This verse tells us something we might be reluctant to admit to ourselves: when we ask God for things, we often have an inaccurate understanding of what we are asking for and why. We don’t even know how to pray. 

When we don’t pray well, the Spirit prays on our behalf. The Spirit prays at a level of intimacy that transcends language and covers our inadequacy.

Although we need to continue striving, this verse also says we can relax. Not that we can stop trying to walk in faith and obedience. Rather, stop trying to perform to an imaginary standard we’ve made for ourselves. We have a loving Father who wants us to succeed. Our Heavenly Father cares for us as an earthly parent cares and feeds an infant whose understanding is only sufficient to cry.

It seems counter-intuitive to say that we need to check with God to see what we desire. But the author and designer of truth, the author of our story, is a trustworthy source for discovering the truth of who we are and what we ultimately desire. We, on the other hand, are actually not a trustworthy source of self-discovery. We’re too good at self-deception.

The Bible urges us to listen to God and obey him. Seek God with all our hearts. These are prevalent commands in Scripture. But as we do so, we discover our imperfection. And the Spirit asks on our behalf.  When we are so lost we don’t know where to begin, the Spirit is on the job, advocating for us. We are called to love God with all that we have. Yet, when all we have falls inevitably short, we can rest assured – the love of God makes up the difference.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”
– 1 Corinthians 16:13-14