************ Funeral Sermon on Romans 8:26-30 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on October 6, 2018


Romans 8:26-30
"The Spirit Helps"
Delsie May Miller Funeral

I got together with the family of Delsie May Miller last week Thursday. We got together again yesterday to bury her body. Today we are together for a memorial service in which we affectionately remember the "Ladybug Lady."

Each time the Bible was read. And each time we also bowed our heads in prayer. Why? Because Christians pray. That is one of the ways the children of God distinguish themselves from the children of Satan. In fact, God's children pray constantly. The Apostle Paul can say:
(Rom 12:12) Be ... faithful in prayer.

(Phil 4:6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

(1 Thess 5:17) Pray continually.
Prayer was requested for Delsie and all of the family. So we've been praying.

Did you hear what Paul says about prayer in our Bible reading? Paul says we "do not know what we ought to pray for" (Rom 8:26). The Apostle calls this a "weakness." It is a prayer weakness. Christians have this prayer weakness because in this body and on this earth we are subject to the sin and brokenness of this present age.

What does this weakness mean for you, the family and friends of Delsie May Miller? Pamala told me it was hard to pray. It was hard to know what to pray for. When do you stop praying for healing and when do you pray for the Lord to take someone home? When do you stop asking for your desires and pray instead for what the other person needs? When do you realize the other person is not going to get better and instead is just going to be more and more confused? It is hard to know what to pray for in this situation: do you pray for healing, or a painless death, or God's grace to see her or you through the pain? We do not know "what we ought to pray for."

Part of the problem is that our salvation is not yet a full reality. Christians, in this present world, are a bit like customers in a restaurant ordering a meal without really knowing what is on the menu. What exactly does a customer ask for when he doesn't know what is available? You see, we live by hope or faith and not by sight (cf Rom 8:25) so we cannot really understand the totality of our salvation. Such things as adoption as sons (Rom 8:23), the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23), the inheritance of glory (Rom 8:17), freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2), and no condemnation (Rom 8:1), are beyond our full comprehension. Yes, we do have the Spirit of God within us as a down payment, a kind of "firstfruits" of all this (Rom 8:23). Yet, we lack not only the fulfillment but also the full knowledge of what this fulfillment will be like. In such weakness we need help in knowing what to pray for. What exactly do we ask for when we don't really know what is available?

Our Bible reading tells us "the Spirit helps us in our weakness" (Rom 8:26).

How, in what way, does it do this?

Our text tells us: "The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express."

As Romans 8 makes clear the children of God have two divine Intercessors. According to verse 34, Christ is our Intercessor in heaven (cf Heb 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1); and, according to verse 26, the Holy Spirit is the Intercessor in our heart.

Do you remember the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He struggled with God in prayer. One of the horrors He faced was that He had to pray alone. His disciples were not able to keep watch with Him for even one hour (Matthew 26:39-46). Not for Him was the fellowship of prayer.

In our Bible reading for today we are given the assurance that never once do we pray alone. The Spirit of the Lord always prays with us, in us, and for us. It is He Who overcomes our prayer weakness.

Our Bible reading starts off with the phrase, "In the same way," or as the RSV and the KJV puts it, "Likewise." In the same way as what? Like what? What is the point of comparison here?

The key word here is "groan." We find this word three times in Romans 8.
-First, in verse 22 the Spirit-inspired Apostle portrays the Creation itself as groaning, as in the pains of child-birth, for its freedom from bondage to decay.
-Second, says Paul in verse 23, we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. This was the experience of Delsie May Miller -- what you saw and heard on the part of this true Christian believer was the groans of a person eager to be fully released from the ravages of sin.
-Third, in the same way the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Rom 8:26).

The Spirit pleads on our behalf with groans. The "groans" of the Spirit do not imply any kind of human prayer. The Spirit's intercession is so perfect it is beyond expression by words.

What might be the content of the Spirit's groaning intercession on our behalf? The Spirit petitions God about the fulfillment of His promises and the complete realization of all the joys of salvation. He prays that God will bring to completion or fulfillment our adoption as sons and daughters (Rom 8:23), the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23), the inheritance of glory (Rom 8:17), freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2), no condemnation (Rom 8:1). On our behalf the Spirit intercedes with God to make all this real in our lives. On behalf of Delsie May Miller the Spirit interceded with God to make all this real in her life. The Spirit prayed for her perfection. And, and, I want to tell you that this prayer has been answered. Delsie's groaning is now finished. And, your groaning on her behalf in now finished too.

Isn't this wonderful to know and to hear? That "The Spirit helps us in our weakness ... the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express"?

The Apostle James tells us that "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16b). In saying this, he is telling us that the prayer of a man, woman, or child of faith is powerful and effective. As an illustration of this he directs our attention towards Elijah. From Elijah we learn how great is the power of prayer. We learn that prayer can shut the heavens and cause a drought. It can open the heavens and send down rain. It can send down fire from heaven. It can save a condemned city. It can stop fire. It can defeat an enemy. It can reveal hidden mysteries. It can bring triumph over trouble. It can heal illness. It can lead to forgiveness and the overcoming of sin. Prayer, we learn, is a mighty, powerful weapon for the child of God.

Do you know why this is the case? Today we find out why. It is the Spirit Who makes our prayers powerful and effective. It is because of the Spirit that the prayers of God's people are heard and are answered.

We can point to three reasons why this is so. First, we have to point to the perfect unity within the Godhead. God the Father
(Rom 8:27) knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
The triune Godhead is a perfect unity. Within that unity it is unthinkable that the Spirit would make any intercession that is not in accordance with the mind and will of God. Within the perfect unity of the triune Godhead the intercessions of the Holy Spirit always meet with the understanding and approval of God.

Consider the prayers of Elijah. He prayed for drought and there was drought. Later, he prayed for rain and there was rain (cf James 5:17,18). His prayers were powerful and effective because the Spirit made them in tune with the will of God. It was God's will to cause a drought; and later, it was God's will to bring rain. Because of the Spirit, then, Elijah's prayers were in tune with the will of God.

Second, we have to point to the omniscience, the perfect knowledge, of the Father. God knows all things and sees all things. He knows and hears the unuttered and unutterable groaning of the Spirit. They do not miss the omniscient ear of God. Though they are without words, He hears them and understands them.

More than this, God knows what we ask and what the Spirit asks before the asking even takes place. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus can say, "your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Can there be any doubt, then, that God hears and answers the perfect intercession of the Spirit?

Third, we have to point to the love of God. God works for the good of those who love Him. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayers have been uttered on behalf of Delsie. By the people of God. By fellow believers. But, even more importantly, by the Spirit.
(Rom 826) The Spirit helps us in our weakness ... the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

There is so much groaning, so much pain, so much suffering in this life. We all experience this at one time or another. So let me end by asking if the Spirit is praying for you? I ask that because Paul makes clear the Spirit does not pray for everyone. For whom does the Spirit intercede? For whom does the Spirit groan? "For the saints." For believers. For those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. If you are one of these believers, rest assured the Spirit prays for your perfection and the fulfilment of God's promises in your life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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