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.
We see throughout the Bible that mishandling of holy things brings serious consequences. How much more the Holy Spirit of God living inside us?
It is important 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 God’s 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 lets bring some clarity from God’s word and put all other opinions to rest.
The first thing we must understand is that praying in the Spirit is praying 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 is 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.” So, what does that look like?
Everything God does is relational. Prayer is no exception. Many of us have allowed our devotional time to become mechanical and lifeless. 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 our 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 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 usually starts in the natural, but as we approach God in prayer to partner with Him we should be expecting supernatural utterance to come from our own lips. Praying in the Spirit requires us to connect our thoughts and our attention to the Holy Spirit inside us, praying out, and praying into what rises in our hearts. Praying in the Spirit requires dependence upon His leading and a willingness to follow even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.
All prayer should should be approached with humility. 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 greatest light. Everything becomes clear from a place of humility. It is the place of greatest sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Humility before God brings His grace on the scene and our prayers become filled with His divine influence and direction.
James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
When we approach God in prayer, we should recognize that we are here for His good pleasure. It is His will, His agenda, and His purpose we are pursuing, even when we are praying for ourselves. We need His involvement, His instruction, and His direction. When we approach God with an awareness that we have an audience with the Creator of the universe, we are more likely to have a listening ear than simply a running mouth. Mindless recital of prayer should become a thing of the past and effective fervent prayer a lifestyle.
James 5:13-16 Is 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.
If you arrive at a place in prayer with the perspective described above, you are praying in the Spirit whether it be in a known or unknown tongue.
Concerning praying in tongues, there seems to be confusion and division over this practice more than any other form of prayer. Praying in tongues is clearly a New Testament doctrine and I see no scriptural evidence of it ending or being “done away with.” However I see a lot of misunderstanding and unbiblical demonstration throughout the Church so I will address this. But first, I will share my personal experience with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In November of 1988, a few weeks after being born again, 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 and I could see clearly 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.” and the Lord baptized me in His Holy Spirit.
When the Spirit of God came on me I felt amazing power like electricity all over my body and it felt like my tongue was as big around as a soda can. I could hear in my head these crazy sounding words and syllables but at first I resisted saying them out of my mouth because this was all very strange to me. When I finally did yield to what was bubbling up inside of me I said a few sentences in an unknown tongue and then stopped because it freaked me out a bit. I could not deny however, 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, 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 that claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit speak a sentence or two and just repeat the same thing over and over. This is the limit of their “prayer language.” I have seen some people repeatedly give “messages from the Lord” by tongues and interpretation, but using the same few words in tongues over and over again, 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 just 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 Holy God? Is it being done in the fear of the Lord? Are these things edifying the Church? It is a serious thing to speak publicly and claim these words are from the Lord.
My understanding of scripture is that praying in tongues is necessary, but should be limited in a public setting unless accompanied by an interpretation. 1 Corinthians 14 addresses this issue.
1 Corinthians 14:22-25 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 as individuals be an example to others to the best of our ability. We are all at different places in our journey with the Lord and 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, our humility, and our fear of the Lord. Let us not put God in the miniscule box of our limited experience. Instead, lets ask Him to elevate our experience and understanding to match the Bible.
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.
Pray without ceasing! Love Him well! Be Blessed!
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