When You Don’t Know How To Pray

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Romans 8:26 NIV

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:1 NIV

Yesterday we considered the importance of being specific in our prayers just as we see in the recorded prayers in the Bible. However, there are times when we are not in a position to know how to pray about something.

For example, I recall a series of visits I made to a wonderful young mother in hospital. She had cancer. As a nurse, she understood the implications of her situation.

She had lost her own mother when she was only 12 years old to the very same form of cancer. She desperately wanted to live until her children grew up so they might avoid the struggles she had when her mother passed away.

This fine Christian woman asked me to pray she would be spared and I did. However, the last time she was in hospital she asked me if I thought our prayers would be answered. I had to be honest and so I said that I was doubtful. She was upset at my confession of ignorance of her future and that was the last time I saw her. She passed away a few days later.

So we sometimes have confusion about how to pray. We know how life usually happens but we want a miracle.

We wish to be an exception to the rule and why not? But then we slowly realize that our prayers for the exception may not be answered. It is then that we must submit our situation to our loving and gracious Father in heaven to do as He sees best.

Our verses make it clear that there are times when we do not know how to pray as we ought, and they give us comfort in times of confusion.

First the Holy Spirit takes up praying where we must leave off and completes the petition in a wordless manner. Here is genuine encouragement in these times of bewilderment. Someone with infinite knowledge of what we need takes our case to the throne of God and makes effectual prayers.

We know also that Jesus prays for us in heaven just as He prayed for us while here with His beloved people (e.g. John 17).

He ever lives above for me to intercede
His all redeeming love, His precious blood to plead
His powerful blood did once atone
and now it pleads before the throne.

—Charles Wesley

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