Another of my favorite biblical passages speaks deeply, truly to me of the matter of faith and doubt and honesty before God…
In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul expounds on the nature and work of the Holy Spirit and the character of our life in (empowered by) the Holy Spirit. One aspect being:
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 (Romans 8.26).
Not “pray(ing) as we ought,” I think, is capable of varied interpretations. Ultimately, I also think, it means not worshiping, not praying “in spirit and truth,” which, as Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at the well, is what God, who “is spirit,” requires.
When I do not worship or pray “in spirit and truth” (even when my attempts at worship and prayer are well-intended), I can (do) run the risk of mistaking my will for God’s will or mistaking God’s will for my own; which, given that I am a finite being seeking communion with Infinite Being, is an inherent hazard of worship and prayer!
Nevertheless, from the Apostle Paul, we have the consolation, the assurance that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Even more, 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 (Romans 8.27).
As I understand it, indeed, as I have experienced it, the Holy Spirit translates, transforms our words (even, at those moments of frail faith and severe doubt, our mute silences for we have no words) to align with God’s will and to communicate God’s will to us.
For this, I say, “Praise be the Holy Spirit!” and “Thanks be to God!”
Endnote: For the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, see John 4.1-42; especially 4.23-24: Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
St. Paul Writing His Epistles (1620), Valentin de Boulogne (1594-1632)
Jesus and the Samaritan woman by the well, James Tissot (1836-1902)