In 1918, Eric Enstrom took a photograph he called Grace, and the iconic print has hung in countless Christian homes and churches ever since. In this image, an elderly man with clasped hands bows his head in prayer over a simple meal of gruel and bread. As far as viewer can see, the man is completely alone.
We often think of prayer as a solitary activity done behind closed doors or, as in Grace, by ourselves at the table. But our text reminds us that even when we appear to be praying alone, we are actually joined by the triune God. The first participant in a believer’s prayers is the Father, who hears His child’s cries of “Abba!” The Father’s hearing is not passive; it is His active inclination to accept requests and respond by doing what is best. The loving Father has the power to accomplish all things for His children’s good.
Next, the Son brings the prayers to the Father as mediator and intercessor. We saw yesterday that Christ secures our right to pray. We see today that Christ also prays for His people (v. 34). Just as He prayed for Job in the midst of trials(Job 16:20–21), just as He prayed for Peter before Satan’s temptation (Luke 22:31–32), and just as He prayed for His disciples before they became His witnesses (John 17), Jesus prays for all believers, bringing their concerns to the listening Father.
Finally, the Spirit helps us when we pray by fixing our imperfect prayers and by praying for what is best. The Spirit is the divine prayer partner who “intercedes for us through wordless groans” (v. 26) when we don’t know how to pray. The Father hears, the Spirit helps, and the Son intercedes, making our prayers part of a glorious, heavenly conversation!