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How to Reach God When You Pray

October 17, 2021 Save Article

Romans 8:26-28

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Is there anyone who would say today, “I’m satisfied with my prayer life”? If so, there’s a pretty good chance you’re complacent. You’re just skating along. I believe all of us who know and love the Lord Jesus want to pray more effectively and with greater power. Prayer is the Christian’s greatest privilege and service, but it’s also our greatest failure. We need the Holy Spirit to empower our prayers.

Romans 8 has key information you must know to overcome the enemy through prayer. There’s no point in going around in circles, praying in a way that accomplishes little. Praying with power and wisdom according to the will of God is crucial. We must be effective in our prayers.

The Book of Romans is the “Constitution of Christianity,” foundational to our faith—a solid word in an unsure age. Romans is the heartbeat of all great theology, and its eighth chapter is the heartbeat of Romans. In verses 26-27, two words stand out: Spirit and prayer.

Likewise, the [Holy] Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He [God the Father] who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

When you commit to praying in the Spirit, the devil wastes no time setting up roadblocks:

  • Indifference
    Your old nature, the flesh, just doesn’t want to pray.
  • Ignorance
    You don’t know how to pray or what to pray for.
  • Interference
    The devil moves Heaven and Earth and Hell beneath to stop you. The beans burn on the stove, the kids get in a fight, your phone rings right then—does this happen to you? Or is it just me?

Why this opposition? The devil laughs at your organization, mocks your plans, ridicules your good intentions—but he fears your prayers. He levels Hell’s artillery at you. He doesn’t want you to pray. Indifference, ignorance, and interference line up against you. Then you find yourself saying, “I must not be very good at prayer.”

Many of us talk a good game about prayer but don’t have a satisfying prayer life in which we’re seeing answers to our prayers.

How do we overcome this?

God has given you an ally, a helper, and an encourager—the Holy Spirit. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses” (Romans 8:26).

He energizes, enlightens, and empowers you to pray.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20).

To pray in the flesh is to fail. The Early Church advanced on its knees. A church is no greater than the prayer life of her members. Your ministry is no better than your prayer life.

How does the Holy Spirit help us? In these 5 ways:

1. He works on your will.

“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Basically, we don’t pray because we have no will or appetite to pray. You don’t pray more than you do because you don’t want to. People do what they want to do.

Your flesh, your old nature, wars against the Spirit. We were all born with that old nature. The consequence of being a sinner is spiritual death, an eternity separated from God. Because of our sin, Jesus died for us, and when He did, we died with Him. Our old nature is crucified with Him if we’re saved.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is [spiritual] death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity [warfare] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:5-8)

Verse 6 is talking about how the carnal mind puts to death goodness, purity, power, and prayer. You either have a carnal mind or a spiritual mind—you’re hungry to know more of God, or you’re bored by it all. It depends on what your mind is set on because “the carnal mind is at war against God.”

If you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit, your flesh says, “I don’t care about that. I’m not interested.”

How does the Holy Spirit work on your will? When you’re saved, God puts His Holy Spirit into you, His adopted child. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ in you loves the Father. (See Romans 8:9.) You’re born into the family of God spiritually, adopted into His family legally, an heir of God.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).

God removes the spirit of bondage that’s keeping you from praying, and you say simply, “Abba, Father,” the equivalent of “Daddy.” It’s as normal, natural, easy to pray as to speak to your own daddy.

But the carnal part of you, your old nature, doesn’t want to pray because you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit. You have to let the Holy Spirit activate your will.

2. He energizes your body.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

This tells us the Holy Spirit literally, visibly, bodily brought Jesus out of that grave. The same Holy Spirit came into you when you got saved. He animates your body, giving you strength. It takes great strength to pray. I’d rather preach for an hour than pray for half an hour, so far as energy is concerned. Paul talked about “Laboring with me in prayer” (Romans 15:30). The reason we don’t pray, very frankly, is we’re lazy, and when we go to pray, we get tired, sleepy, our heads full of cobwebs.

Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived, includes himself when he says, “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses...” (Romans 8:26).

This word “helps” in Greek has three parts to it and literally says the Holy Spirit comes face to face with you to take hold of a burden and assist in lifting it. Then together, you lift that load.

You see, when you pray in the Holy Spirit, you are face to face with Him in a vital relationship. He’s on one side, you’re on the other. He takes hold, you take hold, and together you do it. You cannot do it without Him, He will not do it without you, but together in prayer, the Holy Spirit helps you pray.

When the Spirit of God is present, joy is present. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The Holy Spirit gives you energy when you pray, “Lord, I’m weak, I’m fading, but come, Holy Spirit. My flesh is weak, but my Spirit is willing.”

Accept your weakness because, as God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you,” and “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Weakness is an asset when you realize, “Lord, I can’t and You can.” God wants to deliver us from self‑sufficiency. He makes us perpetually weak that we might be perpetually dependent, and thus perpetually powerful as we depend upon Him.

3. He adapts your prayer requests.

“For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

Prayer is a mystery, and the Holy Spirit has to adapt your requests when you don’t know which need to pray for or how to pray. If you pray just according to needs, that’s like trying to bail out the ocean with a teacup. Trying to pray for everything, you’ll end up praying for nothing. Rather than being a river, your prayer will become a swamp. You have to pray with selectivity and specificity to pray with power. You will know what to pray for because the Holy Spirit will lay prayer burdens on your heart and show you what to pray for.

4. He provides your access to God.

Have you been trying to pray but it feels like your prayers hit the ceiling? You just can’t get through? God seems thousands of light-years away? The Holy Spirit ushers you into God’s presence: “For through Him [Jesus], we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).

You pray to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. The Lord invites you to come boldly to the throne of grace. When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit brings you right into the throne room. Come boldly to the throne of grace.

5. He makes your requests clear.

Sometimes when we pray, certain things just can’t be put into words. That’s when the Spirit takes over for us, making intercession, as one translation says, “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Some of our thoughts and needs are beyond words. We don’t know how to ask or what to do.

I’ve been there. A problem years ago in our family broke my heart, and there were times I could only say, “Oh, God.” That was it, just “Oh, God.” The Holy Spirit was saying, “Father, Adrian doesn’t know what to ask for, but I know.”

“He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

The Holy Spirit is helping you, praying with and for you. Sometimes He will take your prayers, put them in the divine transformer, and adapt them: “Father, Adrian doesn’t know all we know about this, so just take his prayer and apply it to this situation.” That’s how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. It’s wonderful

But to have the Holy Spirit and pray in the Spirit, first, you must be saved. (See Romans 8:9.)

On the other hand, you can be saved and still not pray in the Spirit, because, though you have the Holy Spirit, He doesn’t have you. He’s not only to reside in you but preside over you. You need to pray,

Oh, God, I admit the problem in my prayer life is that I’m carnally minded. I don’t want to pray. I’ve been walking according to the flesh, not the Spirit. Lord, I take myself off the throne, and I enthrone the Lord Jesus. Fill me with the Spirit. Right now, Holy Spirit, I yield my heart, my life afresh to You. Fill me, Spirit of God. Take control of my life. In Jesus’ name.

Those of you who’ve never truly been saved, right now you can pray and ask Jesus Christ into your heart.

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