Acts 4:8-12
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Search Before You Pray

Search Before You Pray

The last place God would need to look…

This passage always seemed a little odd to me:

Romans 8:26 NIV In the same way, 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.

27 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 

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Odd because verse 27 seemed to be saying that "he who searches our hearts," is God. It seemed to say that God searches our hearts so He can know the mind of the Spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Shouldn't God know what is the mind of the Holy Spirit? Shouldn't God know the mind of the Spirit of God? Shouldn't God know the mind of His Spirit? You'd think the last place God would need to look to know the mind of the Spirit would be our hearts. Anyway, that's why it always read a little odd to me. So I'd just kind of skip over it, not sure what to make of it. 

It was something of  Norman Grubb's that clued me in to the correct understanding of this scripture.

“…when Paul said in Romans 8:26–27 that the Spirit is given expressly to guide our praying, for true prayers are God’s prayers prayed through us: they issue from God’s mind, are taught us by His Spirit, are prayed in His faith, and are thus assured of answer.” Norman Grubb, Touching the Invisible

Though he offered no explanation for his interpretation.

My cobbled together translation

Here's my interpretation of those verses, cobbled together from different translations and my research:

26 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. (Romans 8:26 NRSV)

(Verse 26 is directly from the New Revised Standard Version.)


27 And the one who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the spirit because (so that gm) he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27 NRSV using optional translations from footnotes.) 

Verse 27 is also from the NRSV but using a couple alternate translations mentioned in the footnotes, "the one" in place of "God," and "he," rather than "the Spirit."  My contribution is to change the Greek "OTI" translated "because" in vs. 27 to "so that." 

For that change I'm relying on this from the Eerdmans Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament:

 "Ὅτι also has a consecutive sense:that/so that (Matt 8:27 par.; Heb 2:6, etc"(EDNT).

Also this from The Greek-English Lexicon, by Louw & Nida

90.21 οτι (1) (includes: διοτι[β], ως[β]) markers of discourse content, whether direct or indirect - that, the fact that... In ROM.8:21 διοτι appears to be simply a variant of οτι with essentially the same meaning, though some scholars have interpreted διοτι in this context as meaning because (see διοτι[a], 89.26).)


28 And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 options from NIV footnotes.)

(Verse 28 is a translation option from the New International Version footnotes.)


We're the ones who are to search our hearts.

Now the main point  I want you to see is that Paul's not talking about God searching our hearts so God can know the mind of the spirit, he's talking about us searching our hearts so we can know the mind of the spirit. 

Notice that both vs 26 and 28 talk about the Sprit helping us and God working together with us. The intercession mentioned in these verses  isn't something God does on His own. The "sighs too deep for words," of vs. 26 aren't vocalized, made audible, given breath, by the Holy Spirit but by us, that's our part. The bringing about what is good of vs. 28 isn't done solely by God but together with us who love him. 

Our part is to yield to the Holy Spirit and utter the "sighs too deep for words." Then, as we do this, we should search our hearts to discern the mind of the spirit, to determine what the Spirit means with those sighs too deep for words.

Once we know the mind of the Spirit, the thoughts of the Spirit, we will know the right words to speak, the "thus saith the LORD," for this situation, the words God would have us to speak, the intercession God would have us to make, to bring about what is good. And as we speak out the Spirits mind, as we speak God's words, God works with us to bring it about.

How we've learned to pray at our church

Once Becky and I went to pray for someone in the hospital. I knew this person and I'd been told his condition was quite serious. He'd become infected as the result of a procedure in a doctor's office. At first he was just going to tough it out, but when he began growing weaker his wife forced him to go to the hospital.

It turned out he'd become infected with one of those serious medical infections.The doctors had tried several medications and his condition hadn't improved. The way I understood it, on the day that we visited him the doctors had given him a really strong medicine normally used for chemotherapy, but his fever had still not gone down.

When we got there I asked if I could pray for him. He was very open to it and appreciative. Becky and I began to pray quietly, in the spirit, in other tongues. Paul says this about speaking in tongues:

2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2 NIV

I'm praying in the spirit, and looking to my heart because I want to know what I can believe God for, what I can have faith for, what I can believe will come to pass when I speak it. After a couple minutes, not long, of praying while searching my heart, these words seemed to float up from my heart to my mind, "They're going to release you and send you home in the morning." So Becky and I prayed a little formal prayer and then, at the end, added the real prayer, "They're going to release you and send you home in the morning." As I understand it they sent him home the next morning. Praise God.

This is how we've learned to pray at our church. And I believe that's what Paul is talking about in these verses.

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