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 through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. (Rom. 8:26-27)
In today’s world, weakness is bad. No one wants to be weak. Being weak means failure. Strength through physical power and intimidation or affluence through money and possessions is our goal. Pop-culture’s influence over followers drives our fascination with social media. There is strength in having a following. No one follows weakness. Weakness means your strength is gone. That happens every time we face hardship. If you’re still strong when something bad happens, then it isn’t hard. We experience something to be a hardship at precisely the point when we are weakest. No one can completely avoid pain and suffering; everyone faces difficulties, no matter how strong they feel at the moment. The question is not whether hardship will come, but what will you do when you face it?
The life you were created for isn’t about physical strength, affluence, or fame. None of those things matter. The money you spend, the stuff you buy, the trips you take, the food you eat, the clothes you wear—they're not why you’re here in the first place. You’re here for that moment when everything falls apart around you, when you’re weak and in pain, and you reach out and trust your heavenly Father. That’s why you’re here. Times like that are defining moments. You're not here to avoid those moments; you can’t totally avoid them, even if you want to. You’re here for those moments.
In those moments, you don’t know how to pray. Not really, because you don’t know what to ask for. You might ask for the problems to go away, but if the problems are there for a reason and the reason is to change you to become the person you’re supposed to be, then God isn’t necessarily going to eliminate your problems. Sometimes we need things to go badly so we can have a different life—one filled with joy and power and peace. Even pop culture celebrities wish they had that life. But they’re blocked from getting it by their strength, money, fame, and beauty. They rely on those things and don't find their way to the life they need. We see celebrities who seem to have everything fall into despair, addiction, and suicide. We hold the key to the life they need. Jesus has been offering it to the rich and powerful for 2000 years. But they miss it. But we do too, sometimes.
We don’t want weakness, and we don’t want to change, a lot of the time. We want answers. We want an explanation. Why is this happening? Why don’t you fix it, God? Paul writes in Rom. 8:26 that the Spirit intercedes in ways no words can express. Situations are often beyond our understanding. No matter how smart you are, you don’t have all the facts to know what’s best. Sometimes our problems are connected to people we don’t know or require long periods of time to make sense. There are often too many factors for us to know why things happen. But the Spirit of God knows.
We don’t know what to ask for, but he does. All we need to pray is four simple words: Your will, not mine. Four words that are a prayer he will always answer. It is sometimes said that prayer doesn’t work. But maybe we’re praying wrong. Pray, Your will, not mine. These four words spoken when you face hardship are the first steps in the life God has for you and what he wants to do in you. It’s the beginning of the life you’re in search of. It’s an admission that you’re weak and need his power.
When Paul writes, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God,” (v. 27) he is pointing out that the Spirit follows God's will, not our will. God's will is that you experience an abundant life. He who won’t let you settle for the life that everyone else is in pursuit of. You only have to pray that prayer; the Spirit will intercede in ways you cannot imagine. If you’re weak and in need of his power, Paul’s saying, that’s a good thing. It’s the beginning of the life you need. It’s the beginning of a life that never ends. It’s his plan. If your power has run out, that means you’re in the perfect spot for his power to be revealed. This is what Paul means when he says, “When I am weak, I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). If you want to experience God’s power, you get there through weakness. That means God’s plan, whatever difficulties we encounter along the way, is for our good (Rom. 8:28).
I don’t know where you are at today, but I know something. There are difficulties somewhere ahead for you. It’s why you’re here on this earth. The obstacles you will face are part of the plan. The question is, what will you do when you hit them? Pray those four words and give the Spirit a chance to do something powerful.