The Holy Spirit does not pray in our place.
“The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26-27
At the beginning of my ministry, P.C. Nelson (we, young ministers, called him “Dad Nelson”) was considered the number one authority on Greek language in America. I didn’t attend Dad Nelson’s Bible school, but I heard him preach several times and collected almost all the books he published. He had 12 years of higher education, and I heard him say once that he could speak and write in 32 different languages. I have 31 more points than him!)
Commenting on this verse, Dad Nelson said, “Actually, the Greek literally says, ‘The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans that cannot be uttered in articulate speech.'” He went on to explain that “articulate speech” refers to our usual type of speech.
Dad Nelson then emphasized that these “groans” also include praying in tongues. Paul speaks of expressions or sighs in prayer that cannot be expressed in articulate speech. Dad Nelson insisted that these sighs are not something the Holy Spirit does without you. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit helping you to pray with groans.
The Amplified Bible in 1 Corinthians 14:14 shows more clearly our relationship with the Holy Spirit in prayer: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit (by the Holy Spirit within me) prays… Again, when you pray in tongues, it is your spirit praying, through the Holy Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit within you gives you the utterance, and you speak it with your spirit. You are the one speaking, but He gives the words.
By this method, the Holy Spirit helps you to pray according to God’s perfect will and to pray for God’s perfect will. This is how one should pray for things!
“… he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:27
Praying in the Spirit with groans is also something the Holy Spirit does not do without you. These groans are prompted by the Holy Spirit, they come from deep within you. But you let them escape from your lips when you open your mouth and pray.
Years ago, during a seminar we held in the early days of Rhema Bible Training Center, a woman came to talk to me as I was leaving the platform at the end of the service. She was from a certain religious denomination and had just been filled with the Holy Spirit. She said, “You know, Brother Hagin, since I discovered that Romans 8:26 and 27 says the Holy Spirit prays my prayers for me, I don’t pray much anymore.”
Like this woman, some people try to build a doctrine on this isolated text from Romans 8 and make it say something it doesn’t say. “If the Holy Spirit prays for me,” they say, “he knows how to do the job, so there’s no need for me to pray.
But you can easily see that this assertion is not scriptural because the Bible constantly exhorts us to pray. Secondly, Romans 8:26 does not say that the Holy Spirit prays in our place. He helps us to pray with groans according to God’s perfect will.
“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 groans too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
Paul begins by saying that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. He then shows one way the Holy Spirit helps us: through groans! The Spirit of God will prompt you to pray, but you must respond. He will not force you to do something. He will not pray for you just as he will not do it in your place. That would make him responsible for your prayer life, and he is not responsible; you are. He was sent to abide in you as an Intercessor and Helper in prayer. Now it is up to you to cooperate with him and pray!
This text is an excerpt from the book “The Power of Speaking in Tongues: Everything you want to know about Speaking in Tongues” written by Kenneth Erwin Hagin.
We invite you to read the following article “Responding to the Burden of Prayer“.