The Spirit Intercedes for us
Guest Minister Donna Gileno
Two little boys, Tom and Danny, are excessively mischievous.
They are always getting into trouble and their Mom knows if any mischief occurs in their town, the two boys are probably involved.
The boys’ mother heard that a preacher in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys.
The preacher agreed, but he asked to see them individually.
The mother sent Danny in the morning, with the older boy to see the preacher in the afternoon. The preacher, a huge man with a deep booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Do you know where God is, son?”
The boy’s mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there wide-eyed with his mouth hanging open.
So the preacher repeated the question in an even sterner tone,
“Where is God?!
Again, the boy made no attempt to answer. The preacher raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “WHERE IS GOD?!”
The boy screamed & bolted from the room, ran directly home & dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?” The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied,
“We are in BIG trouble this time!” “GOD is missing, and they think WE did it!”
Actually, the question “Where is God” is not that unusual. I recall when I attended the weekend introduction session for the Licensed Lay Worship course, I was asked if I wanted to see a Spiritual Director. I said yes, but to be honest I didn’t know what a Spiritual Director did. After our introductions he asked me “Where is God to you?” Without thinking, I put my hand on my heart. Yes, he agreed. God is the spirit inside us.
Let’s look at a video asking the same question from a young boy.
Video….Looking for God.
The Holy Spirit that comes to us from God is the theme of Chapter 8 and in it, Paul talks of how the Spirit can make a difference in a person’s life.
In our reading today, Paul is writing to the new believers in Rome as a follow up to his visits and setting up Christian churches. Paul, as you recall, was originally called Saul. He was an influential, well-educated citizen of Rome. As a Pharisee he was well-versed in Jewish tradition and history. He was a student of Scripture. He was steeped in it. He was a very faithful man and loved God.
In the early days of the church, Saul wanted these people called Christians eradicated, lest they compromise the Jewish faith. He was a zealot, trying to preserve the faith he loved. He went to the high priest asking for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to this group, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
His project of persecution is spectacularly interrupted on the road to Damascus. He fell to the ground when a light from heaven flashed around him. He heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When he asked who are you Lord? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go to the city where you will be told what to do. The men travelling with Saul heard the sound, but did not see anyone.
Saul was made blind and had to be led by hand into Damascus. There God converts Saul, rather than destroy the chief enemy of God’s young church. Against all odds, God taps Saul, renamed Paul, to lead the young church.
Our reading today includes some of the most familiar and comforting words we have from the apostle Paul.1
Nearly every sentence is a new way of stating the promise that God has not abandoned “us,” and is in fact working—across the past, present, and future—on our behalf. Together, they offer a look into the way God’s love bursts forth into action over time.
“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul writes in Romans 8:26. The word “Likewise” refers to verse 25: But we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. The Spirit had helped us to cry, “Abba, Father,” (Romans 8:16), so also the Spirit helps us pray when we do not know what to pray.
“In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses” (v. 26a). The words “In the same way” links this verse to those that preceded it. He spoke of our “hope for that which we don’t see,” telling us that “we wait for it with patience” (v. 25). It is in the midst of this suffering, groaning, and waiting, that the Spirit intercedes for us (v. 26).
“for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered” (v. 26b). Sometimes when we pray, we know exactly what we want to say and what we want God to do. Such prayers easily degenerate into a “to do” list for God. At other times, we find ourselves so overwhelmed that we can pray only “God, help me” or “God, forgive me.” The good news is that, just as God has the grace to provide access to salvation that we don’t deserve, he also has the grace to hear prayers that we don’t know how to pray.
“He who searches the hearts knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints according to God” (v. 27). Instead of translating our “to do” list into a special language reserved for communication with the Father, the Spirit adapts our prayers to fit the will of God. That is a blessing, because it allows us to pray from the heart freely without fear of making a mess by asking wrongly.
James Dunn points out that Paul’s syntax in verse 26 defines the problem differently than we usually think of it. The problem is not that we know what we need and merely lack the right words for requesting it. As Dunn puts it, we “do not know what to want,”2 let alone how to ask for it. In the midst of this confusion, the Spirit intercedes, aligning prayer on our behalf to the will of God for us.
In verses 28-31 This much beloved passage celebrates that God is always present and always willing to help in our hour of need (v. 26)—that “in all things God works for the good of those who love God” (v. 28) He’s convinced God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan —that, if God is for us, it really doesn’t matter who is against us (v. 31)—and that there is no power strong enough or circumstance dire enough to separate us from the love of God. That’s not to say the Spirit removes all problems.
What we know is Jesus died for our sins so that we can have a right relationship with God. Whatever happens in life, God has our back and is there to get us through.
One of my favourite scripture verses is Isaiah 46:4 – “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Paul insists God is the one who designs, desires and brings about the good. Everything that God has put in place has been for the salvation of humankind. No human act can secure this salvation, no human act can jeopardize this salvation. It belongs to God alone.
Have you ever looked back at some circumstances that were difficult at the time but by the grace of God turned out for the good. I worked for a manufacturing company as the operations and sales assistant. There were rumours that the company was going to be sold. The CEO was talking to me one day and said it looks like there’s a proposal from the French Financiers. He suggested I should brush up on my French. I took him at his word and enrolled in a night school French program at Berlitz. I was accepted as intermediate. It cost over $500. Later we found out the company was not sold to investors as planned.
Later our company was purchased and the new owners brought in their own staff. On a regular basis, people were escorted out the door without the chance to say goodbye. It was a difficult time and many feared their outcome. I did too; however, I had a mantra “Let Go, Let God” and prayed to give my worries to God. I was finally let go, 3 years later. I left on great terms, had a good package, was given a lunch and had the chance to say Goodbye.
I was able to get a job later in sales. I worked for a home security company and liked it. The problem, however, were the late night hours and most of my clients were in Whitby/Oshawa. When a head hunter called me out of the blue, I went for an interview and got the job. It was the best job ever!! I was Canadian Operations Manager for the Laboratory Products division of an international dental manufacturer. When I spoke to the manager leaving, I mentioned I understood there were a lot of applicants for this position. Why did you hire me? She responded. Of course, I had all the necessary qualifications, but because I had been in sales and could speak French, I was chosen. …..I reflect on this as “God’s plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The love of God enables us to be “more than conquerors”—to rise above every adversity. There’s a song “My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in your love. There’s power in your name”.
Jesus said you will have problems, griefs, etc. but God is with you and gets you through it. There’s solace in turning to God and knowing His love.
Christ alone has ability to span the vast gap between God and humanity.
Rob Bell is a bestselling author and international speaker. Bell ends his book called “Love Wins” with the words “What the Gospel does is confront our version of our story with God’s version of our story. It begins with the sure and certain truth that we are loved. That in spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong deep in our hearts and has spread to every corner of the world, in spite of our sins, failures, rebellion and hard hearts, in spite of what’s been done to us or what we’ve done, God has made peace with us.
The book ends with an invitation: “Our invitation, the one that is offered to us with each and every breath, is to trust that we are loved and that a new world has been spoken about us, a new story is being told about us.”
It’s the same love in which Paul expresses such confidence today: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” FOR IN THE END, AND IN EVERY DAY WE LET IT, LOVE WINS.
Thanks be to God.