Saturday, April 19, 2008

Prayer: The Spirit's Intercessions

Presbyterian Magazine
February, 1854.
edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Philadelphia, C. Sherman, printer. pp95-96.
[mildly modernized - SML]

“The Spirit’s Intercessions”

“Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Rom. 8:26.

This passage contains a very important thought on prayer. We will inquire into the meaning of some of the words and phrases used here.

  1. Helps. “Heaves with us,” or lifts with us. This is the idea expressed by this word. For instance, I have a burden to raise, and while I am lifting at one end or side, a friend takes hold of the other, and we raise it together.
  2. Infirmities. This word embraces those weaknesses of our nature which are a hindrance to prayer—such as ignorance of the subjects and manner of prayer—lack of spiritual discernment and devotional fire. Left to himself, the most perfect Christian is dull, ignorant, weak, and altogether powerless in prayer. The universal prevalence of depravity is painfully felt in the infirmities which encompass the most devout through every period of life.
  3. Intercession. We must distinguish between intercession and mediation. Christ is the Mediator, and there is but one mediator. The Spirit is not a mediator. But he enters into the Christian’s heart, and prays in the Christian’s prayer. He excites, illuminates, and stirs up deep fountains of feeling and desire, but he does not mediate.
  4. "Groanings which cannot be uttered.” By this phrase we understand that the Spirit begets emotions and desires which cannot find expression in human language, and are only poured fourth into the ear of God.

The important thought in this passage is this: The Holy Spirit is an indispensable helper in acceptable and effectual prayer. He incites the spirit of prayer, awakens the slumbering energies of the soul, quickens the dormant graces, sharpens spiritual discernment, breaths fervour into zeal, ardor into love, strength into faith, and burdens the heart with petitions, some of which can find utterance only in the ear of God. The Spirit is an indispensable helper in prayer. His inward intercession makes prayer fervent and effectual—gives it power almost irresistible. Sinners tremble when they hear it, infidelity feels its force and turns pale. The mourner is carried by such prayer right into the presence of the bleeding Lamb.

He who is helped by the Spirit in prayer realizes that help. O how his heart is enlarged and drawn out for his fellow men in every direction; how numerous are the subjects of prayer—the world is on his heart—he rests, and yet he cannot rest; he is always praying. Prayer is his “vital breath,” his “native air.” Where the Spirit helps in prayer there must be revival. Nothing can withstand it. But the Spirit cannot help those who grieve him every day.—Religious Telescope.