Likewise the Spirit of God also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. — Romans 8:26
Has there ever been a time when you just didn’t know how to pray about some kind of challenge, or when you were in a predicament and you didn’t know how to get out of it? Maybe you’ve come before the Lord and prayed, “Father, I’m not even sure if I know what the desires of my heart are. Please help me pray.”
We all experience moments like these at one time or another. That’s why I want to share with you about the Holy Spirit’s responsibility toward us regarding prayer. We find a wealth of information about this in Romans 8:26.
Romans 8:26 begins, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….”
Pastor & Greek Expositor Rick Renner writes….that word “helps” is extremely important because it conveys the idea of real partnership and cooperation and paints the picture of two individuals working together to get the job done. The Greek word translated “helps” is actually a compound of three Greek words. The first word is sun, meaning to do something in conjunction with someone else. The second word is anti, which means against. The third word is lambano, which means to take or to receive. When these three words are joined, the new word, sunantilambano, means to take hold of something with someone else, gripping it together as tightly as possible, and throwing your combined weight against it to move it out of the way.
For instance, suppose you walk out of your front door one morning and discover that someone has placed a huge boulder in the middle of your driveway during the night. You walk over and push on that boulder to move it out of your way, but it’s too heavy and you can’t budge it. Then you try to move it from the other direction, but no matter how much you tug and pull, you can’t get the job done by yourself. So what do you do? You call a friend and ask him for help. He comes over, grabs hold of that boulder with you, and together the two of you press against it with all your strength until you have moved the boulder out of the way.
This Greek word sunantilambano, translated “helps,” powerfully conveys this same idea of partnership and cooperation to remove an obstacle. It tells us that the Holy Spirit literally becomes one with us in the task of removing every obstacle. In the midst of our weaknesses when we are inadequate to get the job done, the Holy Spirit says, “Let me grab hold of that hindrance with you, and you and I will push against it together until it is moved completely out of your way.”
In this way, prayer becomes a twofold partnership between you and the Holy Spirit. When that really becomes a revelation to your heart — when you realize that your prayers are not something you’re responsible for alone — it will forever change your prayer life.
Verse 26 goes on to say, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities….” It is the Greek word asthenia, which would better be translated “weaknesses.” It is used to describe people who are sickly or ailing in their bodies, minds, or emotions. Frequently it is also used to describe people who are spiritually weak.
Thus, we see that the Holy Spirit comes to help us because we are asthenia. We are simply too weak — physically, mentally, spiritually — and by ourselves we don’t have what it takes to get the job done. This is why we need our Partner to help us. We simply cannot pray like we need to by ourselves. So the Holy Spirit comes to assist us in prayer, throwing His weight against our weaknesses to remove them from our lives. The truth is, according to this verse, we cannot remove anything from our lives without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. And that is why He comes to bear this responsibility for us, assisting us in removing anything in our lives that is ailing — whether it is frailty in the body, a sickly mental state, or a weakness in our spiritual walk.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit is willing to become a Partner with me to remove those weaknesses when I’m not able to remove them by myself!
Romans 8:26 continues, “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” In other words, we just don’t have the “know-how” when it comes to prayer. We confront situations in which we simply don’t know how to accurately view or pray about a difficult situation or decision we’re facing.
This verse says we know not “what” we should pray. That word “what” is a Greek word ti, which depicts a very little thing. This tells us that we don’t know the fine points, the hidden problems, the intricate details of what is involved in the matter we’re praying about. Left to ourselves, we simply don’t have the ability to see the whole picture in a comprehensive view. We don’t have the know-how to deal with the smallest details and the entirety of possible challenges and problems that might arise regarding the situation.
Is there a specific way to pray about each instance that comes into your life that will remove every obstacle and foil the enemy’s strategies against you in that situation? The next phrase in verse 26 sheds some light on that question: “…For we know not what we should pray for as we ought….” That word “ought” comes from the Greek word dei, which means necessary. Thus, this phrase refers to something that must be a certain way. So this part of verse 26 could be translated, “…We do not know how to pray according to the need, as is necessary to pray, or as that need exactly demands.”
Some needs demand a different kind of prayer. And this verse here says that without the Holy Spirit’s cooperation in prayer, we don’t know how to pray as each need demands. But thank God, His Spirit comes to remove our weaknesses and to help us in our inadequacy to know what to pray!
How does the Holy Spirit actually help us? We know from the word “helps” that He partners with us in prayer, grabbing hold of the obstacle and pushing against it in conjunction with us to remove that satanic blockade. Now let’s look at the very end of verse 26 to learn more about how He helps bear the responsibility in prayer for us: “…But the Spirit itself [Himself ] makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
The word “intercession” is an interesting word. It’s the Greek word huperentugchano, which means to fall into with. It is the picture of a person who comes upon someone who has fallen into some kind of quandary. Upon discovering the trapped person’s dilemma, he swiftly swings into action to rescue and deliver the one who is in trouble. This word huperentugchano also carries the idea of coming together in experience or meeting with. Finally, it can mean to supplicate, which denotes a rescue operation in which one snatches and pulls a person out of imminent danger. So we could translate the phrase, “the Spirit itself makes intercession for us” this way: “The Spirit Himself falls into our situation with us”; “the Spirit Himself meets us in a common experience”; or “the Spirit Himself supplicates for us, rescuing us from our weaknesses.”
Here we gain more insight into the way the Holy Spirit comes to your aid. As you’re walking through life, things may seem to be going fine. But then the devil digs one of his holes in the path ahead of you that you don’t even know is there. You take a step, and before you know it, you fall headlong into the hole. Now you’re all scuffed up, covered with dirt and bruises, trapped at the bottom of a pit.
You can do one of two things at this point. You can feel sorry for yourself and stay at the bottom of that pit — or you can say, “Holy Spirit, this is where You come in. I don’t know how I got here, and I don’t know how to get out of here. I need Your help!”
So let’s say you choose the second option. What does the Holy Spirit do after He meets you in your common experience at the bottom of the hole? He begins to supplicate for you — to move on your behalf to rescue you. When you say, “Holy Spirit, I need You to help me,” He answers, “That’s what I’m here for. I am here to bear the responsibility of helping you in prayer.” And there at the bottom of that pit, the Holy Spirit takes hold together with you in prayer against the hindrances that are preventing your deliverance.
Have you ever prayed when you’re in the pits? Your zeal is not exactly at a high level at that point. You might feel discouraged and confused about why you fell into that hole in the first place. You’re bruised and dirty, and you may have spent most of your prayer time voicing your negative emotions about the whole situation to the Lord. But then the Holy Spirit meets you right where you are in the midst of your trouble and begins to help you in your weakness. He says, “I’m here with you. I’m going to grab hold of this problem together with you, and we’re going to press against it until it moves out of your life.”
All of a sudden, something rises up on the inside of you, and you sense a renewed strength to go after that problem in prayer. You throw back your shoulders, lift up your head, and pick up the spiritual weapons God has given you to win this battle and overcome the enemy’s strategies in your life!
What just happened to you? The Holy Spirit grabbed hold of your weaknesses and helped you push them out of the way! This is His responsibility. And He’ll keep pressing with you against that problem you’re facing until it is moved out of your life and you’re out of that pit for good!
Aren’t you thankful for this wonderful work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Whatever challenges you’re facing in these uncertain times, of this you can be certain: Right now He is making intercession on your behalf, and He’s not going to stop until every obstacle to your victory has been moved out of the way!
If you’ve been feeling like you’ve fallen into a pit and you don’t know how to climb out, just remember who’s down there with you, ready to help. Then begin to pray, knowing that the Spirit of God will make you strong where you are weak and help remove every obstacle that hinders your forward progress in Him.