We Believe in the Holy Spirit!
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26 NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 182, which asks, “How doth the Spirit help us to pray?” It gives the answer, “We not knowing what to pray for as we ought, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, by enabling us to understand both for whom, and what, and how prayer is to be made; and by working and quickening in our hearts (although not in all persons, nor at all times, in the same measure) those apprehensions, affections, and graces which are requisite for the right performance of that duty.”
We need help. Without God’s help we don’t even have a prayer! That is to say, you and I, as sinners, need God’s help even to pray to Him and ask Him to give us His help! The good news is that God has provided that help into the heart and mind of every single Christian. If you are a converted person, God has sent His Spirit into you to be in you and to dwell with you for the rest of your life. He will never leave you or forsake you. Jesus promised this continual presence of God to His disciples:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you, (John 14:16-18).
Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside Him. The Holy Spirit regenerated us when we were dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-5). He gave us new life and He continues to nurture that life by His fruits, gifts, and graces. And we need His help! The Catechism notes that we have “infirmities.” Though converted and alive in Christ, with new natures that really do love God and seek to obey His commandments, we are in ourselves weak. We continue to struggle with temptation and we often fall into sin. Our new natures are real but they have no power in themselves to defeat sin and Satan. But God by His Spirit in us will not allow us to be overcome. Even though for His glory and our good He may allow us to be buffeted and battered for a time, He will never allow us to be defeated by these infirmities. He helps us in them.
According to the Catechism it is especially in the spiritual discipline and means of grace of prayer that the Holy Spirit helps us. He does not help us in some magical or mystical way but in our minds. The Catechism notes God’s Spirit’s work in our understanding, in our wills, in our hearts (our core principles) and in affections, which includes our attitudes and desires. Specifically, God’s Spirit gives us the ability to know for whom and what to pray. The Spirit is “working and quickening” in our hearts. This activity refers to the Sanctification process, whereby God is making us more and more like Himself in righteousness and holiness, and less and less like sinners who love and chose to do evil. God does this more or less in different people and in different times as He pleases. But He does it in every single one of His children.
Sin begins in our minds and so the Holy Spirit is working in our minds. I believe this fact is why prayer is so crucial to the sanctification process. When we pray we are seeking this promised help of God’s Spirit. We are spending time with Him, speaking to Him and by Him, participating in the quickening process. It is by the renewing of our minds that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). When we pray, humbly seeking to draw near to God, relying entirely on Christ’s merits for God to accept us, we are working with God’s Spirit as it were and His promise to us is that He will hear us and change us. Thank God that His Spirit is working in you right now for God’s glory and your good!