When It’s Hard to Pray

Text: Romans 8:18-27

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” —Romans 8:26

When I am communicating at one of our cross-cultural sports camps in Italy, Germany, or Dominican Republic, I always make sure to have a translator app on my phone. There have been many times I couldn’t speak in a foreign language, but thanks to technology, I could pull out that app and type in what I am saying and let the person read it off of my phone—and voilà, I am communicating though I don’t know the right native words to use.

Sometimes I feel like I’m unable to communicate and express my heart when I pray to my heavenly Father—and I’m not alone. Many of us struggle at times with prayer. But the apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

How amazing is the gift of the Holy Spirit! Better than any technology or computer program, He clearly communicates my thoughts and desires in harmony with the Father’s purposes. The work of the Spirit not only makes prayer work, that intercession also carries us when our hearts fail.

Perhaps you are going through a time in which you find it difficult to talk to God. It’s comforting to know that God doesn’t expect us to have all the right words. He is merely looking for childlike faith in our hearts—the simple and innocent trust, even naïve dependence, that our heavenly Father is going to take care of us no matter how bleak a situation looks. In those times when our hearts fail and words are not to be found, God meets us in our weakness. The Spirit searches our hearts and speaks on our behalf. The Psalmist said (Psalm 73:26):

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.


Father, I thank You for the gift of Your Spirit and the privilege of prayer. Help me to lean on Your Spirit in moments when I don’t know how to pray. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for having the words when I don’t. Thank you for meeting me in my weakest and bleakest of moments—interceding for me when I get stuck. My flesh and my heart may fail, but YOU are my portion forever. I praise YOU that I am never, ever left to my own devices. I am YOURS, and YOU carry me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. In what circumstances might a Christian find it hard to pray?
  2. What is the relationship between God and the Holy Spirit, and how does the Holy Spirit help us in our weakness? (Romans 8:26-27)
  3. What does God promise to us that can make any suffering bearable?
  4. What do we learn about God’s love for us when we realize that the Holy Spirit helps us even when we cannot pray?
  5. How can you lean on the Holy Spirit as you seek to abide in the Father’s love this week?

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