In January of 2007, Joshua Bell a world-renown violinist performed a 43-minute piece Bach on his Stradivarius. Standing at a subway entrance he was ignored by every passer-by, some of those who passed him by would later pay a great deal of money to hear him play the next night in a concert hall. This raises an obvious question, Why were they willing to pay so much to hear him play in concert and not hear him for free at the entrance of a subway? The answer is they would have if they knew it was him, but no person was expecting to hear a world-renown violinist at the entrance to the subway.
This little experiment conducted by the Washington Post allowed people to see what they missed but only when it was pointed out to them. God came to his own people and they did not receive Him because no one expected Him to eat with sinners and tax collectors. It is not that God was seeking to surprise His people, it is rather the case that they only saw God in a specific context and outside of that context they failed to recognise Him.
When only God knows why
Christians like answers and sometimes those answers will evade us, not because there isn’t an answer but rather because only God knows why. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings the word of God to bear on our life and as a result, the Christian is empowered to live following Christ. The aim here is to address how God the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, specifically addressing the reality of burdens.” likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning to deep for words” (Rom 8:26). This phrase “too deep for words” will be the subject that I will seek to explain.
We have one intercessor in Heaven – Jesus, whose prayers always include His accomplishments at Calvary. That every time we sin and the accuser of believers mentions our guilt to God. Jesus intercedes for us and the content of His prayer is that his life, death and resurrection has made the guilty, innocent. Here in Romans 8 we see the other intercessor, God the Holy Spirit and He is placed in our hearts. The Spirit intercedes on behalf of all who love God and God works all things together for those who love Him. Here we learn that two things being addressed, we have on the one hand our condition, we are weak. On God’s side, we see His provision –Himself, God the Holy Spirit living in us.
Now since whatever we are dealing with in life, we are always dealing with God, even our interest in what God is teaching us comes into focus and this draws our attention to the lengths God goes to, to get us to pray. Throughout the bible, we have teachings on prayer, examples of prayer, exhortations to pray and when people need to be told something more than once it highlights our weakness to maintain a life of prayer.
The verse and subject of our study is teaching us that even the Spirit prays where words are not found to explain what needs to be said. The intercession of the Holy Spirit draws our attention to a reality which is too deep for words. Questions that begin with “why” are not asked rather they are replaced with groaning too deep for words. This is not to suggest that God the Holy Spirit is unaware of the reasons, but rather like Jesus at the death of Lazarus, the Spirit enters into our burdens and intercedes on our behalf.
When you pray
We are told in the first part of verse 26 that the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness and in the next part we learn what our weakness is, “for we do not know what to pray for as we ought…”. What do you pray, when you don’t know what to pray? Since we will not always what the will of God is in every situation, we will not know what to pray for in every situation. We know God wants us to be moral, serve, love, we know He desires that we grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not that we don’t know what to pray for at all but there will be many things we don’t know, and therefore we don’t pray about them, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be taken to God in prayer and the Spirit does just that, He intercedes at a different level because He understands.
Since “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words.” The spirit of God intercedes in a way that is not confusing to God the Father. As verse 27 says “and He who searches hearts (Jer 17:10 teaches us that God is the one who searches hearts) knows (God Knows) what is the mind of the Spirit”. Therefore there seems to be a communication between God the Spirit and God the Father that we may or may not be aware of and there are two reasons why this may be the case.
The first is because of something Jesus taught, when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11) He did so by giving them words. This is the normal and expected form of prayer for believers. This is what Jesus instructs us to do, use words, words that we can understand. Secondly, the believing life has so much more to do with faith than feelings, since without faith it’s impossible to please God. In other words, we do not need to feel that the Holy Spirit is at work in order for us to know, understand and benefit from His ministry.
Normally we pay very little attention to what we don’t know, we may pay no attention at all, however, those things which we know nothing about can still affect us and this is one reason for why the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Exodus 13v17 is a wonderful example, God acts on behalf of his people, making a decision that they at the time knew nothing about, would not have felt, but which if it happened would have had enormous influence over them. The verse is speaking about when God did not lead His people the way of the Philistines lest they see war and return to Egypt.
The Spirit can operate this ministry of intercession in a way that we may not recognise because it’ not in the context we are expecting. There may be times when we have recognised in ourselves the groan of heartfelt expression, knowing what it means but not having the words to explain. The point here remains, however, whether we are aware of this ministry of the Spirit in terms of feeling it or not, is not so important, as the fact that we are always being benefited by His intercession.
Arriving at conclusions
We must never draw the conclusion that understanding makes everything easier to deal with. The word of God is clear, there are those things which belong to us which are revealed and then there are those things when only God knows why. There is a difference between not being able to explain something and not knowing. What we learn through reading the word of God, is that explanations can be given but who are we to ask the questions in the first place (Read Job and especially take note of the concluding chapters).
Historically speaking, God’s people have missed what God was doing because they didn’t expect God to come and do the things He did. There is a lesson here, in that those who see God only within a specific context, miss seeing God in other contexts. In other words, God is actively involved in His creation and that has always been the case and has worked in ways that His people have never understood because of those things which the people of God know nothing about. God is not keeping His people in the dark, rather as we see from the passage in Exodus, He does so as a means of grace towards His people, given their weaknesses. To put this another way, there are many times when only God knows why.