We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
When my baby brother underwent surgery, I was concerned. My mother explained that “tongue-tie” (ankyloglossia) was a condition he was born with and that without help, his ability to eat and eventually to speak would be hindered. Today we use the term tongue-tied to describe being at a loss for words or too shy to speak.
Sometimes we can be tongue-tied in prayer, not knowing what to say. Our tongues tie up in spiritual clichés and repetitive phrases. We arrow our emotions heavenward, wondering if they will reach God’s ears. Our thoughts zigzag along an unfocused path.
Writing to first-century Roman believers in Christ, the apostle Paul addressed what to do when we struggle to know how to pray, inviting us to find help from the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). The concept of “help” here is to carry a heavy load. And “wordless groans” indicates an interceding presence as the Spirit carries our needs to God.
When we’re tongue-tied in prayer, God’s Spirit helps shape our confusion, pain, and distraction into the perfect prayer that moves from our hearts to God’s ears. He listens and answers, bringing the exact kind of comfort we may not have known we needed until we asked Him to pray for us.
When have you not known what or how to pray? How did God help you through that situation?
Dear God, thank You for Your Spirit’s help when I don’t know how to pray.
Learn more about prayer.
Romans 8 is significant in understanding the role of the Spirit of God in the lives of believers in Jesus. The chapter’s emphasis on the Spirit’s ministry includes His role as liberating us from sin and death and empowering us to please God (vv. 2–8). His powerful indwelling presence (vv. 9–11) helps us in overcoming our fallen human nature (vv. 12–13). He’s the One whose ministry brings us into the family of God and who bears witness to our status as His children (vv. 14–17). The Spirit’s assistance in prayer comes into focus in verses 26–27. But not only do believers in Jesus have the Spirit’s help in prayer, Christ also intercedes for us: “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (v. 34).