by Thomas Boston
It is by the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to pray, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). And, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
There Are Two Sorts of Prayers.
Firstly, a prayer wrought out by virtue of a gift of knowledge and utterance. This is bestowed on many reprobates, and that gift may be useful to others, and to the church. But as it is merely of that sort, it is not accepted, nor does Christ put it in before the Father for acceptance.
For, secondly, there is a prayer wrought in men by virtue of the Holy Spirit—“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication” (Zech. 12:10). And that is the only acceptable prayer to God, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). The word “effective” is from the Greek word “inwrought.” Right praying is praying in the Spirit. It is a gale blowing from heaven, the breathing of the Spirit in the saints, that carries them out in the prayer, and which comes the length of the throne.
Spirit Helps Us to Pray Two Ways
1. As a teaching and instructing Spirit, furnishing proper matter of prayer, causing us to know what we pray for (Romans 8:26), enlightening the mind in the knowledge of our needs, and those of others. The Spirit brings into our remembrance these things, suggesting them to us according to the word, together with the promises of God, on which prayer is grounded, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). Hence it is that the saints are sometimes carried out in prayer for things which they had no view of before, and carried by some things they had.
2. As a quickening, exciting Spirit (Rom. 8:26). The Spirit qualifies the soul with praying graces and affections, working in the praying person sense of needs, faith, fervency, humility, etc., “Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear” (Psalm 10:17). The man may go to his knees in a very unprepared attitude for prayer, yet the Spirit blows, [and] he is helped. It is for this reason the Spirit is said to make intercession for us, namely, in so far as he teaches and quickens, puts us in a praying frame of mind, and draws out our petitions, as it were, which the Mediator presents.
Special Giftedness in Prayer?
This praying with the help of the Spirit is particular to the saints (James 5:16); yet they do not have that help at all times, nor always in the same measure; for sometimes the Spirit, being provoked, departs, and they are left in a withered condition. So there is great need to look for a breathing, and pant for it, when we are to go to duty: for if there be not a gale, we will tug at the oars but heartlessly.
Let no man think that a readiness and flowing of expression in prayer is always the effect of the Spirit’s assistance. For that may be the product of a gift and of the common operations of the Spirit, removing the impediment of the exercise of it. And it is evident one may be scarce of words and have groans instead of them, while the Spirit helps him to pray (Romans 8:26). Neither is every flood of emotions in prayer, the effect of the Spirit of prayer. There are those which puff up a man, but make him never a whit more holy, tender in his walk, etc. But the influences of the Spirit never miss to be humbling but sanctifying. Hence, says David, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own, we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). And, says the apostle, “We have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).