The Spirit The Author Of Prayer
By Octavius Winslow (1808 –1878)
Many and endearing are the characters or offices ascribed to the Spirit in the Word; but none more sweet or appropriate to a child of God than that which He fills as the Intercessor in His saints. All true prayer is of the Spirit’s inditing. He is the Author of prayer in the soul. A brief reference to the divine testimony will clearly substantiate this.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 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" (Rom. 8:26-27).
"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18).
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…" (Eph. 6:18).
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude v. 20).
And our dear Lord encouraged His disciples in view of their approaching persecutions, with the same truth: "It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:20). The consideration of two or three points will sufficiently unfold His work as the Author of prayer in the believer.
First, it is the Spirit who leads the soul to an acquaintance with its wants. Such is the fallen condition of the soul – such its poverty, ignorance, and infirmity, it knows not its real weakness and deep necessity until taught it by the Holy Ghost. This is even so after conversion. A dear child of God (and it is awfully true, without any qualification, of an unrenewed man) may fall into the state of the Laodicean church, to whom it was said, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17). A believer may not know his real condition, his absolute need. There may be a secret declension in his soul; the enfeebling and decay of some spiritual grace; the slow but effectual inroad of some spiritual enemy; the cherishing of some Achan; the feeding of some worm at the root of his holiness, and all the while he may remain ignorant of the solemn fact.
And how is he to know it unless some one teach him? And who is that teacher but the Spirit? As He first convinced of sin, so, in each successive stage of the believer’s experience, He convinces of the daily want, the spiritual necessity, the growing infirmity, the increasing power of sin, and the deepening poverty.
Overlook not this important part of His work. To go to the throne of grace, we must have something to go for, or, some errand to take us there, some sin to confess, some guilt to mourn over, some want to supply, some infirmity to make known – nor would we leave out – some blessing to acknowledge. How is all this to be effected, but by the blessed Spirit? Oh what an unspeakable mercy to have One who knows us altogether, and who can make us acquainted with ourselves!
It is a far advanced step in grace when we know our real, undisguised condition. A man may lose a grace, and may travel far, and not be sensible of his loss. The world has come in, and filled up the space. Some carnal joy or pursuit has occupied the mind, engrossed the affections and the thoughts; and the soul has not been sensible of the loss it has sustained. Thus have many lost the sense of adoption, and pardon, and acceptance – and the graces of faith, and love, and humility have become enfeebled, until the description of Ephraim may truly and faithfully apply to them: "Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not" (Hos. 7:8-9). But the blessed Spirit at length discovers to the soul its loss, convinces it of its departure, makes known its real condition, and, in this way, leads it to the throne of grace.
Dear reader, cherish high views of the work of the Spirit. To have one nigh at hand, yea in thee, as He is, to detect so faithfully and lovingly as He does, the waning grace, the feeble pulse, the spiritual decay; to awaken sensibility, godly sorrow, and draw out the heart in confession, is to possess one of the most costly blessings. Honor the blessed Spirit, laud Him for His work, extol His faithfulness and love, and treat Him as thy tenderest, dearest Friend.
He stirs up the slumbering spirit of prayer. This is either perpetually declining, or exposed to declension, in the believer. And it needs as perpetual a supply of grace from the Author of prayer to keep it in vigor, as to restore it when it has declined. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications…" (Zech. 12:10).
He teaches the believer to plead the atoning blood of Christ. He puts this great and prevailing argument in his mouth; and when sin seems a mountain, and unbelief would suppress the aspiration, and a deep consciousness of unworthiness would cause the soul to "stand afar off," He opens to his view this precious and encouraging truth, the prevalency of the blood of Jesus with God on behalf of His people. In a moment, the mountain is leveled, unbelief is checked, and the soul, unfettered and unrestrained, draws near to God, yea, rushes into the bosom of its Father.
What a view does this give us of the love of the Spirit, as the Author of prayer! Who has not experienced it who is not yet a stranger to the blessed exercise of communion with God? How often has guilt caused the head to hang down, and the sense of utter vileness and worthlessness has covered the soul with shame, and even the very destitution has kept back the believer, just as the penury, and the wretched covering, and the loathsomeness of the poor beggar have kept him from the door – then does the blessed Spirit, in the plenitude of His grace and tenderness, unfold Jesus to the soul, as being all that it wanteth to give it full, and free, and near access to God. He removes the eye from self, and fixes and fastens it upon the blood that pleads louder for mercy than all his sins can plead for condemnation; He brings, too, the righteousness near, which so clothes and covers the soul, as fits it to appear in the presence of the King of kings, not merely with acceptance, but with delight. Beholding him thus washed and clothed, God quiets him in His love, and rejoices over him with singing.
Nor must we overlook the understanding which subsists between God the Father and the Spirit. "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." There is a perfect agreement or understanding between the Father and the interceding Spirit. First, the Father, the Searcher of hearts, knowing the mind of the Spirit, understands the desire and the meaning of the Spirit in the souls of His saints. He understands the "groanings which cannot be uttered." He can interpret their sighs, yea, He can read the meaning of their various desires. And, when feeling has been too deep for utterance, and thought too intense for expression, and the soul could but groan out its wants and desires, then has God understood the mind of the Spirit.
Oh the inconceivable preciousness of a throne of grace! To have a God to go to, who knows the mind of the Spirit – a God who can interpret the groan, and read the language of desire; to have promise upon promise bidding the soul draw nigh; and when, from the fullness of the heart, the mouth has been dumb, and from the poverty of language, thought could not be expressed, that then, God, who searcheth the hearts, and knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, should say, "Never didst thou, My child, pray to Me as thou didst then; never was thy voice so sweet, so powerful, so persuasive; never wast thou so eloquent as when My Spirit made intercession for thee with groanings which thou couldst not utter."
It was, perhaps, thy last resource; refuge failed thee, no man cared for thy soul; friends failed thee, frames failed thee, all forsook thee and fled, and, in thine extremity, thou didst betake thyself to God, and He failed thee not. Thou didst find the throne of grace accessible; thou didst see a God of grace upon it, and the sweet incense of the Redeemer’s precious merits going up; and thou didst draw near, and sigh, and groan, and breathe out thy wants, and didst say, "It is good for me to draw near to God."
Yes! "He knows the mind of the Spirit." The secret desire for Jesus, the longing for divine conformity, the hidden mourning over the existence and power of indwelling sin, the feeblest rising of the heart to God, the first sigh of the humble and contrite spirit, all are known to God. "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." Oh let this encourage you, dear reader, when you feel you cannot pray by reason of the weakness of the flesh, or the depth of your feeling; if the Spirit is interceding in you, your heavenly Father knoweth the mind of the Spirit, and not a sigh or a groan can escape His notice.
Let it also be remembered, that one essential and important part of the Spirit’s work as the Author of prayer, is to unfold Jesus as the medium of prayer. There is no access to God but through Jesus. If there be not an honoring of Christ in His person, blood, righteousness, intercession, in prayer, we can expect no answer to prayer. The great encouragement to draw near to God, is Jesus at the right hand of God. Jesus is the door. Coming through Him, the poorest, the vilest, the most abject, may approach the throne of grace, and ask what he will. The glorious Advocate is on the throne, to present the petition, and plead for its answer on the basis of His own infinite and atoning merits. Come then, ye poor; come, ye disconsolate; come, ye tried and afflicted; come, ye wounded; come, ye needy; come to the mercy seat; for Jesus waits to present your petition and press your case. Ask nothing in your own name, but ask everything in the name of Jesus; "...ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). The Father may reject you; but His Son He cannot reject. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hast consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near…" (Heb. 10:19-22).
– Taken from The Inquirer Directed To The Work Of The Holy Spirit by Octavius Winslow.