Have you ever had one of those (strange) moments during prayer when suddenly you know a prayer is welling up inside you–and you just have to get it out (even though you have no idea what that prayer is about).
I remember a day, about eight years ago. I was at a prayer group with my girlfriend Becky. (Actually, we were the only two at the prayer meeting that night.) We were praying that night for Becky’s church when we suddenly got the sense that the Holy Spirit wanted us to pray for Canada (I’m Canadian). So that’s what we did. A week later, I found myself at another prayer meeting for a different church. During this meeting, I explained how the Holy Spirit had led me and Becky to pray for Canada. So, as a group, we began to pray for the whole of Canada. At the time, we all lived in Moncton, New Brunswick (which is far East Canada), so to be fair (and not pray for ourselves first) we decided to pray for western Canada–British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan. When we hit Saskatchewan, however, I felt my body fill with heat. I had an overwhelming desire to pray specifically for this province (of which I had never even visited). A prayer began to pour out of me: cries, groans, tears. All of it for this province and the people living there. I had started my prayer standing, but soon I dropped to my knees. I had this huge burden inside me that I felt desperate to release. I “prayed” until the intense emotion inside me subsided. My heart was for Saskatchewan and the people who lived there. The people desperately needed to be released–God had plans for them, but something was holding them back. I prayed intensely, asking God to release them into their purpose.
After wards, someone from the group approached me and, seeing that I was stunned by what had just taken place, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You just gave birth to something through the Spirit.”
Jack Levison touched upon this topic recently in his interview with Darkwood Brew. He reminded us that the Spirit gives birth–and that birth is a very feminine trait. The Holy Spirit goes through labor to bring about those things that we cannot understand:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Ro 8:22–23)
“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.” (Ro 8:26-27)
Often times we don’t understand what we should pray for. We often pray for what we want or what we think is important. But in reality, we are limited when it comes to knowing the mind of God; however, with the help of the Spirit, we can pray rightly. The Spirit prays in our place…and that prayer comes out “with wordless groans.” Jack reminds us that the phrase “sighs too deep for words” doesn’t quite give us the whole picture. After all, the picture given through these passages is “groaning in labor pains.” These groans are not just “sighs”; they are “grievous groans.” Cries that acknowledge both the importance of the moment and the emotional expectation of what is about to come to birth. What is invisible is about to make an appearance. Jack also reminds us that this passage in Romans directly links to Eve in the garden:
To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children…” (Ge 3:16).
All scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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