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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 50 - Romans 8:26 - Unutterable Groans Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


It is with the Holy Spirit that we are here brought face to face; or set side by side. As Christ does the whole work for us, so the Holy Spirit does the whole work in us. He is not visible, nor audible, nor palpable; but not on that account the less real and personal. He is infinitely real and personal; and His work is like Himself. Though He is specially "a Spirit," yet all that He is, and says, and does, is thoroughly real. His presence is real; His indwelling is real; His words are real; His voice is real; His touch is real; His mode of operation, though not sensibly felt apart from the truth which He presents to us, is yet real and true; nay, perfect and divine; the very work of Him who created the heavens and the earth.

Here, it is His way of dealing with us and our infirmities that is particularly referred to. We are described as feeble men, bearing on our shoulders a burden too heavy to be borne; He comes up to us; not exactly to take away the burden; nor to strengthen us under it; but to put His own Almighty shoulder under it, in the room of (
άντι), and along with (συν) ours; thus lightening the load, though not changing it; and bearing the heavier part of it with His own Almightiness. Thus it is that He "helpeth" (συναντιλαμξανεται) our infirmities; making us to feel both the burden and the infirmity all the while that He helps; nay, giving us such a kind and mode of help, as will keep us constantly sensible of both.

This is especially true in regard to our prayers. Here it is that His "help" comes in so effectually and so opportunely; so that we are made to "pray in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20); to "pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). We neither know the things we ought to pray for; nor, when we know these, do we know how to pray for them. The apostle here seems specially referring to the latter of these; the right way of praying. For this we need the Holy Ghost. Ah, what a thing is prayer! The simplest' form of speech,—such as even a child could utter,—yet the highest and divinest of all utterances; such as the Holy Spirit alone can enable us to give forth.

So entirely does the Spirit identify Himself with us, that our desires are reckoned His, and His desires ours. He not only helps our infirmities, but He comes into us, unites Himself, as it were, to us, makes Himself one with us; fills us, joins His desires to ours, His voice to ours, His cries to ours, so that they come both up as one before God. Thus He is "intercessor," one who falls in with us," "takes up our case," "intercedes for us," over and above (
ύπεζ) the intercession of Christ. Our heart is cold; He infuses His warmth. Our desires are poor, He infuses His own full, rich longings. Our voice is feeble, He joins His voice to ours, and gives strength, and tone, and vigor, and loudness, so that thus filled with His, transfused with His, it goes up with power, and reaches the very heaven of heavens.

But that which He is said specially to call up, or produce, or create in us, is "groanings that cannot be uttered." Not simply words; nay, not words at all. Not simply desires, but groans—desires of the deepest and most earnest kind; groans so full, and deep, and fervent, that they cannot get vent in human words. They are divine longings, though coming out of the heart and lips of a man, and as such, cannot get themselves clothed or embodied in earthly words. Let us, then, learn,

1. True prayer is from the indwelling Spirit. It is He that wakes up prayer in us, both as to its matter and its manner. We knew not what or how to pray. He alone can teach us both; and He does this by coming in to us, and filling our whole being with Himself; so that while our longings are really ours, they are as really His. God receives them as both.

2. True prayer takes the form of a divine intercession. We have Christ in heaven on the throne, and the Spirit on earth in our hearts, interceding; Christ pleading for us as if we were one with Him, the Spirit pleading in us as if we were one with Him, and He with us. Intercession in the case of the Spirit, means His taking us up, undertaking for us; infusing Himself into each petition, so that He becomes the petitioner, the pleader. Thus He pleads both for us and in us. He throws Himself into our case; He seizes hold of us in our weakness; He bears us up as one who has come to our help; He drowns our cries in His, so that God hears not us but Him.

3. True prayer often takes the form of groans. The longings produced in us by the indwelling Spirit are such as cannot get vent to themselves in words. Our hearts are too full; our voice is choked; articulation is stifled; we can only groan. The groan is the truest part of true prayer. It seems to us sometimes the most imperfect part. We try to pray; our hearts are too full; we cannot; we break down; it may be with sorrow, or ignorance, or the intensity of our feelings, or the soreness of our trials, or the multitude of our longings. Yes, we break down before God; we become dumb; we can only groan. But the groan is true prayer. Man could not interpret it; we ourselves do not fully understand it. But God does. "He knows the meaning of the Spirit's 'groans'" (Baxter). He accepts it; yes, accepts it as prayer; as the best of prayer; the fine gold of prayer; the sweetest of the sweet incense that goes up from earth to heaven. These broken, stifled cries, thus dictated by the Spirit, and sent up on the wings of His own voice; or, as we may say, these cries of the Spirit, expressive of our longings, and sent up on the wings of our voice,—these groanings which cannot be uttered,—are well-pleasing to God. For thus we groan with the rest of a groaning creation; and all these groans are at length to be heard and fully answered.

(1.) Put yourself into the hands of the Spirit, for prayer and everything else.

(2.) Grieve not the Spirit. He is willing to come to you, and take up your case; but beware of grieving Him.

(3.) Pray much. Pray in the Spirit. Delight in prayer. Cherish the Spirit's groans.