Romans 8:17-29 teaches us the goal of prayer: to birth all that Christ accomplished on the cross. Prayer is the privilege of entering into his own sufferings (the sufferings Christ still experiences because we sin and suffer) in order that we may somehow attain to resurrection life. Prayer is a call to labor and birth with Christ—to actually join him in crying out “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:14-16, Matt. 6:9).
Christ Jesus became man. He entered into our formless, void and dark world in order to join in our sufferings and ultimately to overcome in the midst of our sufferings. Now he has given us his Spirit. He hovers over us and is within us so that we can carry on the work that he began. We carry on the work by letting Jesus’ Spirit intercede through us.
The role of the Spirit in the Godhead team is to bring about the new creation. He is given to fulfil all that Christ completed on the cross. His role is to apply the power of the cross in our lives and in the world. We do not know how to pray as we ought, our understanding is darkened and our flesh limits us. But the Spirit brings us out of our fleshly limitations. He causes us to rise above the darkness and even illuminates us while we are in darkness. He enables us to comprehend the will of the Father and his ultimate intention for creation. When we our empowered by the Spirit we can truly pray. We do not pray for merely earthly needs—like new cars, houses, and jobs—instead we are caught up (seated with Christ in heavenly realms) with the Father’s cosmic and consummative plans.
Consequently, intercession is joining in the Spirit’s role to superintend God’s creation. “…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2, Italics mine). This word “hovering” is only used three times in Scriptural Hebrew. Deuteronomy 32:11 is one of the times we find it. It is used in the context of an eagle that hovers over its young for their protection and maturity. Through connecting Genesis 1:2, Romans 8:18-26 and Deuteronomy 32:11 we learn that in prayer the Holy Spirit wants us to join in this fatherly and motherly role of bringing sons and daughters into salvation and maturity. When we intercede for the manifestation of God’s children we actually usher in the redemption of the universe. In prayer we “hover” over others in love and purity so that they come into the fullness of God’s new, glorious and liberated creation. And as the Holy Spirit is praying through us we also are praying for ourselves, because we are not yet perfected in God’s glory either—we all fall short.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, expressed this type of prayer. In his anguish we see the apostolic heart. Paul exclaims: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). The Galatians had lost their form—the image of Christ within them. Through false teachers, they were falling into legalism and bondage, captivity totally inconsistent with the glorious liberty of God’s children. Paul himself discerned their degeneration; out of the overflow of the Spirit within he entered into labour pains till Christ again was formed in them. He knew that unless the body of Christ comes into maturity (Eph 4:1ff) the end could not come. Every true apostle and apostolic person will possess the same heart and spirit as Paul.
Moreover, this was not the first time Paul interceded for the Galatians. He said, “I am again in the pains of childbirth…” The first time was when he gave them birth through intercession into salvation. Like Jeremiah saw the earth “formless and empty” we also need to see spiritually that men are “without God and hope.” By the Spirit we need to incubate them in prayer until they are gloriously born again. But it does not stop there. We need to be continually praying that Christ is fully formed in all that call him their own.
How is it possible to pray such heavenly prayers? It can only be a reality through the Spirit’s presence in our lives—permeating, moving and inspiring our hearts, thoughts and actions. God longs to bring about his new creation through us, by the same power of God’s Spirit displayed in the beginning.