26. Likewise 1 the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
26. Similiter vero Spiritus etiam coopitulatur infirmitatibus nostris; non enim quid oraturi sumus quemadmodum oportet, novimus; verum Spiritus ipse intercedit pro nobis gemitibus innarrabilibus.
27. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
27. Qui vero scrutatur corda, novit cogitationem Spiritus, quod secundum Deum intercedit pro sanctis.
26. And likewise the Spirit, etc. That the faithful may not make this objection -- that they are so weak as not to be able to bear so many and so heavy burdens, he brings before them the aid of the Spirit, which is abundantly sufficient to overcome all difficulties. There is then no reason for any one to complain, that the bearing of the cross is beyond their own strength, since we are sustained by a celestial power. And there is great force in the Greek word sunantilamba>netai, which means that the Spirit takes on himself a part of the burden, by which our weakness is oppressed; so that he not only helps and succours us, but lifts us up; as though he went under the burden with us. 2 The word infirmities, being in the plural number, is expressive of extremity. For as experience shows, that except we are supported by God's hands, we are soon overwhelmed by innumerable evils, Paul reminds us, that though we are in every respect weak, and various infirmities threaten our fall, there is yet sufficient protection in God's Spirit to preserve us from falling, and to keep us from being overwhelmed by any mass of evils. At the same time these supplies of the Spirt more clearly prove to us, that it is by God's appointment that we strive, by groanings and sighings, for our redemption.
For what we should pray for, etc. He had before spoken of the testimony of the Spirit, by which we know that God is our Father, and on which relying, we dare to call on him as our Father. He now again refers to the second part, invocation, and says, that we are taught by the same Spirit how to pray, and what to ask in our prayers. And appropriately has he annexed prayers to the anxious desires of the faithful; for God does not afflict them with miseries, that they may inwardly feed on hidden grief, but that they may disburden themselves by prayer, and thus exercise their faith.
At the same time I know, that there are various expositions of this passage; 3 but Paul seems to me to have simple meant this, -- That we are blind in our addresses to God; for though we feel our evils, yet our minds are more disturbed and confused than that they can rightly choose what is meet and expedient. If any one makes this objection -- that a rule is prescribed to us in God's word; to this I answer, that our thoughts nevertheless continue oppressed with darkness, until the Spirit guides them by his light.
But the Spirit himself intercedes, 4 etc. Though really or by the event it does not appear that our prayers have been heard by God, yet Paul concludes, that the presence of the celestial favor does already shine forth in the desire for prayer; for no one can of himself give birth to devout and godly aspirations. The unbelieving do indeed blab out their prayers, but they only trifle with God; for there is in them nothing sincere, or serious, or rightly formed. Hence the manner of praying aright must be suggested by the Spirit: and he calls those groanings unutterable, into which we break forth by the impulse of the Spirit, for this reason -- because they far exceed the capability of our own minds. 5 And the Spirit is said to intercede, not because he really humbles himself to pray or to groan, but because he stirs up in our hearts those desires which we ought to entertain; and he also affects our hearts in such a way that these desires by their fervency penetrate into heaven itself. And Paul has thus spoken, that he might more significantly ascribe the whole to the grace of the Spirit. We are indeed bidden to knock; but no one can of himself premeditate even one syllable, except God by the secret impulse of his Spirit knocks at our door, and thus opens for himself our hearts.
27. But he who searches hearts, etc. This is a remarkable reason for strengthening our confidence, that we are heard by God when we pray through his Spirit, for he thoroughly knows our desires, even as the thoughts of his own Spirit. And here must be noticed the suitableness of the word to know; for it intimates that God regards not these emotions of the Spirit as new and strange, or that he rejects them as unreasonable, but that he allows them, and at the same time kindly accepts them, as allowed and approved by him. As then Paul had before testified, that God then aids us when he draws us as it were into his own bosom, so now he adds another consolation, that our prayers, of which he is the director, shall by no means be disappointed. The reason also is immediately added, because he thus conforms us to his own will. It hence follows, that in vain can never be what is agreeable to his will, by which all things are ruled. Let us also hence learn, that what holds the first place in prayer is consent with the will of the Lord, whom our wishes do by no means hold under obligation. If then we would have our prayers to be acceptable to God, we must pray that he may regulate them according to his will.