Years ago, I was invited to a gathering of pastors in a remote village in Mozambique, Africa. About half of the attendees spoke Portuguese; the other half spoke Swahili. I counted it a privilege to meet these brothers in Christ. But when they asked me to teach, I explained it wasn’t possible. I didn’t know their language. We were happy when God provided two translators who could repeat what I said in Portuguese and Swahili. The only word we all had in common was “Hallelujah!” Without those skilled linguists, I wouldn’t have been able to effectively communicate. I needed them to interpret for me.
That’s how it feels with prayer sometimes. We don’t know how to communicate what is on our hearts to God. At times, it can feel like an effort to pray or we struggle for the right words. We may repeat a prayer we memorized as children, failing to fully express what is on our heart. The good news is that God has given us our own translator. The apostle Paul, in Romans 8, explains that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (v. 26). Even when you fumble or mumble, the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, I’ve got this.” Paul says that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (vv. 26–27).
Paul says the Spirit intercedes for us with “wordless groans” (v. 26). Groaning is filled with emotion and meaning. It reflects our brokenness. We long to be whole and full, and we groan to see that happen. The groaning of the Holy Spirit on our behalf may be wordless but it is deep with meaning. The Holy Spirit knows you better than you know yourself. And even more important, the Spirit knows the mind of God.
When you pray with the Spirit, you are sensitive to God’s leading. You pray in a powerful way in line with the Word of God. Paul says when we pray with the intercession of the Spirit, we can “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (v. 28). The Spirit will ask God the Father for things you don’t even know you should ask for yourself.