20 April 2016

Romans 8:26-39

“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.” (v. 26)

Psalm: Psalm 74:1-12


The rich verses of this passage continue to convey the assurance of what God has done and continues to do, and the final verses (verses 31-39) bring to a conclusion everything that Paul has said about Christian hope from the beginning of chapter 5: with God on our side, we may face all kinds of dangers, burdens and temptations, but none can endanger our salvation. The joy in this conclusion springs off the page! Whoever God calls, God keeps forever! All dangers, however great, can be withstood, for nothing compares to the love and power of God. This has been accomplished in and through Jesus. In the words of the Methodist baptismal service: "all this for you"!

With so many significant and evocative verses, some might be overlooked or consigned to the footnotes of our reading; but footnotes sometimes contain important details. The opening verses remind believers of what God gives us as we wait for the glory to come, to help us have the "patience" (Romans 8:25) to endure the struggles and the tensions. The Spirit is our help and our guide, transforming even our groaning (Romans 8:23). For even our deep and unarticulated pain and longing is heard, understood, embraced by the Spirit and transformed into prayers: the Spirit "intercedes with sighs too deep for words". There are times when we may not know how to pray or what to hope for, times when our feelings and longings and anxieties might confuse or bewilder us, times when we long to cry out to God but feel silenced; yet even our chaotic, confused, unformed needs and feelings might become our prayers. Whilst we wait for the final glory, and wrestle with the frailties and tensions of life, God's Spirit co-operates with us in all things, even the hidden and painful parts of ourselves, for good. Ultimately it is the love of God that wins through, transforming and reconciling, and nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v. 39.)

To Ponder

  • How easy do you find it to wait patiently?
  • When you struggle to pray, what helps you - or might help you - to wait on God and trust that the Spirit is at work?
  • Paul concludes that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 38-39). How might these words offer you hope and assurance in the things you are facing at present?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.