Daily Devotion Wednesday, 13 December 2023

Romans 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.


In yesterday’s devotion we explored the difference between God’s judgement and ours; today we will explore the relationship between them. In Christian theology, following strong indications in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is believed to be the divine person who enacts God’s will on Earth. Yet, this enacting seems often to be indirect and hidden. The Holy Spirit, so it seems, chooses to work not independently of but with creatures and events.

This working-with is evident in the way that the Apostle Paul describes prayer: “we do not know how to pray as we ought but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26). A sigh is an unspoken longing. When we don’t know how to pray, or can’t pray, Paul believes that the Spirit searches our hearts, takes those longings, and intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. This suggests that the Spirit’s role in prayer is to take our inarticulate longings and bring them to reflective alignment with God’s purpose.

Humans can reflect. By contrast with an instinctive reaction, reflection is the ability to look back, ponder, and consider attitudes, actions, and events. Reflection is one of the main functions by which we learn. There may be occasions in life when an instinctive judgement may be required, but hopefully these are few. Mostly, our better judgements are the product of considered reflection. For the Christian, however, our better judgements need to reckon with God’s absolute judgement. Paul’s description of prayer as reflective alignment with God’s purpose is preceded by a prior judgement: “all have fallen short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23-24). The “all” (pantes) here is universal. All people, without exception, fall short of God’s glorious purpose and are justified by God’s gracious act of redemption in Christ. Consequently, all our judgments of others ought to reflect this solidarity in sin, justification, and redemption.


O God, take my inarticulate longings,
and by your Spirit align them with your good purpose.
Enable me to reflect on the judgments I make,
in solidarity with others,
and in the light of what you have done
to justify and redeem us all
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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