There are so many different ways the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. Here are eight ways:
1. He brings to us the Spirit of the Father. Since the Holy Spirit has the same Spirit of the Father, and since He resides in us, He will convey to us that Spirit, which will help us in prayer.
Andrew Murray views this Sprit of the Father as a gift given to us by the Father in order that we (His children) may reproduce all the things He brings to us by His Spirit. He says,
The best gift a good and wise earthly father can bestow on a child is his own spirit. This is the object of a father in education—to reproduce in his child his own disposition and character. If the child is to know and understand his father, if he is to enter into all his will and plans, if he is to have his highest joy in the father and the father in him, he must be of one mind and spirit with him. It is impossible to conceive of God bestowing any higher gift on His child than His own Spirit. God is what He is through His Spirit; the Spirit is the very life of God. Just think what it means for God to give His own Spirit to His child on earth.
It means of course that we will gain the same heart of prayer that He has, the same burden of prayer. It means that He will show us His mind and His thinking toward us, and that He will give us an understanding of our salvation—our justification and glorification and all His wonderful mercies toward us (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:10-12). Thus, as the Holy Spirit conveys to us the Spirit of the Father we are enabled to pray according to the Father’s will and according to the Father’s loving heart.
2. He brings to us the Spirit of the Son. The Holy Spirit has not only the Spirit of the Father; He has the Spirit of the Son. Therefore He intends to bring the Son—Jesus Christ—to us. James Stewart has said, “The Holy Spirit forms the indwelling Christ in our hearts and minds.” If you remember Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:14-21) this is exactly what he prayed for them—that God would grant them, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith.
And the reason why God wants us to have the Spirit of His Son in us, and why we need that Spirit to help us in prayer, is because Jesus was and is our model for prayer. While He was on earth He demonstrated perfectly how to pray. And so God desires us to have that same spirit that Jesus had—the spirit of Sonship, which is a spirit of liberty, devotion, and obedience. This is a spirit that carries with it the humble and perfect attitude any good son has toward his father. Therefore, if you are a child of God, God has sent (by His Holy Spirit) the Spirit of His Son (the Spirit of Jesus) into your heart, by which you can’t help but to cry out in prayer, “Abba Father.” Now what better aid do we have in prayer then to have the Spirit of Jesus crying out in prayer to the Father in us and for us? There is no better aid at all!
3. He gives us access to God and makes our prayers acceptable to God. Because God has given us the Spirit of His Son, this is our evidence that we are His children. For Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” And if we know we are His children then we know that we have been justified through our Lord Jesus Christ; and thus we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Therefore, because of this work of God in us, the Holy Spirit brings to us (and helps us feel) a new freedom, a boldness or confidence in our spirit to approach the throne of God (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 4:16). But He not only gives us confidence to approach God in prayer, He also helps us pray and makes our prayers acceptable to Him. He does this by His own intercession as He pleads with the Father by reason of the shed blood of Christ for us. Thus, according to the cleansing blood of Christ and by His intercession He makes our prayers rise up to God as sweet incense (Rom. 8:26, 27).
4. He intercedes for us. Our prayers wouldn’t have a chance of reaching God or of being effective without the Holy Spirit’s intercession. Here are three things He does for us in His intercession to help us in prayer:
(1) He makes our prayers acceptable to God. As Jesus is interceding for us in heaven to maintain our redemption, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us on earth to make our prayers acceptable according to that redemption.
(2) He helps us pray according to God’s will. The Holy Spirit is always interceding for us according to God’s will—to the end that we would be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). He also prays for us that we would pray according to His will and thus according to our real needs.
(3) He helps us to wait patiently. In Romans 8 we read that we groan within ourselves, waiting for our redemption. And the Holy Spirit feels our groans and groans with us as He makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:23, 26). Hence, in His intercession He helps us to pray that we would wait patiently, but also eagerly for our redemption; accordingly, that we would spend our time now wisely—to live not according to the sinful nature (Rom. 8:13), but according to His Spirit, and according to how a son would live (as God’s Son), in honor and holiness, as a co-heir with Christ (vv. 16-17).
5. He burdens us. One of the ways the Holy Spirit helps us and encourages us in prayer is by giving us a prayer burden. What this is is simply a desire to pray. It may be a desire to pray in general (to just be in God’s presence, to praise and thank Him, and to lift up many different requests to Him), or it may also be a desire He puts on you to pray for some specific thing or person.
A burden is especially helpful in prayer because it puts life and feeling into our prayers, so that we are not just praying out of habit, but rather, out of a God given desire and inspiration. I like what E. M. Bounds has said: “The habit of praying is a good habit, and should be early and strongly formed; but to pray by habit merely is to destroy the life of prayer and allow it to degenerate into a hollow and sham-producing form. Habit may form the bank for the river of pray, but there must be a strong, deep, pure current, crystal and life-giving, flowing between these two banks.”
Now the way the Holy Spirit burdens us is simply by transferring God’s burden to us as we pray and live in the Spirit. Hence, whenever God is burdened the Holy Spirit transfers that spirit to us so that we groan in prayer with the same burden (Rom. 8:26-27). Therefore, as you allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind as you pray in the Spirit, He will draw you deep into the soul of God; hence He will show you how great some of the needs are and will kindle within you God’s love for others so that you will plead in prayer to God with great desire and love for them.
6. He guides us in prayer. Without the Holy Spirit we are lost when it comes to prayer. In fact, we find that naturally we are unable to pray. But the Holy Spirit is always willing to help us pray. He helps us pray “according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. 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 to uttered…He makes intercession for us according to the will of God.”
And how does he help us? Well, for one, as we pray in the Spirit He will put a burden on our heart to show us what or who to pray for. He may also help you to remember certain promises, to give you a basis for your prayers. Then, as you pray, He will inspire your prayers and direct them; consequently, you may find yourself praying words you would not normally pray, words that come from the very heart of God.
7. He teaches us how to pray. Along with guiding us in what things to pray for, He teaches us many things about prayer and how to pray. He teaches us the value of words—that prayer needs the backing of words. He will teach you how to listen to Him, and how He speaks to you through the Word, and through people, and circumstances, and through nature. He teaches you how to approach God in prayer, and what the atmosphere of prayer should be. He also teaches you His will and how to discern His will. Accordingly, He shows you whether or not your prayers are according to His will, and whether your motives are right. Overall, He will teach you the great value of prayer and the great necessity of prayer.
8. He strengthens us in prayer. If you seem to have no strength to pray (that is, no confidence, or faith, or desire, or leading in prayer) then you need to pray for the Holy Spirit to come and strengthen you. Pray first that He will show you His will and a promise to pray by. Then, when He shows you a promise, pray that He will give you faith to believe in it and strength to pray according to it. As you proceed to pray according to that promise, He will give you confidence that God will hear and answer your prayer (Jn. 5:14-15). That confidence is a confidence in God. The more confidence you have in God, the stronger your faith will be, and the stronger your prayers will be. Yes, He will definitely give us strength in prayer if we ask Him for it!