Praying In The Spirit

Praying In The Spirit

On a number of occasions in the New Testament we are told to pray or worship in the Spirit. But what is it and how does it work? Let’s start by looking at the relevant scriptures on the subject.

Ephesians 6:18
‘With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,’

As part of his instructions about using the armour of God, Paul instructs us to pray in the Spirit at all times. This instruction about praying in the Spirit is a general one that applies to all Christians because it is part of a teaching that applies to all Christians. And notice that he says that we should do this at all times. This shows us that he expects this to be a common practice for all of us.

Romans 8:26-27
‘In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’

In this great chapter Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray in accordance with the will of God. This is because of our weakness in knowing how we should pray.

Philippians 3:3
‘for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,’

Paul tells us that one of the marks of a true Christian is that they worship in the Spirit, worshipping being a form of prayer. We learn from this that one of the things that all Christians are meant to do is worship or pray in the Spirit.

Jude 1:20
‘But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Spirit,’

In his letter to Christians in general, Jude almost casually talks about us praying in the Spirit because he takes it for granted that Christians do this. It is evident from this that as far as Jude was concerned praying in the Spirit was a normal thing for Christians to do.

We can see from these examples that it was normal for Christians in the early church to pray in the Spirit and that the early Christians would know what it meant. And it should be the same for us today. However, I have only heard one Christian teacher speak about it in my lifetime and from what I have seen in the church many Christians don’t know what it is or how it works. Although it should be said that when I speak to Spirit filled Christians they usually have a pretty good idea of what it is and they instinctively do it.

The text that helps us most to understand what it is, is the one above from Romans chapter 8. Paul is effectively telling us that we are not very good on our own at praying as we should. So we need the Holy Spirit to help us to be more effective in prayer. It’s important that when we pray that we do so in the name of Jesus and His will. Effectively we are to pray as Jesus would. However, that’s not something that comes naturally to us. And if we pray for the wrong thing or in the wrong way our prayer is ineffective. I could give plenty of examples of people praying for the wrong thing in the wrong way, especially when praying for healing or deliverance. It is not always obvious what we should pray for and what does seem obvious to us is not always correct.

That’s where we need the help of the Holy Spirit because He knows exactly what we should say. In that case, what exactly is praying in the Spirit? The best definition I know of is one that was given by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He said, “When we pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit directs the prayer, creates the prayer and empowers us to offer the prayer.”

That means that when we pray in the Spirit we do so as the Holy Spirit leads us. To do this we must come before the Lord in complete openness and humility. We set aside what we think we should say and wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt us and we only pray the prayers that he gives us to say. And because the Holy Spirit is spontaneous and full of life he may well surprise us as He leads us. There is no formality when we pray in the Spirit, no rituals or formulas, no candles or any other paraphernalia associated with what is sometimes called spirituality. We can pray in the Spirit anywhere and at any time. And the way the Holy Spirit gets us to pray and what He leads us to say can be quite varied. We can, for instance, pray in the Spirit without opening our mouths or we can speak in tongues when we pray in the Spirit. When people pray in the Spirit they sometimes say things that they would not normally do so in everyday conversations.

Praying in the Spirit requires faith because we are trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead us. Instead of trusting in our own understanding and our own abilities we are trusting in the wisdom and power of God working in us. This means that any Christian can do it because it does not require any training, skills or knowledge. So as Paul teaches us in Ephesians let us pray in the Spirit at all times.