Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By Simon Tugwell | Go to book overview

From the Commentary on Romans

Romans 8:26-27
26. Similarly the Spirit helps our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself pleads for us with unutterable groans,
27. and he who searches hearts knows what the Spirit desires, because he is pleading for the saints in accordance with God.

We have been told that our mortal bodies will be made alive through the Holy Spirit, when our weakness is taken away; similarly even in the situation of this life, in which we are still subject to weakness, "the Spirit helps our weakness," even if he does not completely remove it. "The Spirit lifted me up and raised me up and I went off, bitter in the indignation of my spirit," finding that weakness had not entirely gone, "for the hand of the Lord was with me, strengthening me"—it was in this that the Spirit raised me up (Ezek. 3:14). "The spirit is ready, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).

Then he explains this by saying, "We do not know what to pray for." And first, he shows our need of the Spirit's help, which concerns the weakness of this present life; then he shows the manner of his help ("the Spirit himself ... "). Thirdly, he shows the effectiveness of his help ("He who searches ... ").

So, first, he says: I am right in saying that "the Spirit helps our weakness," because we suffer weakness in this regard, that "we do not know what to pray for as we ought." "A man whose way is hidden, and God has surrounded him with darkness" (Job 3:23). And notice that the apostle says that there are two things we do not know: what to ask for when we pray and the manner in which we ought to ask for it. And both of these contentions appear to be false.

We do, first of all, know what to pray for, because the Lord taught it to us: "Hallowed be thy name, etc." (Matt. 6:9). But we must say that we can indeed know in a general way what it is ap

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