“Since I don’t have school tomorrow, I’m going to stay up and see the lunar eclipse,” announced Annalia. “It says it’s a full eclipse on October the 8th, at 3:27 a.m.”
“Okay,” I responded sleepily, glancing up from my book, “Go for it. You can wake me if it’s awesome.”
We’d looked online for details of the eclipse but I decided I needed more than two-hours sleep to get me through the day.
Annalia did indeed wake me just before 4 a.m., but not because the shadowy blood-moon looked awesome.
“Mom!” she patted my arm, “Come look! It’s absolutely no different! They were wrong.”
I shuffled to the back deck and there high in the sky was a perfectly round, glowing moon, a disc tacked to black velvet.
“Hmm,” I mumbled and yawned an “oh-well” and found my bed again.
When morning came I mentioned our middle-of-the-night folly to my husband.
“You guys had the wrong night!” Angelo laughed. “She thought it was the eighth, but in actuality, she went out the morning of October ninth! She was full night off. Twenty-four hours late.”
Annalia had committed to her plan, her actions were sincere and her goal was to witness the lunar eclipse, but she misinterpreted the information. One small detail turned out to make a big difference in the success or failure of her observatory mission. She has no photos, no story to tell except one of a missed opportunity. Luckily, she had the morning off school to catch up on her sleep!
Annalia’s mistake (and I know, I wasn’t much help!) got me thinking about this book I’m reading, Father, Son and the Other One, by Jeff Kennedy, and about one of the aspects of the doctrine of the trinity that I have come to love and appreciate dearly.
“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 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, emphasis mine.
Charles Spurgeon explained these verses thusly:
“Yet our heavenly Father, who looks immediately upon the heart, reads what the Spirit of God has [written] there, and does not need even our groans to explain the meaning. He reads the heart itself: “he knoweth,’ says the text, “what is the mind of the Spirit.” The Spirit is one with the Father, and the Father knows what the Spirit means. The desires which the Spirit prompts may be too spiritual for such babes in grace as we are actually to describe or to express, and yet the Spirit writes the desire on the renewed mind, and the Father sees it.” Charles Spurgeon, sermon no. 1532.
You see, there is such cohesive connection, such inherent communication between that Father who searches our hearts (looking to meet us in our prayer) and the Spirit of Christ who dwells there that a breakdown in communication is virtually impossible! Jesus had this relationship with the Father that he, in turn, gives us, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
We often get stuck on the beautiful yet partial truth that the very Spirit of Christ lives in us and groans to God on our behalf when the act of verbalizing our prayers is excessively difficult in times of great need.
Some claim that Romans 8:26-27 points to the necessity of a divinely inspired prayer language, that those with the gift of “praying in tongues” can tap directly into the listening ear of God because the Spirit is groaning out the right information in the best language. But there is So Much More to golden truth!
First, is the concept that God is searching the hearts of the saints.
He is, as he did long ago in the Garden of Eden, walking about looking to meet us (see Genesis 3:8-9), to be alongside us, his created and redeemed children (1 Peter 1:3-9). Yes, we can invite him, as King David did when he penned Psalm 139, “Search me, O Lord…”, but the gift of Jesus to all who believe, is the very presence of his Spirit (John 14, Acts 2) who keeps the door to our soul-searching Heavenly Father open at all times.
Second, is the reality that while we may be “weak” and unable to communicate effectively, God the Father and the Spirit are always of the same mind. There is never a chance of miscommunication.
This means he is “interceding for us with groans that words cannot express” all the time, not merely when we’re at our lowest, most vulnerable or sick, but because our native limited status as humans has separated us from the mind of God, and he has given us his seal, his spirit, to mend that tear. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Third, God the Father and the Spirit cannot miscommunicate nor be divided in will. The Holy Spirit is interceding “in accordance with God’s will”.
What relief! We never have to be afraid that we’re praying the wrong thing or even in the wrong language! There is no way that our prayers can be misconstrued when we belong to God through our salvation in Jesus Christ. His Spirit writes the right thing and the Father reads it; the Word is writ upon our souls!
I need not groan, I need not mutter, I need not be eloquent in my phrasing—I need only to recognize with gratitude that my Father is searching, the Sprit is communing and I have been miraculously drawn into this perfect relationship because of the work of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are reminded in Ephesians 1:13, that all we do is this: believe. The rest is God’s divine movement.
How often have I gazed heavenward, like Annalia waiting for the eclipse, hoping to be amazed, yet relying on my own faulty interpretation of the facts? Too many times, I admit. And as I’ve leaned into understanding the characteristics of the Holy Spirit, I’ve come to accept that we all too often box God by our definitions of his usefulness, as Jeff discusses in his book, Father, Son and the Other One. He begins this chapter with this quote from R. C. Sproul,
“The Holy Spirit may be distinguished from the Word, but to separate the Word and the Spirit is fatal. The Holy Spirit teaches, leads and speaks to us through the Word and with the Word, not apart from or against the Word”.
Kennedy says, “The Spirit wants to teach us Christ’s Word in the context of life. God has always been about the business of contextualizing His Word and truth in the lives of people. By contextualization we mean to speak the language of God in the language and context of the receiving culture. God always wants to translate His message into the languages and speech forms of the indigenous population. He embeds His Spirit-inspired truth in the heart of a believer and stamps that believer’s life with the power of eternity. Then he sends that Christian into his culture as a messenger.” (Father, Son and The Other One, page 95)
God’s methods of communication are practical and foolproof, guaranteed by his perpetual interaction with each and every believer. I need not ask for this searching and interceding, I only have to trust it.
God’s infallible faithfulness is not only seen in his provision for our salvation through Jesus, but in our constant safe-keeping by the continuously open lines of communication through the Father, the Son and the Other One. We can trust that the Word makes it clear that God has divinely wired us into this connection and that nothing can sever us from the conversation.