Here’s an interesting look at Romans 8:26, in which Paul writes:
“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.”
Richard Longenecker writes:
In this first sentence of 8:26, Paul acknowledges that “human weakness” is a dominant feature in the lives of all people, including every believer in Jesus. Such a weakness stems not only from the fact that as creatures we are finite and frail, but also from our irrevocable history of sin and depravity. Most disastrously, it becomes a controlling factor in all our lives because of our personal choices in confirming our irrevocable human history by our own sinful thoughts and actions.
So in our prayers—which reflect our desires, express our values, and reveal what we believe to be our resources—we are not insightful enough to know what we ought to pray for. And what is true about what should be the subject of our prayers is also true, Paul seems to imply, about the living of our lives generally.
That’s great. This “weakness” is common, in fact it is a dominant feature in the lives of all people. It is not initially our fault—since we inherit a history and personal weaknesses and we arrive in the world with deficits already on our account, which we didn’t produce. However, we confirm that weakness through our own sinful choices, and therefore it becomes a controlling factor in our lives. And this even affects our prayer life. But, is that the end of the story? No, of course, for many reasons. Romans 8:26 is one of the places in scripture that show us the way forward. Longenecker continues:
This in the first sentence of the passage Paul sets out his thesis with respect to this third implication of being “in Christ” and of living one’s life “in the Spirit”: “the Spirit also helps us in our weakness.”
Why is prayer hard? Because of our general human weakness. What is God’s answer? Himself—in the person of His Holy Spirit, who knows the mind of God (because he is God) and knows what we need and really should ask (since he’s in us)—and who prays for us.