And 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. (Romans 8:26)
Here Paul reveals the immeasurably comforting truth that the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and all creation in groaning for God’s ultimate day of restoration and His eternal reign of righteousness.
Because of our remaining humanness and susceptibility to sin and doubt, the Holy Spirit also helps us in our weakness. In this context, weakness doubtless refers to our human condition in general, not to specific weaknesses. The point is that, even after salvation, we are characterized by spiritual weakness. Acting morally, speaking the truth, witnessing for the Lord, or doing any other good thing happens only by the power of the Spirit working in and through us despite our human limitations.
The Spirit supplies us with all we need to be faithful, effective, and protected children of God. In the following chapter he admonishes, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). The Spirit of God works unrelentingly in us to do what we could never do alone-bring about the perfect will of God.
To make clear how the Spirit works, Paul turns to the subject of prayer. Although we are redeemed and absolutely secure in our adoption as God’s children, nevertheless we do not know how to pray as we should. Paul does not elaborate on our inability to pray as we ought, but his statement is all-encompassing. Because of our imperfect perspectives, finite minds, human frailties, and spiritual limitations, we are not able to pray in absolute consistency with God’s will. Many times we are not even aware that spiritual needs exist, much less know how best they should be met. Even the Christian who prays sincerely, faithfully, and regularly cannot possibly know God’s purposes concerning all of his own needs or the needs of others for whom he prays.
Even when we do not know what God wants, the indwelling Spirit Himself intercedes for us, bringing our needs before God even when we do not know what they are or when we pray about them unwisely.
Paul emphasizes that our help is from the Spirit Himself. His divine help not only is personal but direct. The Spirit does not simply provide our security but is Himself our security. The Spirit intercedes on our behalf in a way, Paul says, that is totally beyond human comprehension, with groanings too deep for words. The Holy Spirit unites with us in our desire to be freed from our corrupted earthly bodies and to be with God forever in our glorified heavenly bodies.