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Three Reasons the Holy Spirit Prays for Us

Tautges posts on prayer (6)

by Paul Tautges /

The last of three posts on the role of the Trinity in prayer. The first two are here and here.

In the process of prayer, the Holy Spirit plays a role both unique and unexpected. Romans 8:26-27 puts it like this.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Just as creation groans waiting for the fullness of redemption, and just as believers groan waiting for redemption from their earthly bodies (Romans 8:22-23), so the Holy Spirit groans in prayer! Three truths concerning the Spirit’s ministry of prayer for us are here to be uncovered.

The Spirit Prays for Us Because We Are Weak

The Spirit who resides within “helps” us. He comes to our aid, rescues us, makes our prayers acceptable to God the Father, and helps shoulder our heavy burden. This is the ongoing ministry of the Spirit in our “weakness,” our human frailties.

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The Son Understands Our Weaknesses

Tautges posts on prayer (4)by Paul Tautges /

The second of three posts on the role of the Trinity in prayer. The first is here.

Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, is the one whose perfect life and sin-atoning death serves as the only possible bridge between sinful man and a holy God. Accordingly, all our prayers must go “through” him, the believer’s High Priest.

As Our High Priest, Jesus Stands Between Us and the Father

Now that Jesus has ascended back to the Father, his ministry to us continues. The door to God that the Son opened for us through his death, he now keeps open in his role as our High Priest.

Making a sacrificial offering. In ancient Israel the holy place was the exclusive, innermost room of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was open only to the high priest, only once per year, and only on the condition that he enter with the blood of an acceptable offering. As the ultimate High Priest, Jesus would later enter the true holy place in heaven, just once, to offer himself as the sinless sacrifice for his people (Hebrews 9:24-26; 10:1-14). By bringing his own blood to the throne of God, Jesus satisfied God’s holy standard and bore away God’s wrath against our sin (Romans 3:25). He achieved all of this “through his flesh,” that is, by his humanity, the “curtain” torn apart to gain our access to God (Matthew 27:51).

Interceding. In addition to offering sacrifice while in the holy place, the high priest of ancient Israel would also pray for the people, interceding on their behalf before God. Again, this was ultimately a foreshadowing of Jesus. As our “great priest over the house of God,” Jesus Christ is the eternal, living intercessor for God’s household, the church, and is uniquely qualified for this role as the only one who has lived both in flesh as man and in heaven as God. This leads us to the next essential concept.

As the God-Man, Jesus Understands Human Frailty

Just as the high priest in the Temple of ancient Israel could relate to and thus represent his people before God while in the physical holy of holies, our High Priest in the heavens took on flesh and lived on earth in that body for more than 30 years. Therefore, he can relate fully to our struggles.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In interceding as High Priest on our behalf before the Father, Jesus therefore serves as our Mediator—one who stands in between God and man. He is the only one who can serve in this role.

In Jesus, every Christian possesses the acceptable Mediator who has already satisfied the holy wrath of God against our sin. As a result, we may boldly come to the Father “in Jesus’ name”—that is, through the blood and complete worthiness of Jesus. But Jesus our great High Priest did more than complete a task for us; as our mediator he also understands us.

Brass Heavens; Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, by Paul Tautges“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). Are you not struck by the phrase “with loud cries and tears?” I am. The image of Jesus weeping should stamp upon our minds the reality of his humanity. When he cried out to the Father in anguish in the garden called Gethsemane—his raw emotions wrestling against the fact of his impending death—his bloody sweat was mingled with many tears. This helps us realize just how human Jesus was (and still is). Our theology rightly teaches us that Jesus is both 100% God and 100% man, but do we ponder enough the connection between the humanity of Jesus and the privilege of prayer?

It was in “the days of His flesh” that Jesus prayed. As the virgin-born Son of God, Jesus walked the same human road we walk (with the exception of the guilt of sin). As part of his humanity, the pattern he established at the beginning of his public ministry to rise early in the morning and go to a desolate place to pray continued until the night before his death (Mark 1:35; Matthew 26:36).

Through the disciplined lifestyle of prayer, Jesus admitted the weakness of his—and thus our—humanity. As Henry Thiessen puts it, “If the Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we need to wait upon God.”[1] By calling us to pray, and by opening the door into this fellowship by means of the shed blood of his Son, God reminds us of our human weakness and invites us to ongoing fellowship in his presence.

From personal experience Jesus knows exactly how hard life can be in these bodies, having experienced every kind of temptation we will ever face. Our Savior is both sympathetic and empathetic. This is why we can confidently draw near to him in our time of need. His throne is truly a “throne of grace,” dispensing mercy and help to us whenever we call upon God through him.

* * *

In the third and final post in this series, we will consider three reasons the Holy Spirit prays for us.

This series has been adapted from Chapter One of Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, by Paul Tautges.
[1] Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), 228.

TautgesPaul Tautges serves as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Previously, he pastored Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for 22 years. Paul is a husband, father, and the author of eight books. He also blogs regularly on discipleship and the Christian life at www.counselingoneanother.com.

 

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The Father Delights to Listen

by Paul Tautges /

The first of three posts on the role of the Trinity in prayer.

The first person of the Trinity—the one who freely chose to send his only Son to die for our sins—is aware of our needs, listens to our cries, and delights to give us what is good for us.

The Father Knows Our Needs

While teaching his disciples about prayer, Jesus made this amazing statement: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

Your Father. The first thing to notice here is that Jesus does not call the first person of the Trinity “the Father of heaven and earth,” though that surely is true. Instead he stresses the relational aspect, saying “your Father.”

The believer in Christ has a relationship with God that the unbeliever does not. God is the Father of all in the sense that he is the Creator “from whom are all things” (1 Corinthians 8:6), but he is Father, relationally, only to believers. This relationship, which is based on grace alone through faith in Christ alone, deepens and thrives when we take our needs to the Father in prayer.

Before you ask. The second part of Jesus’ comment—that our Father “knows what you need before you ask him”—can easily raise an honest question: If God already knows our needs and the always-faithful Father has promised to meet them, why bother to pray? It may seem like an obvious question, perhaps with an obvious answer, but what happens next in the gospel account is striking.

Notice what Jesus didn’t do after telling us about the Father’s foreknowledge: he didn’t just stop talking! If he had, we might conclude prayer is unnecessary—God knows what you need; end of story. But Jesus refused to leave us to our own flawed, finite human logic. Instead, going against our logic, our Lord said essentially the opposite: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven…’”

Your loving Father knows what you need before you ask him, therefore… ask him? Jesus wants us to see that prayer is more about changing us than it is about informing God or moving him to action.

As a sacrifice of time and energy that could have been used for other things, prayer is an act of worship, one by which our hearts are exercised in faith, not merely in religious ritual. “Ask,” Jesus tells us, “just ask.” Why? Because true prayer cultivates humility. It requires us to acknowledge our helplessness. We ask because Jesus told us to ask. We ask because all that is good comes from God, not from our own efforts.

As we build a lifestyle of prayer, this regular acknowledgment of God’s fatherly provision is infinitely more valuable than anything else we may receive. The main thing is not that in the future we might get what we pray for. The main thing is that in the present, as we pray, our greatest need is already being met. That need is the transforming work of God in our hearts, with prayer itself as one of God’s appointed means of meeting that need. When Jesus promised a “reward” for those who pray in secret (Matthew 6:6), perhaps this refining work of God in our hearts is at least partly what he had in mind.

The Father Delights to Give Gifts

Brass Heavens; Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, by Paul TautgesHaving taken joy in hearing the cries of our needy hearts and knowing our needs better than we do, God delights to give us those things that will be best for us. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). Written by James, the half-brother of Jesus, this verse portrays God in a way that should powerfully motivate us to pray.

Good and perfect gifts. God is the source of all that is good, and he delights in giving good things to his children. Jesus says in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” If we as human beings find joy in giving our children what we believe to be good gifts, how much more does an infinitely good God know how to give to his children!

Sometimes we think God withholds things from us because he does not love us. The opposite is true. Sometimes God’s withholding of our requests proves his love. He did exactly this for the apostle Paul to keep his pride in check (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). God loves us too much to let us go down a harmful path, even if we see it as the path of blessing.

Father of lights. All of these undeserved gifts come down from the “Father of lights,” the creator of the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:14). These heavenly bodies testify to God’s glory in part by offering a visual representation of God’s “light”—his holiness and purity (1 John 1:5). Men, however, are not light—we naturally love darkness because we love sin (John 3:19). But it is impossible for God to be involved in darkness in any way whatsoever. There is “no variation or shadow due to change” in God for he is pure light—unchanging and unchangeable. Unlike the sun, moon, and stars, the light of God’s holiness never surges or fades. It always burns with the same infinite intensity. Therefore it is impossible for God to tempt us toward evil. If we ask him for a fish, he will not give us a serpent (Luke 11:11).

* * *

Of course, the Father is not the only member of the three-in-one God. The perfect work of the sinless Son of God opened the door to the grace-saturated throne of our prayer-answering Father. The next post in this series will address the role of the Son in prayer.

This series has been adapted from Chapter One of Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, by Paul Tautges.

TautgesPaul Tautges serves as senior pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Previously, he pastored Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin for 22 years. Paul is a husband, father, and the author of eight books. He also blogs regularly on discipleship and the Christian life at www.counselingoneanother.com.

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Two Sins Deeper than Pride (and easier to kill)

Two sins deeper than pride (1)

by Bob

Prideful sin is no small matter. The biblical warnings against it are bone-chilling. And none is more frightening than this: “God is opposed to the proud” (James 1:6).

We’ve been told over and over: Pride is the root of all sin. Kill pride and your other sins will topple, too. Sounds easy but it isn’t. Pride is slippery. As soon as you think you’ve got a grip on it, it pops up somewhere else nearby—usually closer to your heart than it was in the first place.

Frontal attacks against pride usually fizzle out. Have you noticed that, too? If so, try the indirect approach I learned while working on a recent book on spiritual warfare.

Roots Grow in Soil

There are two sins that actually run deeper than pride. Picture them as the soil from which the root of pride draws its nourishment and support.

Thankfully, these are two sins you can easily battle head-on. In fact, you can “condition” these two soils (that is, poison them) every day. Do this long enough and consistently enough and you will find the root of your sinful pride withering, thus weakening the whole malignant ecosystem of sin in your life.[Tweet “Two ways to weaken the malignant ecosystem of sin in your life.”]

The Soil Called Ungodliness

Jerry Bridges is my friend, mentor, and sometimes co-author. In The Bookends of the Christian Life we wrote, “the opposite of godliness is ungodliness, the disregarding of God. All expressions of pride are rooted in ungodliness, because you must first disregard God before you can be prideful.”

Sinful pride requires disregarding God—that is, behaving as if he does not matter. When you realize this, it becomes much simpler to battle ungodliness. How? By remembering that God does matter, infinitely above and beyond everything else. In practical terms, you can do this by deliberately recognizing God, for who he truly is, in all things, and doing so until this kind of God-honoring becomes habitual. Try it, and I think you’ll soon discover this is a powerful, if indirect, way to poison a root of pride.

This approach amounts to an intentional, content-specific version of what some have called “practicing the presence of God.” The best way to do this is to study, memorize, and regularly recall Scriptures about who God is and what he has done for us in his Son.

The Soil Called Unbelief

Deeper still, below pride and below the disregarding of God, is unbelief, the deepest sin of all. If ungodliness behaves as if God does not matter, unbelief behaves as if God does not exist.

The opposite of this unbelief is biblical faith. Genuine faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit necessarily results in humility. Battling unbelief, therefore, is our second indirect yet powerful means of battling pride.

An excellent way to engage in this battle is simply to ask Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Jerry and I have made it a habit to pray this nearly every day. [Tweet “The simple prayer that @JerryGBridges prays nearly every day.”]

Next, remember that when sin was about to strike, Jesus told Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Then, remember that Jesus prays for you, too (Romans 8:34).

Jesus is concerned about your faith in him. Ask him to pray for you the way he prayed for Peter—that your faith may not fail!

My life is far from a picture of humility. In fact, I’ve been aware of pride mustering its forces within me even as I write this. But I will not approach this battle head-on (except to take my sin to the cross and repent from it). Instead, I will deliberately regard God, by remembering where every good thing comes from (James 1:16-18). And I will pray, asking ask him to help my unbelief, so that I might see his unseen hand at work in me.

I’ll pray the same for you, too. By the time you read this, know that I already have.


Good News About Satan; A Gospel Look at Spiritual Warfare, by Bob Bevington

Bob Bevington’s most recent book is Good News about Satan: A Gospel Approach to Spiritual Warfare.

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