One of the greatest tragedies in the Church is the confusion we have about the Holy Spirit. Even among groups that emphasize the Holy Spirit and His role in the Church, we see different beliefs, expressions, and practices, many of which are contradictory.
The Bible shows the mishandling of holy things brings serious consequences. How much more severe is it when we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside us?
It is essential that we rightly divide truth concerning the Holy Spirit.
In this lesson, we will address the practice of praying in the Spirit and define what exactly praying in the Spirit is. While some limit praying in the Spirit to praying only God’s written word, others say that praying in the Spirit is only praying with other tongues. Still, others reject praying with other tongues altogether. Our lack of agreement reveals our overall lack of understanding.
Effective spiritual warfare requires an understanding of praying in the Spirit, so let’s bring clarity to this from God’s word.
We must first understand that praying in the Spirit is any prayer under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. Look at our instruction in Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Our instruction is that all prayer and supplication are to be done “in the Spirit.” The prayer of salvation, prayers of sanctification, prayers of dedication, prayers of intercession, prayers of repentance, the prayer of faith, prayers of thanksgiving, and yes, praying with other tongues. They are all to be prayed “in the Spirit.” Supplications are specific requests. They are also to be prayed in the Spirit. So, what does that look like?
Everything God does is relational. Many of us have allowed our devotional time to become mechanical and lifeless, not relational at all, just religious and dead. We run through a prayer list and read our daily devotional, never spending time in silent reverence so we can connect with the one we are talking to. Having a daily devotional is commendable. Having a daily devotional and never actually connecting intimately with your Father is tragic. Praying in the Spirit requires communion, not just conversation.
com·mun·ion – the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.
If all we do is pray from our limited thinking, our prayer life will lack the authority to bear much fruit. I am not saying that praying with our natural understanding is wrong, but let this be a launching point, a positioning of the heart and mind to a place of stillness and quiet so we can be receptive to the influence of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians makes it clear that we need both.
1 Corinthians 14:15 (NKJV)What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
Praying should be viewed as a partnership. It starts with natural understanding, but as we approach God, coming into step with the Spirit to partner with Him, we should expect supernatural utterances to come from our lips. Praying in the Spirit requires us to connect our thoughts and attention to the Holy Spirit inside us, praying out and praying into what rises in our hearts. Spirit-led prayer requires dependence upon His leading and a willingness to follow even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
Although we are to come boldly to the throne of grace, we should approach with humility. After all, we have an audience with the King of the universe. Hearing His voice and sensing His direction becomes easy when we have a humble heart. Humility gives us a higher perspective and brings us to the place with the most extraordinary light. It is the place of greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Humility brings His grace to the scene, and our prayers become filled with His divine influence and direction.
James 4:6 (NKJV) But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
We partner with God in prayer, recognizing that we are here for His good pleasure. We pursue His will, plan, and purpose even when we pray for ourselves. We provide the vessel in this partnership, and He fills it with His divine will and purpose. We then pour out the mystery of His will with our prayers, inviting His influence and expecting His involvement. When approaching prayer with an expectation of partnering with God, we are more likely to have a listening ear than simply a running mouth.
A mindless recital of prayer should become a thing of the past. Effectual, fervent prayer should become a lifestyle of supernatural engagement that partners with God to shape our future and impact the world around us.
James 5:13-16 (NKJV)s anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
When we find ourselves at a place in prayer with the perspectives described above, we are praying in the Spirit, whether in a known or unknown tongue.
Praying in tongues
There is more confusion over praying in tongues than any other type of prayer. Praying in tongues is a New Testament doctrine. I see no scriptural evidence of it ending or being “done away with.” However, I continue to see a lot of misunderstanding and unbiblical demonstration throughout the Church, which needs to be addressed. First, I will share my personal experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
On November 7th of 1988, I was born again. a few weeks after my conversion, being completely unchurched and having had no exposure to any teaching about praying in tongues, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues while alone in my bedroom.
I was reading the book of Acts for the second time. I saw that there was more available to me than what I was currently experiencing, so I prayed, “Lord, if there is more of You available to me, I want it.” The Lord then baptized me in His Holy Spirit.
When the Spirit of God came on me, I felt power like electricity all over my body, and it felt like my tongue was as big around as a soda can. I could hear these crazy-sounding words and syllables in my head but resisted saying them out of my mouth because this was all too strange. When I finally yielded to what was happening inside me, I said a few sentences in an unknown tongue and then stopped because it freaked me out. I could not deny that I had a genuine experience and felt the power of God all over me. I just didn’t understand what happened.
No one taught me, no one prayed over me, and no one laid hands on me. I simply saw it in His word and asked for it. God is good!
Here is my concern from over 30 years of observation. Many who claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit speak a sentence or two in “tongues” and repeat the same things. This is the limit of their so-called “prayer language.” I have also seen people repeatedly give “messages from the Lord” by tongues and interpretation but use the same few words in tongues, maybe changing the order of the words a bit. However, the interpretation is always different.
I am not saying these people have not been baptized in the Spirit. I question their understanding and their expression to the body of Christ. I believe that some things are out of order.
Are they being done with an understanding that they are handling holy things and representing a sacred God? Is it being done in fear of the Lord? Are these things edifying the Church? It is a serious thing to speak publicly and claims these words are from the Lord.
My understanding of scripture is that praying in tongues should be limited in public unless accompanied by an interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14 addresses this issue.
1 Corinthians 14:22-25 (NKJV) Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
How we represent God in any setting is a serious thing. We are responsible for being an example to others to the best of our ability. We are all at different places in our journey with the Lord. We should not be too quick to follow others’ examples unless we are confident that they represent the Holy Spirit well.
We can all grow in our understanding, humility, and fear of the Lord. Let us not put God in the tiny box of our limited experience. Instead, let’s ask Him to elevate our experience and understanding to match what the Bible teaches.
Praying in the Spirit is a beautiful thing. It is yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit, letting Him define us and shape us as we pray in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.
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