Letter from John Woodhouse

Dear friends

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. (Romans 8:26)

I wonder whether some of the things we have thought about in recent weeks have discouraged you? We have seen that God does not always hear prayers, that we are invited to ask anything “according to his will,” and that we must pray with humility.

But I hope these things are not discouraging.

Prayer is a gift. It is far beyond our own capabilities. Who can trust God enough, care enough about his will, be wise enough to know what to pray? None of these things come naturally or easily to us. That is why talk about prayer can be discouraging.

How gracious of our heavenly Father that he gives us his Spirit to help us in our weakness. He enables us to trust God, to care about his will, and to know what to pray. To pray, therefore, is a gift from God!

I hope that these little letters will be an encouragement to you to receive and experience this gift of God.

When we understand that prayer is a gift — that the Spirit himself intercedes for us —does this mean that we surrender to our weakness (and laziness!), and make no effort to pray? Are we to passively ‘wait’ for the Spirit to overtake us, and expect that then prayer will come easily? Certainly not! Just as we are to make every effort to live godly lives, and then everything that is pleasing to God in our conduct is in fact the fruit of the Spirit, so we are to adopt the necessary discipline and deliberate effort to pray. Set aside the time. Turn your thoughts to God and his promises. Actually pray. We will only do that by the help of the Spirit. The doing of it is God’s gift.

John Woodhouse
Acting Senior Minister