“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 with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
The complexities and heartaches of life can overwhelm us to the point that we cannot find words in prayer. Even the apostle Paul experienced this dilemma; he talks about “our weakness” and acknowledges that “we do not know what we ought to pray for.” But the Spirit of God dwells in us to help us pray beyond our limited ability, for “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). Though intelligible words are not always employed, the Spirit assists us in meeting the conditions of asking according to God’s will — the secret of all successful prayer. We need to believe this and be open to the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit.
For each person who fails to pray because of mistaken notions about God’s sovereignty, there is another who prays a great deal but from the wrong motives. So James adds this caution: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Today people are “claiming” things that were never promised to New Testament believers while ignoring the spiritual power and grace the world desperately needs. The first rule of prayer is not “faith,” but whether the request is according to God’s will. Let’s not forget that the Lord still sits on his throne as ruler of the universe!
Even though it can at times be difficult to discern God’s will, he will teach us how to pray as we humbly wait for guidance. Two powerful promises can give our prayer life a fresh start so that we can begin praying regularly with confidence:
May God’s promises propel your prayer so that you are no longer afraid to ask and receive great things from him.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.