“It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1)
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words..” (Romans 8:26)
There is so much to learn about prayer. The disciples watched how wonderfully, beautifully, and consistently Jesus prayed. They saw it and wanted it for themselves. I can tell you that there is nothing more valuable in your life as a believer than your prayer life in intimacy with the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Growing in prayer involves a mighty struggle against our “flesh” – the fallen nature. Romans 8:24 reveals that there is an innate “weakness” in us. The Greek word is “astheneia” – which points to a general sort of impotence – an inability that is deeply set, built-in, a part of us. That’s the bad news. But there is good news too.
The noun, weakness, according to Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, a recognized authority on the Greek New Testament, occurs only seven times in the gospels. One particular appearance is in Matthew 8:17 , which is a quotation from Isaiah 53:4. That verse mentions that Jesus, on the cross, took our weaknesses or infirmities (astheneías).
Dr. Zodheites explains:
“(this) means that, in His manhood, (Jesus) took upon Himself the consequences of our sins without sinning Himself. He became mortal so that He could die for us. That is the first meaning. There is, however, a second word in Matthew 8:17, nósous, the sicknesses themselves, which must be considered. Here asthéneia may be said to be the result of illness since it indeed deprives us of the strength that we would enjoy if it were not for sickness. The Lord on the cross took upon himself not only the consequences of sickness (astheneías), but sicknesses (nósous) themselves, both being basically the result of man's disobedience.”
This is good news! Jesus dies on the Cross to heal us from this general illness of sin – which includes, among many things the specific illness the inability and lack of desire to connect with God in prayer. But the story doesn’t end there, there is more good stuff. Romans reveals that the Holy Spirit continues to apply the work of the Son on the Cross by “helping us in our weakness!”
To understand the Spirit’s work in restoration, imagine a subject who is banned from the presence of a great king due to a shameful dishonor against the King’s person and authority. Then imagine that the King’s own Son would decide, of his own volition, to pay a vast fortune on behalf of the expelled subject. The penalty is paid, the legal document is sealed and the subject now is cleared judicially to enter the courts of the King once more. This is great, but the subject is still not fully restored. Imagine now a third member of the royal family, moved to great compassion and love by the merciful action of the King's son, goes out to personally find the subject - and, upon meeting him, embraces him gladly, tells him the good news, and begins to encourage him, gradually convincing the disgraced subject that he is no longer “persona non grata" - that instead, he is very welcome in the courts of the King! This Third Person, then coaches the subject in the language of the court - how to speak to the King, dresses him in fine clothing worthy of the King's presence, and finally reintroduces the subject to the court by accompanying him to the very presence of the King.
This simple story explains something of the present work of the Holy Spirit – how he “helps” us in our weakness.
In the coming days, I’ll share with you my own personal prayer journey. I'll share some practical ways that the Holy Spirit has been helping me. I'll be sharing some personal and private things from my prayer journal.
Let’s grow together in prayer. Today, ask Jesus to teach you to pray, keep on asking, and wait as the Holy Spirit comes to help you. It really works.