Martin Luther: “He Makes Us Fit for His Gifts and Works”
This is from Luther’s commentary on Romans 8:26.
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.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (8:26). Even the pious person cannot by his own strength desire the glory of heaven as ardently as he would. Therefore the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with ineffable groanings of which we ourselves are incapable. Even when we pray for eternal glory, in particular, that it may come to us soon, or that it may come to us in a special way, we do not know what we pray for, for it might turn out for our harm if it would be given to us speedily or in this or that way. This is even much more the case when we pray for earthly blessings.
The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (8:26). These are prayers which no man can describe by words, and which no one can understand except God alone. The groanings are so great that only God can rightly regard and appreciate them: as we read in Psalm 38:9: “All my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.” It is not an evil sign, but indeed the very best, if upon our petitions the very opposite happens to us. Conversely it is not a good sign if everything is granted to us for which we pray.
The reason for this is the following: God’s counsel and will tower high above our own counsel and will, as we read in Isaiah 55:8,9: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Hence, when we ask anything of God and He begins to hear us, He so often goes counter to our petitions that we imagine He is more angry with us now than before we prayed, and that He intends not to grant us our requests at all. All this God does, because it is His way first to destroy and annihilate what is in us – our own wisdom and will – before He gives us His gifts. Through this most gracious counsel He makes us fit for His gifts and works. Only then are we qualified for His works and counsels when our own works are destroyed.
~ From Commentary on Romans