Questions From Readers
● During a Bible study that I was conducting, Romans 8:26, 27 came up for discussion. Could you please explain the meaning of these verses?—A. B., U.S.A.
The verses in question read: “In like manner the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the problem of what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered. Yet he who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones.”
How does God’s holy spirit plead for holy ones? In this way: God foresaw and foretold the experiences of the Christian congregation. In his Word, which is inspired by means of God’s spirit, He foretold that Christians would come into certain situations. By that same spirit-inspired Word he caused prophetic prayers to be recorded that foretold how Christians would be brought out of such situations and be preserved in his service. Because Christians have not always understood the prophecies and the prophetic prayers, they do not know exactly how to express themselves and the right thing for which to pray. Yet they have prayed for God’s help.
The apostle Paul found himself in such a situation, of which he wrote: “For we do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, about the tribulation that happened to us in the district of Asia, that we were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death.”
So the question was, Would it be God’s will to deliver Paul and his companions or would God let them be put to death? Paul goes on to give the answer: “This was that we might have our trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises up the dead. From such a great thing as death he did rescue us and will rescue us; and our hope is in him that he will also rescue us further.”—2 Cor. 1:8-10.
Yes, God knows his times and seasons; he knows what is written down in his Word through his spirit, and he knows how such things apply to Christians and when. He knows the meaning of those spirit-inspired prophecies and prayers, and he lets these intercede for Jesus’ true followers. He accepts these as being what they should like to ask and pray for, and, accordingly he fulfills them. Afterward he reveals to them by the power of his spirit how these prophecies have been fulfilled toward them, and they see that it is just what they should have asked for, had they known and understood.
The faithful remnant of Christ’s anointed followers who survived the tests of 1918 can particularly appreciate this fact. How so? In that they were in dire straits during the war years. They were in doubt, confused; they were not certain as to what was God’s will for them. So they did not know exactly what to pray for, though they certainly prayed for divine support. But God’s Word had foretold their condition and it contained prophetic prayers, and God accepted these prayers as being by them and answered them accordingly.—Psalms 69; 102; 126; Isaiah chapter 12.
Likewise today, both organizationally and individually, God’s servants may be beset by trials and not know the way out, not know just what to pray for. But God knows and he accepts the prayers recorded in his Word as coming from his people and answers them according to his will. They may feel that they should be relieved from a certain test, but God knows that it may be best for them to keep undergoing such a test, as in the case of Jehovah’s witnesses in the Nazi concentration camps. Such a test may well result in a great witness to Jehovah’s name, cultivate fine qualities in his servants and cause others to take their stand for Jehovah. This has been the case in Malawi. It has also often furnished opportunities for fellow Christians to show their love by coming to the aid of those undergoing tests to the extent that they were able to do so.—John 13:34, 35.
Thus we can see how God’s spirit does indeed plead for his people by means of the spirit-inspired Word when they are under great stress. Additionally, in view of these texts, how wise it is when Christians are under tribulation that they always pray as did Jesus: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will.”—Matt. 26:39.