not know what is
best for us because we do not have God's overall
perspective of what He is doing, not only in our
lives, but also in the lives of those about us who
in one way or another are impacted by our lives.
There are always those who are silently watching us
and observing how we live the Christian life. They
are influenced by how we handle our weaknesses. Do
they see us as instruments of God's grace? From our
human perspective, we don't always see how God is
using our situations to impact others for His good.
Our perspective of our circumstances radically
changes when we get eternity into the picture.
Isn't it wonderful to
know that when we do not know how to pray or what to
do the Holy Spirit comes to our aid? He doesn't take
the entire load. That really wouldn't help us in the
maturation process. We still have our personal
responsibility. However, He helps us in working out
the problems and overcoming the difficulties.
intercedes for us.
The word for "intercedes"
is found only here in the New Testament. It means,
"meet, to turn to, approach, appeal, petition." The
word "intercession" "is a picturesque word of rescue
by one who "happens on" one who is in trouble and
"in his behalf" pleads "with unuttered groanings" or
with "sighs that baffle words." This is work of our
Helper, the Holy Spirit Himself (Robertson).
The Spirit makes
intercession for us from within us. Paul says, "the
Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too
deep for words." Henry Alford wrote, "The Holy
Spirit of God dwells in us, knowing our wants better
than we, Himself pleads in our prayers, raising us
to higher and holier desires than we can express in
words, which can only find utterance in sighings and
God receives these
inarticulate groanings as acceptable prayers since
they come from a soul full of, or under the control
of the Spirit of God. God knows what is the mind of
the Spirit. He understands the intent or bent of our
unutterable prayers. He knows the mind of the Holy
Spirit who is always praying for us according to
God's plan for our lives.
Are these groanings those
of the believer or the Holy Spirit? Phillips
translates, "The Spirit within us is actually
praying for us in those agonizing longings which
never find words." NEB reads, "through our
The Spirit produces these
groanings within the believer. He knows our hearts
better than we do. Paul is not describing what
happens to the non-believer. Paul is speaking of an
activity of the Spirit, not the human spirit. The
groans are uttered by the believer. The Spirit is
not said to groan, but to intercede "with" or "in"
groans. When we cannot find words in which to
express our prayer and we can do no better than make
inarticulate sounds, the Spirit takes those sounds
and makes them into effective intercession on our
behalf. The unbeliever does not groan over his
weakness in prayer. The child of God does, however.
I think this inarticulate groaning is the work of
the Spirit in the believer.
God the Spirit knows the
mind of the Father and what the Holy Spirit is doing
in our hearts. The Father listens to the
intercession of the Spirit on our behalf and answers
them according to His will. These "unutterable
groanings" of the heart are the intercessions of the
Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples, "I will ask
the Father, and He will give you another Helper,
that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit
of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it
does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him
because He abides with you and will be in you" (John
The Spirit intercedes for
the saints according to the will of God. We have
someone praying for us all the time. Christ searches
(Rev. 1:23) and the Holy Spirit searches (1 Cor.
2:10). Christ prays for us in heaven (8:34; Hebrews
7:25–26; 9:24; 1 John 2:1), and the Holy Spirit
intercedes for us here on the earth. What a caring
God we serve!
Have you ever sensed a
burden in your life for prayer for your own needs or
someone else's needs? It is dissatisfaction with the
present experience of your life, and a discontent
with the shallowness of your present Christian
experience, and a hungering after richer fellowship
with God which are born of the Spirit within. It is
the evidence that, deep within the heart, is a
spirit that cries out for more of God.
I had the opportunity and
privilege of serving with Missionary Radio Station
HCJB, Quito, Ecuador three summers while I was a
college student. One of the individuals I had the
joy of knowing was a young medical doctor at
Hospital Vozandes during the summer of 1965. A group
of us got together several times each week and sang
around the piano, went out to eat, pray, share our
testimonies, etc. One of those was this doctor
friend. At that time, he was not a believer, even
though he was very sympathetic to evangelicals. I
never saw a person come so deeply under conviction
of sin and enjoy it as he did week after week.
A group of us went to the
Santiago Garaballa evangelistic crusade in the
sports plaza. We listened intensely to the simple
message of salvation through Jesus Christ. My friend
came deeply under conviction with weeping. I urged
him to believe on Christ and receive eternal life.
He shook his head and said, "No, he couldn't."
A few weeks later I
returned to my studies at William Carey University.
One afternoon that Fall I said to my close friend,
Ann (who later became my wife), "Let's go to the
prayer room. I have a deep burden to stop and pray
for a friend in Ecuador." We knelt and prayed for
some time with an intense burden for his salvation.
When we finished praying the burden went away and I
have never felt it in such a way since.
I returned the following
June to work at the radio station. When I walked
into the Hospital Vozandes, I was greeted by the
receptionist. She said my friend was anxious to see
me. He began to share how he responded last summer
and related how difficult was for a professional in
Latin America to make a public decision for Christ
and identify themselves with evangelicals. (Things
have changed in the last 50 years). Then he shared
how one evening in the Fall that previous year a
missionary presented the Good News in Jesus Christ
and he believed on Christ as his personal Savior.
One the very evening Ann
and I were praying she was sharing Christ with him!
There is also the cry of
the Spirit within for something more, something
deeper, something more precious, something more
satisfying than our present experiences. This is
always according to the will of God. In other words,
the job of the Spirit of God in our life is to keep
us pressing on, so that we don't settle down and
become satisfied with our sanctification. The
Father's goal as the following verses reminds us is
to "conform us to the image of his Son."
What happens? Well, you
see the results of such praying, in this next
section in the Providence of God.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
God answers the silent
yearnings of the Spirit within you.
It is God's way of
meeting the cry of the Spirit within to lead us into
a deeper and a more wonderful experience of God's
grace, and God's glory, and God's person. It is not
some things that happen to you, but everything that
happens to you, whatever it may be!
This includes those
wonderful delightful surprises that God brings our
way from day to day. He answers so many of our
prayers before we verbalize them.
However, it also includes
those heartbreaking and painful experiences where
life just seems to collapse around you and fall
apart at the seams. Now, these experiences are sent;
they don't just happen. This is the testimony of
Scripture to the believer. These things are sent ––
everything, without exception –– they don't just
happen. They are working together for good to
accomplish the deep yearning of the heart, awakened
by the Spirit within, for more of the grace and
glory and person of God. We'll say more about this
in the next passage in Romans.
You may have asked God to
heal you only to discover He had a greater purpose
in your illness. God is teaching us to trust him
with everything, from now to eternity.
He is working out the
situation not to supply our wants but our need of
spiritual growth. Those spiritual needs find
expression in the deep unuttered longings of our
hearts. They express those restless dissatisfactions
that show we cannot be satisfied with what we are
presently going through, but cry out for something
more, something greater, something yet to satisfy
the thirst of our soul for God.
We will examine the five
steps God takes in His beautiful program for us in
our next message. "Those whom he foreknew, he also
predestined." Don't be afraid of this beautiful word
"predestined." It means that God thought it out in
advance, just like we plan our youth and recreation
building before we build it. So God planned what He
is going to do –– He predestined.
The five steps God takes
stretches from eternity to eternity. Yet, this is
what brings us to faith. I want to make clear that
in this passage the Apostle Paul is not touching the
question of why some people believe and some do not.
That is His choice in election, which Paul clearly
addresses in Romans chapter nine. In our present
passage Paul is not facing the mystery of election.
He is simply describing how God has worked in the
lives of those who believe, what has already
happened when, as Christians, we look back to see
how God brought us to this place today. There are
five steps: He foreknew, He predestined, He called,
He justified and He glorified. God did not overlook
God's goal is that
we be like Jesus (8:29).
Though we all share the
character of Jesus Christ, God is not stamping out
little robots repeatedly. There is an infinite
variety of expressions of the beauty of the
character of the Lord Jesus Christ. The plan began
in eternity past and doesn't end until eternity in
the future. As we grow in Christ there are some
characteristics of Christ that will come clearly
into focus. They are "love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
Do I write to someone to
day who needs a word of encouragement and a simple
reminder that He does answer our prayers, even in
ways we do not comprehend or understand? Our
heavenly Father has demonstrated His love for us
once and for all at Calvary. We should never ever
question it again. Now if He has already made the
greatest sacrifice for us even when we were His
enemies will He not do everything He needs to do to
accomplish His eternal purpose in our lives now that
we know Him personally? He listens to our groanings
and helps us in our weakness. You are not alone in
8:26-30 Praying in the Spirit
Exchanged Life in Romans