When You Don’t Know What to Pray

“The spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God will” (Romans 8:26-27)

My friend is overwhelmed with a deeply painful issue. Her heart is broken and when she tries to pray her mind is awhirl with thoughts going this way and that. It is like a hundred different voices all speaking at once in her head. She can’t shut them up long enough to get a word in edgewise.

But God is so gracious to my friend – this verse promises that the Holy Spirit is praying for her. The Greek word for “groans” finds it root in the word stenos – which means “to narrow.” The image is of the Holy Spirit sorting through the jumble of thoughts and feelings to pull out the thin, narrow strand of truth from our heart, from which He weaves a tapestry of prayer before the Father. All my friend needs to do is pour it all out and let the Spirit, who knows both her heart and God’s will in her situation, sift out the prayer she can’t express.

Beloved, you don’t have to filter your heart when you come to God in prayer. You don’t have to have your thoughts and feelings organized – you don’t even have to know what you should pray for. That is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit. Let Him do the sorting and sifting – He’ll find the thread of your heart’s prayer and carry it to Your Father.


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