The Spirit Intercedes for Parents

When my son was about four years old, he had to have what was then considered a risky surgery for his age. We drove two hours to a university hospital where a doctor that specialized in the treatment he required performed the surgery. I still remember the doctor describing how the surgery would take place and all the potential harmful things that could happen. I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room for it to be completed, tears streaming, as I simply prayed, “Please, God.”

I was all out of words. I could only plead for God’s care for my son.

When Life Mutes Us

As Christian parents, we know our children need our prayers. God uses those prayers—not because he needs them—but because in his mysterious providence chooses to use them as a means to carry out his will. 

And so we pray. We pray for our sick child to be made well. We pray for wisdom when we encounter a parenting dilemma. We pray for our child’s protection from evil. We pray for God to open the blind eyes of our child’s heart so that he might see his need for Jesus and come to a saving faith.

Yet we know there are times in our lives as parents when we are so overcome by emotions that it’s hard to put words to what is happening. The challenges and heartaches we encounter with our children can leave us unable to voice what is going on in our hearts. We feel so distraught, so fearful, so brokenhearted that we can hardly utter a word, much less pray to the Lord all that needs to be said. We are left muted.

There are also times when our own sin gets in the way of our prayers. We are stubborn in that way, refusing to see the truth of our idolatrous hearts. In those times, we may look for ways to solve our parenting troubles on our own, rather than seek God and his will. We may trust in false hopes to lead and guide us. Rather than stopping to pray, we may even insist that we had every right to respond the way we did when our teen showed up past curfew and we failed to model the gospel by seeking forgiveness for what we said. 

Whatever keeps us muted, God is ever gracious still.

The Spirit Prays on Our Behalf

In Romans 8, Paul tells us about the ministry of the Spirit on our behalf:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27

“We do not know what to pray for as we ought.” Our prayers are often lacking. That’s because we pray out of our own human weakness, limitations, and even sin. We don’t know all that God knows, so we pray from a limited perspective. We can’t even imagine how God will use our current circumstances with our children for his glory and our good, so we pray with doubt and uncertainty. We don’t know what we need to pray for, so we often miss the very heart of what is needed most. And sometimes, we don’t even have the words to pray. 

But the Spirit does.

As believers who trust in Christ by faith, we have received the gift of the Spirit who lives within us. The Spirit works in our hearts to mold and shape us into the likeness of our Savior. He teaches and trains us in God’s Word. He encourages, convicts, and equips us to live for God. In his ministry within us, he hears our broken prayers. Not only does he hear, but he also helps us. Paul says here that he speaks on our behalf, interceding “with groans too deep for words.”

The Spirit knows our struggles to pray. He knows how our weakness and frailty limits our prayers. He knows how our sin keeps us from praying in full confidence or with the right motives or according to God’s will. So, he groans or sighs for us and these indecipherable utterances are heard by the Father because what the Spirit says and does on our behalf is always holy, perfect, right, and true.  

All those things that we can’t put into words about our children, the Spirit puts into words for us. All those ways in which our prayers for our children are limited, weakened, or muted, the Spirit makes right. 

Is our teen a prodigal? Has he wandered away to do his own thing? The Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.

Is our child chronically ill and our heart breaks to see her in such pain? The Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.

Is our child in a hard situation at school and we lack the wisdom to know how to help? The Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.

Is our family situation filled with brokenness and conflict and turmoil and there seems to be no end in sight? The Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words.

The Holy Spirit knows our prayers for our children, and we can trust that he is praying on our behalf. He declares our righteousness in Christ when we’ve sinned. He points to Christ’s effective and complete work on the cross in our stead. He utters all the things we don’t know that we need to pray for. He speaks of all the things that our hearts hurt too much to say. 

And the Father hears him. May this encourage our hearts today.

To learn more about gospel-centered parenting, we hope you’ll consider joining us for our 2024 Rooted Conference in Dallas, TX.

Christina Fox is a counselor, retreat speaker, and author of multiple books including Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why that Matters for Our Parenting. You can find her at .

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