Dr. Dan Hayden •

A congenital weakness is a weakness with which you were born—it is part of who you are. It defines you. The Bible says we all have a congenital weakness. In fact, this is the reason we are so often off balance in our prayers.

It is so refreshing to read that God understands our problem with regard to prayer. He tells it right out… just the way it is. He says that we are impotent and we are ignorant! Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?

In Romans 8:26 God says, “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should….” – so we are weak and there are things we do not know.

This word “weakness” is the Greek word, asthenia. It’s the word sthenos, meaning “strength”, with the alpha prefix, which means “no.”Asthenia means, “no strength; powerless.” It means “weakness.”


Now in the context of Romans 8 there are two fundamental contributors to this problem:

  • First is the conflict within—the flesh versus the spirit. The whole first part of the chapter deals with this subject.
  • Second is the conflict without—pain versus comfort.

In verses 18-25 of Romans 8, the subject turns to the problem of suffering. Verse 22 says that the whole creation groans and suffers in pain, and verse 23 says that this is true of Christians as well. So, here’s the point: we are constitutionally weak because of the selfishness of our flesh and because of the sufferings of life, and therefore, we don’t know how to pray. We are plagued with weakness (strengthless).

But, remember that the Holy Spirit helps our weakness when we pray. Now that’s good news!

For further study, see The Prayer Puzzle.