Making Weak Prayers Soar and Sing
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.
John 14:16-17a ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26–27 ESV
Prayer Can Be Hard
However experienced we may be at praying, there are probably days when we struggle with both motivation and content in our prayers. For me, even after all these years, sometimes “fervent prayer” does not come easily, and, at other times, I can feel as if my words are inadequate and merely bouncing off the ceiling of my study. Concentration wanders, distractions seem alluring, and attempts at fervency can feel almost artificial.
All this, by the way, is part of the enemy’s strategy to discourage us from praying because he knows how potentially detrimental to his plans the prayers of Christians can be. Samuel Chadwick, a well-known Wesleyan Methodist minister in the UK during the early part of the 20th century, once declared, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”
Never Left To Our Own Devices
Friends, one great aspect of the Gospel is that God has never left us to our own devices, our own efforts. He didn’t save us from our sins and then say, “Okay, now try harder next time!” No, even before Jesus was arrested and crucified he told his disciples, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever!” in fact, Jesus told them that it was beneficial for them that He go away so that the Holy Spirit would be given. What could be better than having Jesus with you in physical form? Having the Spirit of Christ dwelling within you, wherever you are!
Someone is Interceding For Us
In our tremendous recent sermon series on Romans, Canon Ray David Glenn made these remarkable observations from Romans chapter 8:
“We can come into the heavenly throne room, not just as beggars, but as sons of God – as heirs with Jesus. Because we are in Christ, when we come to God in prayer, we have as much right to be before the throne room of God as Jesus Himself.”
“Right now the Spirit of God is interceding for you. He is praying that you would know the will of God, that, in the face of tragedy, brokenness and bad news, you would know that God has a good plan. He has it in hand, whatever ‘it’ is. He has a plan for you.”
The Holy Spirit will help us in our weakness, and, indeed, He is even interceding for us and through us. Even in our attempts at prayer we are not left alone. However inadequate the devil may tell us our prayers are, the Spirit of God Himself is assisting and empowering us as we make the effort to pray.
I Can't Play Piano
Recently, I attended a conference in Vancouver, sponsored by our Biblically Grounded priority team, on Being Clear About the Gospel. One of the speakers was Dr. Rick Reed, president of Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge ON. In his presentation on the work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8, he shared this helpful illustration that he has graciously allowed me to include in this meditation.
“When I was in university I went to a concert on campus where a Christian singer/songwriter, Alan Basham, performed a number of songs on his guitar. At one point, he went over to the piano and started to play a simple song.
“The song started with the words: ‘I’ve been told that I can’t play piano. And it's true I don't play very well. But if I wait until it's perfect, maybe I will never play at all. So I'll play, play anyway. I'll lift my voice to heaven. I'll play, play anyway, I'll lift my voice to heaven.’
“It was evident that he was not accomplished on the piano.
“But there was another piano on stage. As Alan played, another keyboard player sat down at the other piano. He began to play along with Alan. But it was clear that he was a virtuoso. He added runs and fills that made the music glorious.
“When it comes to prayer, sometimes I feel like Alan at the piano. I plunk out my simple prayers and feel they are so inadequate. But the Holy Spirit comes to assist me. Romans 8:26-27 tells us he intercedes for us. He brings my prayers to the Lord in a way that makes them soar and sing. I'm so grateful for the help of the Spirit in prayer.”
How glorious is it that, even in our less-than-perfect prayers, God is enabling us to enter this intimate place with Him! Church, let’s choose to invite the Spirit to “play the other piano”, to help us in our weakness in prayer and to build our confidence in being in God’s presence without guilt or shame. Amen!