God Helps Our Prayers
April 27, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part two in a multipart series about prayer. The elders of Oak Hills recently have been reading a book on prayer during their session meetings called Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in our Homes, Communities, and Churches, by Megan Hill. This little book explores the biblical foundations, fruits, and practices of praying together. The elders have found it to be very encouraging and challenging. I want to share some gleanings from Hill’s book while adding some of my own observations about prayer.
Megan Hill highlights early in her book that the three members of the Trinity are intimately involved in our prayers. “In prayer, we approach a loving, listening Father, and we are helped by the intercession of the Son and the groaning of the Spirit” (p. 22-23). Hill later concludes that this knowledge of Trinitarian participation in our prayers “frees us from trusting in our prayers themselves. Prayer is not a magic incantation, dependent on us getting our abracadabras pronounced correctly, asking for exactly the right thing in exactly the right way at exactly the right time. The God who is love is not bound by faulty prayers, nor does he ignore the imperfect prayers of his beloved children. Instead, the one-in-three in whom we trust lovingly takes all our prayers, cleanses them of sin, and reorients them to match his holy will” (p. 25).
Hill rightly draws attention to Paul’s teaching in Romans 8 when she highlights the Trinity’s involvement with our prayers. Consider these verses:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"… 26 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 groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God… 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:15, 26-27, 34)
In the midst of what some consider to be the greatest chapter in all the Bible, Paul gives us some powerful insights for prayer. Let these truths encourage your prayers:
1. God has Redeemed Us for Familial Relationship. Paul's teaching on adoption is vital to our understanding of our relationship with God. We are not slaves for God. We are not employees for God. We are children of God. Just as a little child has the right and privilege to call out to her daddy at any time, and can trust she will be heard by a loving father, so we also have the right and privilege of calling out to God as our “daddy” (modern equivalent to “Abba”).
2. The Spirit Helps Our Prayers. Romans 8:26-27 can seem mysterious to us. We don’t know how to pray as we ought? The Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words? Paul is acknowledging that, in this life, we are always marred by the effects of sin (see the previous verses about our “groanings” with creation). This impacts our prayer life. None of us can be perfect in our prayers. But our imperfections do not hinder our prayers before God because his Spirit is helping us in our weakness. Often unbeknownst to us, the Spirit intercedes with us and for us while we pray, and he prays perfectly, “according to the will of God.”
3. Christ has Opened our Access to the Father. In verse 34, Paul presents a rhetorical question: who is to condemn us before God? In the court of law it is the prosecuting attorney who presses the charges of condemnation. Before the judgment seat of God, the prosecuting attorney becomes our defense attorney, pleading our innocence. Christ intercedes for us based upon his effectual work to make us holy and blameless through his death and resurrection. Jesus has flung open the gates for us to enter into God’s presence through prayer. The writer of Hebrews says it like this, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
May God’s active participation with you in your prayers inspire and help you to pray all the more!