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Groanings Too Deep

We all find ourselves from time to time in circumstances that are discouraging and depressing–sometimes involving people close to us, but at other times focused upon our own challenges or disappointments. We know that prayer is the recommended prescription for such hardships, but sometimes, even prayer seems confounding, for we do not know what to pray for. Sometimes, despite our best efforts at figuring things out and doing and hoping what is right, we come up short and feel confused and directionless. The loneliness we feel, however, should be softened by the renewed certainty that God is with us, that his Holy Spirit will help us.


I. Who Is The Holy Spirit?

A. Breath of God

1. the expression “Spirit,” “Spirit of God,” or “Holy Spirit” is found frequently throughout both testaments of the Bible

a. in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word xwr (ruach, pr. roo’-akh) literally means “breath,” “wind” or “breeze,” but is often used in connection with evidence of the divine presence, or Godhood, among men

b. in the New Testament, the Greek word pneu=ma (pneuma, pr. pnyoo’-mah) also literally means “to breathe” or “to blow,” but is associated with “the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son”

2. although the Hebrews understood that man was made in the image of God, they did not resort to the habits of their neighbors and craft an idol that looked like a monstrous human, but rather limited themselves to the spirit of man resembling the nature of God, only using physical characteristics as metaphors and poetry

3. even in the Old Testament, God and the Spirit are described distinctly

a. Nehemiah prays, “You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst” (Nehemiah 9:20).

b. David sings, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

c. as early as Genesis 1:2, we learn, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

4. along with the son of God, these persons formed the one, true Godhood

B. Godhood

1. the distinctiveness of the Godhood’s members becomes much more clear in the New Testament, especially with one of spending three decades on Earth, only to be replaced by another

2. we see all three at the baptism of Jesus, when that member of the Godhood is immersed by John, praised by God the Father and visited by the Holy Spirit descending upon him like a dove (see Luke 3:21-22)

3. as Jesus prepared his apostles for his death and departure, he reassured them that they would not be left alone, but would continue to enjoy a divine presence through the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-20, 25-26)

4. the Holy Spirit is not described as a mere active force, or divine effort, but as a distinct person within the Godhead, as much as a human is composed of body, soul and spirit (First John 5:6-8)

5. the Holy Spirit can be grieved, vexed, resisted and lied to (see Ephesians 4:30, Isaiah 63:10, Acts 7:51, Acts 5:3)

C. Messenger

1. the Holy Spirit was said to be present with the apostles in a special way, enabling them to teach and recall truths that belonged to God, but he also endowed other Christians with supernatural abilities in the first century to speak in unstudied languages and to prophesy or to heal sicknesses as Jesus had done (see First Corinthians 2:4)

2. beyond those very tangible kinds of manifestations, the Holy Spirit is also described as dwelling with every believer in a very intangible manner (Romans 5:1-5)

3. the Spirit of God, however, only dwells with sincere and obedient Christians, not those who feign their faith or treat it hypocritically (Romans 8:1-2, 6-11)

4. all this is accomplished because the Holy Spirit is the author of the written gospel and therefore is credited with every conversion and spiritual renewal that results

a. faith comes by hearing God’s word and God’s word is the sword of the Spirit that cuts sinful men to the heart and lays them bare for conversion (see Romans 10:17, Ephesians 6:17, Acts 2:36-38)

b. just as Jesus described conversion to Nicodemus that night, the Holy Spirit is the messenger of redemption (Titus 3:4-7)

c. man is born again, not through a return to his mother’s womb, but of water and the Spirit

D. Motivator

1. his work continues with the disciple as a motivator–through the power of the word and his ability by it to instruct, convict and direct (Second Timothy 3:16-17)

2. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16)

3. “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (Second Corinthians 1:21-22).

4. it is not that the Holy Spirit possesses us like the demons used to possess men, but that his influence is unmistakable whenever his inspired word is read by softhearted people, willing to be convicted and motivated to better behavior (Galatians 5:16-25)

II. How Does He Help?

A. All Creation Groans

1. the Holy Spirit has his work cut out for him in the midst of a lost and dying world, in which even the redeemed are tossed and tried by various temptations and the cares of life in a corrupted, carnal environment (Romans 8:20-25)

2. Christians learn to look at the world as temporary and our stay here as transitory, being strangers and pilgrims en route to a heavenly Promised Land, and so we eagerly anticipate and even pray to hasten the return of Jesus and our final rescue from danger, but only with a hint of anguish at the enticements we suffer and sometimes indulge, and the knowledge that we will not all survive

3. all creation groans because we are subjected to so much futility and prone to so much failure and disappointment (Romans 7:21-24)

4. we know to pray in such circumstances, but even then we do not always know how to pray or for what to pray, and our confusion only mounts as our frustration intensifies

B. Interceding For The Saints

1. and just here the third member of the Godhood appears to intercede and assist us (Romans 8:26-27)

2. although Jesus is our only mediator, we are blessed to have an unlimited company of intercessors, for all Christians should petition God on behalf of one another (see First Timothy 2:1-5)

3. the Spirit helps when we are too confused to formulate our thoughts or discern what is truly best, when we are ignorantly stuck between two seemingly equal choices, when we are weakened by temptation and battered by disappointment–he intercedes with groanings of his own, too deep for the scarcity of human language, but always true to God’s will, which we sometimes would stray from in our desperation

a. this is not Christians speaking in tongues–it is not Christians speaking at all, but the Holy Spirit communicating with the Father on the Christian’s behalf

b. his intercession is reliable because he can no more sin that Christ could

C. All Things Work Together

1. it is impossible to see how the answer to one prayer might affect so many other things and people, perhaps changing the course of our lives and those around us–a relocation, a job change, a marriage, even a date–foresight is far from 20/20 unless you are the Holy Spirit

2. we are sometimes afraid of the consequences and repercussions of our choices, paralyzed by fear and doubt, but the reassurance with which we proceed is that whatever follows–poverty or prosperity, companionship or loneliness, satisfaction or regret–it can all play a role in God’s ultimate objective of leading us to Heaven (Romans 8:28-30)

3. we are sometimes burdened with a yearning for heaven on Earth and we make very important choices to that end, but God knows how to value eternal life over happiness on a doomed planet

4. this is nothing that the Spirit does to us, or compels us to do against our own wills, but which the Holy Spirit does for us because he knows us better than we know ourselves (Hebrews 4:11-13)


The loneliness we feel sometimes should be softened by the renewed certainty that God is with us, that his Holy Spirit will help us.

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