Country walks often lead to interesting discoveries.
We spent last week on holiday in Norfolk, a county in East Anglia known for wide beaches, migrating birds, and windmills. It’s like Holland only England. A short stroll near Felbrigg Hall led us to an old church where used books had been laid out for sale on one of the pews. I picked up a book about the British Museum and another about using the New Testament in prayer.
The first prayer is based on Romans 8:26-27:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself 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. (KJV)
With help from a better translation, we can see that Paul is suggesting that for those of us lost for words in prayer we can rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede and speak the words on our behalf:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (NRSV)
Never before had I considered the Holy Ghost to be an intercessor, so my thanks go to the people of Felbrigg church who will make good use of my £2 I am sure.
It’s interesting to see how this passage has been used in a Mormon context. Using the LDS Scripture Citation Index it becomes clear that Mormon authorities have not really seen it the same way. In all modern cases, these verses are used to suggest that the Holy Spirit suggests to us what we should say in prayer rather than saying it for us. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, seems happy to see the Spirit as a more direct voice and intercessor. (Search for Romans 8:26-27 for citations.)
I wonder if this represents a meaningful difference in theology? I suspect that the end result is the same: it is the voice of the Spirit, whether through us or for us, which reaches the ears of God. Still, I think the modern reading of this verse maps the Mormon move to see Christ as sole intercessor and the Holy Ghost as an interior voice more than discrete personality. (Obviously I know that Mormon theology sees the Holy Ghost has a discrete personality but he doesn’t ever really act that way outside of 1 Ne.)