All the suffering that Christians have to endure so that they may be glorified with Christ could easily make a person give up and say that there is no hope or to compromise and attempt to take the easy way out, both of which would prove his profession of faith as phony - “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).
To show that we are not alone in this suffering and groaning while waiting for what has been promised, Paul wrote of the reality that the creation groans and that Christians groan. So we are not alone in this suffering.
We are being encouraged to be the imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). We are to consider all the sufferings and afflictions that the men and women of faith endured and all that the Lord Himself endured so that we will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3). We are also to know and understand that there are others who are God’s children who are suffering in this world and yet they continue to trust Christ and they gladly endure reproach for Christ’s sake. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
And that brings us to our text where we find that not only does creation and other Christians groan and suffer but also the Comforter, the Holy Spirit joins us and helps us in this suffering (Romans 8:26-27).
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness” – is referring back to the groaning of creation and Christians both of which patiently endure, trusting that God who has promised to deliver us cannot fail. But here we see that the Spirit comes alongside us and helps our weakness. When we would give up in times of trouble the Spirit helps our weakness. He is a very present help in times of trouble – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). So in our weakness the Spirit is abundantly available to help and we know that when we are weak – then He is strong!
Through the Spirit who helps the true Christian’s weakness we are guaranteed that we will not stumble and we will not fall away – “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber…” (Psalm 121:1-3). We have this great assurance concerning the help of the Spirit in our weakness – “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words” – In our weakness, or you could say in our suffering we do not know how to pray as we should – but we are to pray and when we do the Spirit Himself will help us and intercede for us. It is written, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 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” (James 1:2-5). And we also read, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray” (James 5:13).
When we pray because of our suffering we do not know how to pray, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words. This is intercessory prayer by the Spirit who unites with us in our desire to be freed from our slavery to corruption into our adoption as sons – the redemption of the body. This is wonderful news because this means that the Spirit is communicating to the Father things beyond what we could ask or think – “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
“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 the Father is the one who searches the hearts of men. This gives us a clue to how the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints – those groanings that are too deep for words are placed by the Spirit in our hearts and when the Father searches our hearts He knows exactly what those groans mean because He knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Because the Spirit’s will and the Father’s will are identical and because God is one, the Spirit will never ask for something out of the will of the Father but will always do the Father’s will. This means then although we do not know how to pray, that the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us always intercedes in the will of the Father and therefore those prayers are always answered. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).
What the Holy Spirit does for us is the same as what the Lord Jesus did for Peter – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded (obtained) permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Because of the intercession of the Holy Spirit who is a very present help in time of trouble our feet will not slip and our faith will not fail – He will keep us and bring us safely home!