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Midrand Chapel Baptist Church
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The prayer and providence of God



Main Scriptures
Series: Romans
Book: Romans
Scripture References

Divine prayer and providence (Rom 8:26-29)

We been working our way through Romans and the last few weeks through Romans 8 which is designed to gives us an unshakeable confidence, a certain hope. Last week we saw that we have the certain hope of glory, a glory which far outweighs our present suffering and groaning, which will overtake us all and make the pains of childbirth forgotten forever. So we know the final destination is sure and is glorious…..but what are the defining features or distinguishing characteristics of our journey towards that destination? Sometimes its not enough just to know it all ends well, we need to know that we'll be ok in the present. That is what the next paragraph helps us understand.

Read Rom 8:23-30

3 defining features of our pathway to glory

1 Profound weakness (26)

2 Perfect Intercession (26-27)

3 Providential Circumstances (28-29)


1 PROFOUND weakness (26)

Vs 26 begins with the word “likewise” meaning in like manner, or in the same way. So this paragraph is closely connected with the previous paragraph

Not groanings

Some people see the connection in the “groaning.” In the same way that all creation groans (22) and believers groan (23) so the Spirit groans. But even though the word is repeated through these two passages, the main idea of the passage is not the groaning, but the hope or confidence we have because of what God is doing.

The main emphasis of the whole of chapter 8 is on all that God has done, is doing and will do – which should give us a certain hope, an unshakeable confidence in the present.

We have help

Vs 26 is then saying, in the same way that our knowledge of future glory helps us in to persevere in present weakness and struggle, so the Spirit himself also comes alongside and helps us in our present weakness.

The Greek word for “help” here begins with the preposition “sun” which means to come alongside, or to get together with. So the idea is that the Spirit enters into our struggle, into our groaning, into our weakness and He comes alongside us to assist, to help bear the load, to strengthen us.

We have a divine assistant, a personal assistant, an ever present, all powerful assistant to provide us with whatever help we need. We need help and we have all the help we need through the ministry of the Spirit.

We are weak

This is picking up on a theme which has been running throughout the chapter, and throughout the gospel message of Romans, which I hope you haven’t missed….we are weak, but God is strong. We are profoundly weak, and unable, and unwise and unfaithful and overwhelmed – but in the gospel God has given us strength and wisdom and power for our weakness. That’s what Rom 8 has been highlighting throughout.

·      8:1 We are guilty, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ

·      8:3 The flesh is weak, but God has done in Christ what we could not do and the law could not do because of the weakness of the flesh

·      8:4 We are unrighteous, but the righteous requirements of the law will ultimately be fulfilled in us who are led by the Spirit and not by the flesh. The Spirit triumphs over the flesh

·      8:11 Our bodies are perishing, but since the Spirit dwells in us – that same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies.

·      8:15 We are fearful and unworthy, but we didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but the Spirit who makes us sons and daughters of God and causes to cry out to our Abba Father

·      8:17 We have nothing and deserve nothing, but God has made us fellows heirs with Christ

·      8:18 We suffer and groan in a fallen world, but despite present sufferings, the glory of God will overtake us and our eternal hope will be realized.

·      8:23 we are groaning and struggling deeply, but God has provided a glorious redemption which is soon to be realized

·      8:31 There is much that stands against us, but our God is for us.

·      8:36-37 We are like weak, helpless sheep about to be slaughtered, and yet we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

The Christian, of all people should understand that God has not made us strong in ourselves, we are not self-sufficient and personally powerful – but profoundly weak. But the gospel is the good news that God gives us everything we need for our weakness.

A life of faith

So the Christian life is essentially a life lived in profound personal weakness which causes us to constantly reach out in faith and lay hold of God’s gracious provision for our weakness.

So it is one in which we are constantly crying out “Abba, Father, help me!...”

If that prayer doesn’t characterize your life, then you have not yet come to terms with your profound weakness, or you have not embraced your privileged position as a child of God.

The fundamental reason why we don’t pray is because we think that we are strong and God is weak. We have reality turned on its head….

And our predicament goes even beyond that….

We don’t know how to pray

When we finally realize that we desperately need God’s help and we can’t do it on our own – we are so ignorant of what we really need, so lacking in spiritual perspective, so blind to what is really going on and what really matters, so oblivious to what God is doing – that we don’t even know what we should be praying for.

When we do finally pray, we too often pray amiss.

·      James 4:1-4 says that we have strong desires which are constantly at war within us so that we are always struggling and striving to get what we think we want. We will fight for our rights and demands for our needs to be met, instead of asking God to give us what we need. Then, when we do ask, we don’t receive from God because we ask wrongly, because we are more controlled by our passions rather than motivated by God’s glory.

·      We are children who are constantly asking for sweets rather than a healthy meal, we want God to make us happy rather than healthy, we want what is easy rather than what is best, we want comfort rather than character, we are motivated by what is temporal rather than eternal – and most of the time we don’t even realize it.


Just think about this for a moment….the most effective tool for moving the most powerful Being in the universe is largely lying unused and untouched next to our beds or under our pillows. We are trying to clear a forest of problems in our lives with a nail file, when the chain saw is sitting right there waiting to be used….And then when we finally do pick that thing up, we start using it like a shovel.

In all seriousness though…Sometimes prayer is the only hope we have. The obstacles we are facing can only be overcome by supernatural, divine power and God’s power is directed through our prayers. But we find ourselves unwilling or unable to pray and we are so overwhelmed and confused and hopeless that when we do pray, we can’t think about anything else but making the pain go away.

Sometimes we don’t even know what we should be asking God for. We don’t know what He is doing or what we should be doing or where we are going….

God even has that scenario covered….

Profound weakness -

2 Perfect Intercession (26-27)

The second part of Vs 26 is emphatic. The Spirit HIMSELF intercedes.

God knows that if He waits for us to pray and then pray for the right things, it might be a case of too little, too late. So He himself provides the perfect intercessor, asking for all the right things with the right motives at the right time.

The Trinity agree

We are delving into the mysteries of the trinity here – one God eternally existing in three persons all equally and fully divine, of one essence and character and purpose and yet distinct from each other in personhood.

I don’t think we will ever fully be able to understand this mystery, but what we have here is the Trinity agreeing. We have God the Father and God the Spirit saying the same thing. We can understand is this….that when God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit agree together that something must be done for your eternal good – you better believe that it will be done.

Not tongues

This passage is often used by Charismatics to support their practice of having a personal prayer language. Many Charismatics will supplement or even replace praying in their mother tongue with what they call, “praying in the Spirit,” praying this babble of sounds which neither they nor anyone else understands.

I don’t think that is praying at all. If we don’t know what we are saying, if we can’t articulate what we are asking for then we are not asking at all – we are just chanting meaningless sounds which is exactly the kind of praying the gentiles engaged in, and which Jesus said we should not emulate in Matt 6 when He taught us to pray to our Father for our specific daily needs.

If an argument is going to be made for praying in tongues privately, I think it should be made from 1 Cor 14 rather than importing it into this passage. There are 3 reasons I say this:

1.   This passage is about the intercession of the Spirit, “The Spirit Himself intercedes.” It’s not about our intercession at all. In fact the whole of Rom 8 is about what God does for us, not about what we do for God or even with God.

2.   At the end of vs 26 it says He intercedes with “groans too deep for words.” The Greek word “laleo” means to speak, to utter, to make a sound. The text says here, that the Spirit intercedes with wordless groans. The word is “a-lalytos” where the prefix “a” conveys the opposite much like in English where the prefix “dis” changes belief into its opposite “disbelief.” So the most natural understanding is that the Spirit intercedes with groans that have no speech or utterance or sound. The text is describing an inaudible prayer. It’s prayer between God the Father and God the Spirit that we are not privy to, not even aware of.

3.   The third reason I say private prayer tongue is not in view here, is that everything in chapter 8 talks about what God is doing for every child of God in order to give us an unshakeable hope. Nothing in this passage is dependant upon us, contingent upon us or reserved for a select few super-spiritual believers. According to 1 Cor 12:30 not all speak in tongues, which means it would be the only thing God is doing in the whole of chapter 8 that not every believer benefits from.

I think what is being described here is far greater and more significant than any spiritual gift and all of them combined. To make this passage about praying in tongues is to rob it of its real significance and power.

People can get so hung up on the language of vs 26 and 27 that they miss what is clearly the main point. That the Spirit enters into our suffering, into our groaning and struggling. He understands the deepest longings of our heart, the desires we don’t even know how to express and because He is God, He also perfectly understands the mind and will of God, He has plumbed the depths of God’s plans and purposes and He takes these two things and puts them together in a prayer that is so perfect, so powerful, so truthful and passionate and articulate – that no language or speech could faithfully convey its content and He presents that before the Father on your behalf. And God who searches and knows your own heart even better than you know yourself, can see that the Spirit has reconciled your will and desire with God’s will and desire in the most perfect possible way – and so His prayer never goes unanswered….


The Spirit takes your deepest longings and desires, He takes the things you would really want if you were able to think clearly and rightly about it. And He takes the deepest longings and desires that God has for you as your Father in Heaven, and He articulates them both in the perfect prayer to God on your behalf. And that is why we can know with complete assurance and confidence what vs 28 affirms - that all things work together for the good of those who love God.

Notice that vs 28 is a continuation of vs 27. It starts with the word “and” so it’s not a completely new thought, but the completion of, the continuation of what is being said in vs 27. It doesn’t start with “therefore” the connection is not that tight, but it’s not full stop – completely new thought.

The Spirit is constantly, passionately and perfectly praying that God’s will be done in your life and we know that God’s will for your life is good and is being realized in all things.

People pray for us

When we ask someone to pray for us, isn’t there a great comfort in knowing they are doing that. Can’t we sometimes sense that people are praying because we can feel we are being carried along and supplied with strength that is not our own….

When we ask someone else to pray for us, we hope that they will remember to pray, we hope that they will pray with right motives and for the right things according to God’s will. So we have no sure confidence that their prayers will be answered. But when the Holy Spirit prays, without us even asking of knowing – we can have absolute confidence that every single aspect of our lives has been saturated in the most fervent, biblical and persuasive prayers possible.

3 defining features of our pathway to glory

1 Profound weakness (26)

2 Perfect Intercession (26-27)

3 Providential Circumstances (28-29)

3 Providential Circumstances (28-29)

We know with absolute confidence and certainty that all things, absolutely everything is working together for the good of those who love God. Some translations say “God is working everything together for good.” The meaning is very similar.

There are 3 key ideas rolled up in this affirmation which we mustn’t miss.

1)  God is working, 2) His work encompasses all things and 3) is for our ultimate good.

1.   God is working, God is ordaining, God is planning and purposing. All things are happening, not as the product of random chance, or fate, or as a result of human sin and weakness or Satanic deception. Yes, people are planning, yes Satan is scheming, yes forces are at work which seem to be random and chaotic – but behind all this is the God who sits on His throne and is causing all things to work together according to His perfect plan. God is the ultimate reason and reality behind everything.  He didn’t set the universe in motion and the sit back and watch what will happen. Neither did He create puppets which are unable to think and reason and will for themselves. But behind all actions and interactions and events and plans and purpose and wills and ways – God’s will and way prevails over all, in all and through all.

2.   Everything, is the word the text uses. Every single thing – all things. Nothing is excluded, nothing is overlooked, nothing and no-one lies outside of the scope of this statement.

3.   The third key term here is “for our good.” God is good, He is the sum of all good, the standard or definition of what is good and therefore all that He plans and purposes is always good. But the text makes it more personal than that. It’s for the good of those who love Him and are loved by Him, those whom He planned and purposed to call into a love relationship through Jesus Christ. It is for your good personally and specifically, if you are a believer. Vs 29 tells us The good here should not be equated with comfort, or pleasure, or material blessings, or favourable circumstances. It is specifically that we would be like Jesus Christ and be in Christ in all His fullness.

Wherever you find yourself, in whatever circumstances – whether it be because of your sin, or someone else’s folly or seemingly random events. You are exactly where you are meant to be and everything is exactly as it is meant to be – and God is accomplishing your ultimate good.

Illustrations of Sovereignty:

It's impossible to know how many stars exist. You know what that means, it means not even the mathematicians can do the kind of maths required to count all the stars. Astronomers estimate that in our Milky Way galaxy alone, there are about 300 billion. If you counted one star a second, it would take you 9506 years just to count the stars in our galaxy alone. There are at least 200 billion galaxies in the known universe.

·      Ps 147:4 “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.” God names what we can’t even number.

·      Is 40:26 says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” God’s plans and purposes include every single one of the countless stars in the universe, each one doing exactly as God has ordained and not even one running off course. Lift up your eyes at night and remember, that when Rom 8 says everything, its everything is far reaching.

Ps 145:15-16 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

·      Scientists have recently estimated that there is 8,7 million different species on earth – over 80% of these haven’t yet been discovered or described. God has put more creatures on earth than we are able to discover or count. There are an estimated 10 000 trillion ants alone, more ants than stars in our Galaxy. A wild guess which aims to put a number to the phrase “every living thing” estimates it as 20 quintillion. Which is 20 billion billion. Which means it would take us over 600 million millenia to count them at one per second. And Ps 145 says each and every one of these looks to God each and every day, and He supplies them with food and warmth and energy and satisfies them. (https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-many-animals-are-there-in-the-world)

·      Which is why Jesus can say in Lk 12:6, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the (more than 100 000) hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”


Ps 139:1-16

·      1-2God you search me and you know me completely, you know everything about me.

·      3-4 You know everything about my ways, my actions and activities – even before I speak, you know what I’m going to say

·      5-6 You are an invisible shield that surrounds me on every side and protects me from all harm

·      7-9 there is no place I can go where you are not already.

·      10 and you are not just there passively watching, but actively working for my good

·      11-12 nothing takes you by surprise, nothing gets the better of you

·      13-15 You made me, I’m exactly as you made me to be

·      16 – you ordained my life and my death and everything in between before I had even take my first breath.


Look up at the stars, look at the world around you, look at your own body and your life and you will see – that this God is all powerful, all knowing all wise and He knows how to do what is good for His children.

When Rom 8 says everything, it means absolutely everything is playing according to God’s tune and when it says “good” it means a wonderful symphony will ultimately emerge from the chaos and chacophony you are currently hearing, to the praise and glory of God alone.


This text is not calling us to understand, to be able to make sense of and see how every individual event and circumstance is accomplishing our good. It’s not calling us to be able to see God’s hand or discern His will – it’s calling us to trust, to believe in, to embrace these 3 realities, these features which define our lives until glory.

1 Profound weakness (26)

2 Perfect Intercession (26-27)

3 Providential Circumstances (28-29)


A young man proposes

Imagine you are a young women, madly in love with a young man who has planned and purposed to propose to you…For months he has been planning this special day, without your knowledge. He has arranged with your work and various friends that you will receive strategic messages at strategic points and have seemingly random encounters and unexpected interruptions all with the express point of getting you to exactly the right place at exactly the right time, so that he can get your attention and tell you how much he loves you and wants to spend the rest of his life with you. Are you forming the picture right? You might have had your own plans for that day, but your suiter has taken care of every contingency to ensure that his plan for your day prevails and you arrive at that destination, that idealic moment which is going to be so much better than the hair appointment and laundry chores you have planned for your day…. At some points in the day you might be thoroughly confused about what is happening and even a little irritated by these unexpected and unplanned interruptions that carry you to destinations far from your own plans and desires at the moment…..But when you are finally in that place that he has prepared and the African Sun is setting and the bush fire is going and he turns your face toward him and declares his unconditional love and his intention to spend eternity in a love relationship with you – at once it all makes sense….

This passage explains that your heavenly suitor has carefully planned and prepared not just one day and some things in that day – but every day and everything in that day – so that ultimately He might turn your face to Him and you will know that He loves you and intends to enjoy a love relationship with you forever.