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)
This passage is extremely humbling. We are filled with weaknesses. Further, we do not know how to pray. Yet, in spite of all our limitations, the Holy Spirit intercedes. To “intercede” means “to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.” I believe the Apostle Paul chose his words carefully. Our weakness and lack of prayer creates a difficulty or trouble for each of us.
You can intercede in the simplest ways — but not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. The Holy Spirit empathizes with us at a primal level; at a level more primitive than words. Words are not necessary when deep emotion is being conveyed. Sometimes I just look at my daughter and just melt in gratitude to God for the gift of her. I have this great picture of our 7-week-old grandson looking at my wife. Long before he can talk, his look, his sigh, is one of deep longing for her, so deep words are not necessary.
These are two of my personal examples of sighs too deep for words. I am a flawed human being. Imagine the Divinely loving sighs the Spirit initiates in each one of our lives. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Spirit acts on our behalf, interceding for us over and over again. The motivation for those intercessions wasn’t parental responsibility, or even Divine compassion. No, the Spirit’s intercessory sighs are about intense love, even deeper than that between a baby and grandmother.
Today, begin by remembering each of those moments where you sighed too deep for words. It might have been your wedding day, or the day your child was born. Then contemplate how much greater God’s capacity is to love than yours or mine. Ask God to expand your capacity to love. The more we are able to love beyond words, the more we are able to appreciate the way God loves. The Spirit speaks through sighs. In prayer you will be able to listen, and feel incomprehensible joy, love, and acceptance. That is why this is one of my favorite passages.