Paul’s words here remind us that this search of his people by the Father is a continuous one. There is not a moment when he is not searching our hearts. This is a reminder of the commitment of God to his people. Each believer can say, ‘Every day that I live, every moment that I breathe, the heavenly Father is searching my heart.’
Obviously we can think of many reasons why the heavenly Father should search our hearts. He can search us in the way a doctor scans a patient in order to heal our spiritual wounds. He can search us in the way a lover looks for signs of affection from his beloved. He can search us in order to see what our desires after holiness are. And as Paul reminds us here, the heavenly Father searches our hearts in order to answer our deepest prayers.
The Father has sent the Spirit into our hearts so that the Spirit can take our weak, ignorant prayers and change them into requests according to the will of God. The Father and the Spirit have fellowship in listening to and responding to the prayers of believers. The Spirit prays according to the will of God, that is, he prays accurately, and the Father hears and gives according to his promises. This is a wonderful reality about the prayer life of Christians, that their wordless groaning are read with delight by the Father and given answers far above what they can ask or imagine.
When will the ultimate answer be given? The context indicates that it will be given at the time when the sons of God receive their inheritance. Then they will cease groaning for that day and the creation will cease groaning for its deliverance. As we see the answer to our prayers in the glory that we will have been given, we may also hear the heavenly Father say to his heirs, “I knew all along what you were asking for in your groans and now I have fulfilled your deepest longings.’
What features should mark our response to this divine searching? I will mention three that I think are appropriate.
First, we should be marked by humility. There are many reasons why we should be humble such as the example of Christ or the greatness of salvation. The fact that the Father is searching our hearts is an additional reason for humility.
Second, we should be marked by honesty. We can hide nothing from God. He is searching our hearts at every moment; he is scanning our hearts before we sin, as we sin, and after we sin. Honesty should cause us to confess our sins to the searching God. We should also be honest about the quality of our Christian lives.
Third, we should be marked by hopefulness. The God who is searching our hearts comes as the doctor, the lover and the listener. Omnipotent as he is, he has not come to crush us but to bless us. As we groan in our prayers, we can anticipate answers from the Father that will be far above what we can ask or imagine.