11 May Sighs & Groans – School of Prayer
We are in an age of developing schools for everything. In fact it helps us a great deal in understanding the details of subjects otherwise appear shallow. So we have schools of prayer as well. Some of us use comprehensive pre-written prayers while some of us extempore. Sometimes we pray in public ‘very well’ and get satisfied by the prayer that we prayed. Sometimes we feel that we shouldn’t have prayed the way we prayed… Some of us are disciplined in spending time in prayer, while some of us practice ‘need based’ prayers. With these and many more mixed feelings on prayer, what we read in Romans: 8: 26-28, is quite humbling…
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 sighs and groans too deep for words; 27. and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
It’s humbling to hear Apostle Paul’s testimony on prayer as he writes Romans around AD 57 (after three decades of Christian life and ministry) that he does not know how to pray. . . Paul was a man of prayer. He has mentioned in several of his letters that “I always pray” and most of his letters have intense expressions of prayers (Eph. 1:15 to 23; Eph. 3: 14 to 19; Col. 1: 9 to 14; 1 Thes. 3: 13 to quote some). It will be an interesting exercise to note the priorities that are reflected in Paul’s prayers for the churches and imbibe those as our priorities in prayer to the people whom we are associated with. But, even after such ‘beautiful’ prayers, why did Apostle Paul say he does not know how to pray? Paul portrays prayer as a collaborative activity of the Holy Spirit with us.
1. Spirit of God knows our weakness and steps in to help
2. While we do not know the will of God (nor an answer in the situations that we struggle with), the mind of the Spirit (that knows the will of God) prays with us in sighs and groans too deep for words.
3. And in the context of such sighs and groans of the Spirit in prayer with us, we should (and can) know ALL things work together for good for those who love God (we often quote Romans 8: 28 that starts with “And” without looking into the previous verses that talks
of the sighs & groans school of prayer)
If we look at the struggles that we go through as individuals, communities, churches and as nations, it’s true that ‘we do not know how to and what to pray for’. In that situation, God is calling us to allow the Spirit of God to express His mind through sighs and groans in our prayers for His answers.
This is an interesting dynamics. The first century Churches were gripped with many issues. And Paul allowed the Spirit of God to sigh and groan through him. And he could fi nd answers through the working of the Spirit.
For instance, let’s imagine Paul’s visit to Corinth. A small city with 12 or so temples, the major one the temple of Aphrodite (hailed as goddess of love), housing over 1000 temple prostitutes twisting lust and immorality as “sacred”. Seeing such a decay of values, what can he pray for? He might have struggled and allowed the Spirit sighing groaning in prayer. To that Corinth, he wrote 1 Cor 13 on the dignity and ministry of true love- An amazing answer to a world that had twisted the understanding of love.
Again in Corinth, while the party spirit, divisions and chaos gripped the Church, Paul would have allowed the Spirit sighing and groaning in him. And the answer comes so beautifully through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he writes 1 Cor 12 – the body analogue for describing how we are different and yet called to be one- Yet another amazing answer. Look at our campuses, the darkness that is intensifying (the campus crimes, drug addiction, immorality and so on)
Look at our nation, the way in which the struggles are intensifying (communalism, corruption, crime, natural and man made disasters in a country wherein the massive 45% are below poverty line) Look at the world at large, the way it’s getting torn apart with problems like terrorism and hatred intensifying.
Let us allow the Holy Spirit to sigh and groan in and through us for a transformation. It is high time that we step out to the campuses and to the streets to do prayer walks. . . and is His promise in 2 Chr. 7: 14 that we, as His people, who are called by His name (as EGF and other communities in His name), will humble ourselves and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, then will He hear from heaven and will forgive our sins and will heal our Churches Campuses and society at large.
Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline, chapter on Prayer wrote, To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us (and our situations). If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heart beat of God, the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ. Let our lives, communities and mission be living examples of such transformations.
About the Author
Reji Koshi Daniel lives in Pune with his wife Betsy and their children Monica and Roshan. Their family is actively involved in UESI.