When You Don’t Know How to Pray: A Sermon on Romans 8
When You Don’t Know How to Pray
† In Jesus Name †
May you find great peace in knowing the grace and compassion that God has for you seen in the work of the Holy Spirit who intercedes for you when we are weak!
St Patrick’s dream
When I utter those words, “the Lord is with you!” what do you see? How do you picture that? For a picture is worth all the words you can use.
While going through a period of turmoil and conflict, the great missionary pastor we call St Patrick wrote these words,
“And on another night, I know not, God knows, whether in me or near me, spoke in most eloquent language, which I heard and could not understand, except that at the end of the speech he address me this, “Who for thee laid down his life?” and so I awoke full of joy and again I saw on praying on me, and I was as it were within my body and I heard him over me, that is, over the inner man, and there he prayed fervently with groanings, and during this time I was full of astonishment and was wondering and considering who it could be that was praying in me but at the end of the prayer He declared it was The Spirit and so I awoke and remembered that the Apostle says, “The Spirit also helps us in our infirmities, for we know we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered” that is m expressed in words, and “the Lord our advocate makes intercession for us” (the confessions of St Patrick)
What an incredible vision! What an incredible picture, lying there, and seeing the Holy Spirit at our side, leaning over us begging the Father to work in our lives where we truly need it!
I wish that every single one of us could have such a vision as St Patrick, could know the peace and joy that comes from seeing the Holy Spirit so involved in our lives, in caring for our heart and soul. This is what I want us to see when we hear those incredible words, “the Lord is with you!
The Holy Spirit, actually and quite actively working in our lives, comforting us, healing our souls, bringing us to the Father to be blessed, and then becoming a blessing, which impacts our families, our friends, and everyone we encounter!
It’s a challenging vision, especially when we are struggling…struggling with our lives, and if so, often struggling to trust God as well.
The need for help
We aren’t alone in that struggle. While Paul reminds us that the struggle isn’t even in the same ballpark as to the glory of God we are invited to share in, he also reminds us that we aren’t alone.
Hear how he says it, “All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are, Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse, but with eager hope the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay!”
Even so, he goes on to say, “we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time, and we believers also groan”
I kinda want to give an “Amen” to that last part, the part about we also groan.
It has been a week of groaning and struggling, and I needed to know the Spirit was with us
I needed to know the Spirit’s prayer would be answered, bringing us into harmony with God’s will.
We need that kind of help, that kind of intercession in life. For along with all that God has created we struggle to the point of groaning in this life.
The struggle could be with our health or finances, with a relationship at work or in our family, the struggle could be dealing with someone in our family, or at our work, or even here at church. The struggle could because of the cumulative effect of the sin of the world, or because of someone who sinned against us, and the struggle always involves our own sin. Remember, this passage follows Paul;s words about not doing what he should, and doing what he shouldn’t, and therefore he is a wretch! He needed the Spirit to remind Him that Jesus died for Him, that God would restore Him.
But we groan, even as we wait for the day when death and decay lose all their power over us, when our bodies no longer struggle with sin when we no longer suffer.
The question then becomes how do we wait patiently and confidently until that day when the hope we see becomes fully ours?
We see it, it is more than hope, even so, we wait for it.
Paul talks of this in verse 24 when he says,
“We were given this hope when we were saved! If we already have something (see it as real) we don’t have to hope for it. But if we look forward (same word as have before ) to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”
We have been saved – that is guaranteed, though we don’t see it completely. The way I think of it is like ordering something. We pay for something, and it is ours from the moment the money changed hands. But while it is ours, it has to arrive for us to fully enjoy it.
It works that way with us, as Jesus death paid for our sins, as God “redeemed us” buying us from the debt of sin. Yet we are still “in transit” to the Father, being drawn there by Jesus, guided there by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the delivery person, and we are safe in His hands until we are delivered to the seen in revelation, where with people of every language, of every culture, of every period in history we surround the throne and sing His praises. For it is there in that room that we see God’s will revealed completely.
The people He loves gathered around Him, his people, us. We look forward to that incredible day!
Which brings us back to the vision of St Patrick.
This is how scripture describes one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in us, pleading with the Father, straining and pleading in a way that brings us into harmony with the will of God. In groans so deep, so meaningful that they are inaudible – there are just not the words.
Yet God understands and hears, and acts.
For we are His children, the ones He has invited into His glory, the ones He reveals His love to, the ones Christ died to release from sin and suffering, the one’s the Holy Spirit will sustain until we are all before the throne