THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN STRENGTHENING MEN FOR SUFFERING OR DUTY
Rom_8:26. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for its with groanings which cannot be uttered.
A HOPE of eternal happiness is as an anchor to the troubled soul; it enables a person to bear up under the heaviest afflictions; but the mind of a believer would soon faint, if it were not strengthened from above. God therefore communicates his Spirit to his people under their trials. By his Spirit he enables them to go forward in the way of duty. St. Paul has been speaking of sufferings as the Christian’s portion here [Note: ver. 17, 18.]. He has mentioned “hope” as a principal support to the soul under them [Note: ver. 24.]. He now specifies the Holy Spirit’s agency as another mean of confirming and establishing the soul.
This agency of the Spirit we may consider,
In seasons of suffering—
Men are, in themselves, too weak to sustain many or severe trials—
[There is much impatience in the heart of every man. It too often discovers itself even in those who are, on the whole, pious. Sometimes it is called forth by small and trifling occasions. How passionately did Jonah resent the loss of his gourd [Note: Jon_4:8-9.]! How bitterly would the Disciples have revenged an act of unkindness [Note: Luk_9:54.]! There is no trial so small but it would overcome us, if we were left to ourselves; and they who have endured heavy trials, often faint under small ones.]
But God sends his Spirit to help the infirmities of his people—
[We cannot exactly discriminate between the Spirit’s agency and theirs. Indeed the Spirit acts in and by their endeavours
[Note: This is implied in the term ó
—”Metaphora ab oneribus sumpta, qu
, utrinque admotis manibus, sublevantur.” Beza in Luk_10:40. Feeble therefore as our strength is, we must exert it: and if we cheerfully put our hands to the work, the Holy Spirit will always afford us effectual succour.]. He leads them to see the source and tendency of their trials. He strengthens the natural vigour of their minds. He suggests to them many consolatory thoughts. Thus he fulfils to them that gracious declaration [Note: Psa_147:3.]—]
These operations of the Spirit are yet more manifest,
In seasons of prayer—
God’s people “know not even what to pray for”—
[A great variety of passions may agitate their minds. When this is the case, their petitions may be unbecoming and sinful. Even a sense of guilt will often stop the mouth before God [Note: Compare Psa_32:3; Psa_32:5.]. Sometimes also trouble itself will utterly overwhelm the soul, and incapacitate it for prayer [Note: Psa_77:4.]. Our Lord himself seems to have experienced such a perturbation of mind [Note: Joh_12:27.]; nor are there any praying persons who have not often found themselves straitened in the exercise of prayer.]
It yet oftener happens that they know not how to pray “as they ought”—
[We may easily utter good and suitable words before God; but it is by no means easy to pray with fervent importunity. An insurmountable languor or obduracy will sometimes come upon the soul. Nor though we were ever so fervent can we always exercise faith. Many have felt the same workings of mind with David [Note: Psa_77:7-10.]— At such seasons they cannot pray as they ought.]
But the Holy Spirit will “make intercession for them”—
[Christ is properly our Advocate and Intercessor [Note: 1Jn_2:1.]: but the Spirit also may be said to “intercede for us.” The Spirit intercedes in us at the throne of grace, while Christ intercedes for us at the throne of glory. He sometimes enables us to pour out our hearts with fluency. This he does by discovering to us our wants, quickening our affections, and testifying to us God’s willingness to answer prayer. He does not, however, always operate in this way.]
He will make intercession “with unutterable groans”—
[The joy of Christians is represented as being sometimes inexpressible [Note: 1Pe_1:8.]: but frequently a sense of sin overwhelms them. Then sighs and groans are the natural language of their hearts. Nor are such inarticulate prayers unacceptable to God. We have a remarkable instance of their success in the history of our Lord [Note: Joh_11:33; Joh_11:38; Joh_11:41.]— Perhaps no prayers are more pleasing to God than these [Note: Psa_51:17.].]
How many are there who live all their days without prayer!
[Those in whom the Spirit intercedes are often made to feel their inability to pray aright. Under a sense of their infirmities they are constrained to cry to God for the help of his Spirit: but many pass all their days without any painful sense of their weakness. They satisfy themselves with a formal performance of their duties. Such persons never pray in an acceptable manner [Note: Joh_4:23.]. Real prayer implies fervour and importunity [Note: Isa_64:7.]; and it is in vain to think that we have the spirit of grace, if we have not also the spirit of supplication [Note: Zec_12:10.]. May WE therefore never be found of the number of those, whom the prophet and our blessed Lord have, on account of their formality in prayer, condemned as hypocrites [Note: Mat_15:7-8.]—]
What comfort may this passage afford to praying people!
[Many are discouraged by the difficulties which they experience in the duty of prayer. If they feel not an enlargement of heart, they doubt whether their prayer will be accepted. But God will notice the groaning of his people [Note: Psa_38:8-9.]. Such inward desires may often be more pleasing to him than the most fluent petitions: they are, in fact, the voice of God’s Spirit within us. Let not any then be dejected on account of occasional deadness. Let every one rather follow the advice of the prophet [Note: Hab_2:3.]— God, in due time, will assuredly fulfil his promise [Note: Psa_81:10.]—]