Praying in the Spirit
Continuing with our theme of Prayer, our topic today is “Praying in the Spirit”. Last week Louise looked at what the Psalms teach us about prayer and next week Tony will be looking at the place, practice and power of prayer.
But today our topic is Praying in the Spirit and we will seek to answer 3 questions:
- Why should we pray in the Spirit?
- What is praying in the Spirit?
- How should we pray in the Spirit?
We will focus on two passages of Scripture that refer specifically to praying in the Spirit.
Ephesians 6: 14 – 20
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Jude 19 – 22
19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Why should we pray in the Spirit?
- To strengthen ourselves in the power of God.
Paul tells us it is how we are strengthened in the power of God, how we harness and direct the power of God in the battle against the enemy.
In the build up to describing the full amour of God, at verse 10 he says “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”.
Prayer is the seventh piece of armor. In Scripture, seven is the number of completion. This means that one can be suited up with every other piece of armor and yet still lose the battle.
Paul is saying you’ve got the belt, the breastplate, the shoes, the shield, the helmet and the sword – now PRAY in the Spirit.
Prayer is the arena, the amphitheater the energy and the atmosphere in which we wage war. Believers must live in prayer at all times in order to win this spiritual battle.
- To Keep ourselves in the Love of God
Jude tells us it is what will keep us in the love of God!
Verse 20 tells us “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”.
Jude’s message is all about perseverance – how to fight the good fight and take hold of eternal life; how to keep the faith and finish the race; how to endure to the end and so be saved.
Notice that this perseverance is something we do! It involves our action – we build ourselves up on the foundation of faith, we pray and we keep ourselves in the love of God.
The onus and obligation rests on us – you and me!! We do these things – individually and collectively.
So by praying in the Spirit we build our faith and we keep ourselves in the love of God.
- To Be Kept in the Love of God
Jude reveals another truth, a deeper truth about perseverance.
Verse 1: “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.”
Notice the word, “kept.” Here is the idea of perseverance again, only it is not the Believer who is keeping himself. He is being kept!
Verse 24: in the well-known doxology: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy”
Notice the words “keep you”, again we have our perseverance attributed not to ourselves, but to someone else.
WHO? verse 25: To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, keeps us in His love both now and forever.
So our perseverance to eternal life is BOTH God’s doing (we are “kept,” verse 1 and God is able to keep us, verse 24) AND it is our doing (verse 21) by praying in the Spirit.
Prayer is the means of grace designed by God to keep us from falling into disbelief and to bring us safely to eternal life. Isn’t that amazing!
Prayer is the means of grace designed by God to keep us in relationship with Him. Salvation by grace to give us new eternal life and prayer by grace to sustain that life.
God, the creator of the universe, all knowing, all powerful, who was and is and will be for all of eternity, loves us and by His grace He sustains us.
Folks, this is how prayer works. You see, if God runs the world according to his own holy authority and inscrutable wisdom, why would we pray for Him to do one thing or another?
If God is the final authority in all matters why ask Him to do anything for us?
Because by grace the sovereign God has chosen to relate to us through prayer.
While God’s action is decisive, our action is dependent but both actions are essential.
It’s the same as if someone was to say that since God is the decisive giver of life, then I don’t need to breathe. I promise you if you stopped breathing it won’t go well with you! Breathing is the physical means that God designed to sustain physical life. So if you stopped yourself from breathing you will die!
In the same way, just as breathing is the physical means that God uses to sustain our physical life, so too, prayer in the Spirit is the spiritual means by grace that God uses to sustain our spiritual life.
So, by praying in the Spirit we:
- Strengthen ourselves in the power of God.
- Keep ourselves in the love of God.
- Are Kept in the love of God.
What is praying in the Spirit?
The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.”
So, praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading and guiding.
It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for and when we do this we pray in His will and with His power.
So it is praying:
- by His direction and
- in His will and
- with His power.
Paul brings these three concepts together very succinctly in Romans 8: 26 – 27:
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
So the Spirit helps us by empowering our prayers through His intersession v 26 and according to the will of God v 27.
When our prayers are motivated by selfishness, greed or ignorance we are not praying “in the Holy Spirit” but “in the flesh” or in our own sinful nature, and accordingly, in our own strength.
Which is not to say we should not pray for ourselves. Certainly the Spirit will lead us into praying for ourselves – known as prayers of supplication. It is not arrogant to pray for your own needs, in fact God welcomes us with open arms when we take our genuine requests to Him.
Philippians 4: 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition (or “supplication” in the King James translation), with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
1 John 5: 14 – 15 confirms the confidence we can have when we pray in God’s will:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
In summary then, when we pray in the Sprit we:
- Pray according to His Direction
- Pray in His Will (the will of God) and
- We pray in His power (the power of God)
How should we pray in the Spirit?
So, if we are to pray in the spirit at all times and if our prayers are to be guided by the spirit, what does this look like? How can we be sure that we are being guided by the spirit and that it is in fact the Holy Spirit guiding us?
Let’s look closely at Ephesians 6: 18 and 19 see what characteristics we can identify.
1. Prayer in the Spirit Is Perpetual and Constant
Paul says that we should “……….pray in the Spirit on all occasions…………” NIV.
King James Version says 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
Two issues are being raised here:
- Perpetual: When you pray, pray in the spirit. So allprayer should be in the Spirit. It is not one form of prayer among many! Paul says it is the way all prayer is to be offered.
- Constant: Pray a lot – often – on all occasions. We must live in constant prayer. We should pray often and repeatedly – in every circumstance and situation. Living in continual GOD CONSCIOUSNESS. Our life becomes a continually ascending prayer, a perpetual communing with our heavenly Father. POPCORN PRAYERS
2. Prayer in the Spirit Is Varied
“..with all kinds of prayers and requests…”
When the Spirit of God leads our prayer, he leads us into various types of prayer – thanksgiving, worship, intercession, confession, lament, and corporate prayer. All these types of prayer have the power to defeat the enemy.
In particular, the practice of corporate prayer carries much power. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Jesus teaches that corporate prayer carries tremendous power, and that when it occurs, God is with us in a special way.
There are some things God does only when his people pray together.
The Lord’s Prayer is a good model of the variety of ways the Spirit can leads us into praying:
- “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” calls us to worship.
- “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” calls us to pray for missions, evangelism, and discipleship.
- “Give us this day our daily bread” calls us to pray for personal needs, both our/others.
- “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” calls us to confess sin ours/others.
- “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” calls us to pray for spiritual protection from temptation and the devil.
It is a good practice to pray often through the Lord’s Prayer.
3. Prayer in the Spirit Is Watchful
Be watchful, be alert. This is military terminology – PICTURE a soldier on duty watching!
How do we be alert? We use our natural senses, our eyes and ears, and we stay tuned in to the Spirit’s promptings.
Notice that we are on watch for two things, in any war there is both defensive and offensive:
· We watch to discern the work of the evil one.
Has someone stopped coming to church or home group? Pray for God to draw them back. Is there discord in the body of Christ? Pray for unity. Is someone looking discouraged? Pray for joy for them.
But we don’t only look at what Satan is doing, we also look our for what God is doing:
· We watch to intercede on behalf of what God is doing.
Is God changing somebody’s heart? Let us give thanks and pray. Is he stirring a revival? Let us praise and intercede. Is God doing a healing work? Let us give thanks.
4. Prayer in the Spirit Is Persevering
We’ve already looked at how Jude encourages us to persevere that we may keep ourselves and be kept, in the love of God.
Paul confirms this: “…..always keep on praying…….”
Prayer in the flesh is often short-lived, but Spirit-led prayer is persevering. Many of our blessings and victories come only through persevering prayer.
Persevering prayer is also needed because of the spiritual forces we are fighting against.
Remember the story of Daniel ch 10, who petitioned God for three weeks and then an angel appeared. The angel said that God had sent him with a response when Daniel first began to pray, but he was caught up in a war with the spiritual forces over Persia (modern day Iran).
We must persevere in prayer because we are engaged in a spiritual war.
As you know, here at FBC we have been praying for years for the salvation of family members and relatives or friend who have walked away from God. We must persevere! Louise mentioned last week the mother who prayed for 27 years for her daughter before she came back to the Lord!
Don’t give up! Spirit-led prayer perseveres.
5. Prayer in the Spirit Is Universal
We are to “keep on praying for all the saints.”
We are in this war with millions of other Christians we do not know but we must intercede according to the knowledge we have and as the Spirit leads.
We intercede for the Christians in our church, our nation, and all the nations on earth. For the persecuted Church. We must especially pray for our pastors and spiritual leaders and missionaries who are the target of special attacks by the enemy.
These believers in the front line need our prayerful support. In military logistics it takes 7 support personnel to sustain one soldier in battle.
This is a real war and we are not in it by ourselves so the Spirit will lead us to continually intercede for other believers.
6. Prayer in the Spirit Is Bible-based
Paul did not have the New Testament as we do today, so he asks for prayer for “words”.
But we do, and since scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit it is no surprise that He continually encourages people to pray over the Word of God.
If you live in the Word of God, reading it every day, memorizing portions to carry with you, meditating on it and savoring it, then your prayers will be shaped by the Word.
So we take what we know about the Spirit’s will from scripture and saturate our prayers with it.
7. Prayer in the Spirit Is Gospel-Centered
Paul’s prayer request is that he will “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”
He is in prison but he doesn’t ask for release, he is more concerned about the spread of the gospel!
Prayer in the Spirit is consumed with the spread of the gospel.
This also reflects our own need for boldness in witnessing.
Most Christians struggle with fear in sharing God’s Word. We feel inadequate, we fear the response of people, we fear persecution, for example, in the form of job loss. This is also true for some preachers who sometimes hesitate to preach the full counsel of God, especially in an age where his Word is widely rejected, where some issues are not “politically correct”.
Let us continually call on the Holy Spirit to empower his people to share his Word with boldness, for God’s kingdom to be built, and for the evil one’s kingdom to be destroyed.
I think that one of the main reasons why so many of us don’t have a significant life of prayer is not because we don’t want to, but rather that we don’t plan to.
Busy lives! Jobs – businesses to run, children to raise – it never ends. But we can’t afford to squeeze Jesus out of our busy lives, we can’t afford to allow our prayer life to suffer. It is exactly that – our prayer LIFE! It is our means of grace. It is the means designed by God to keep us in Him unto eternity!
We MUST PERSEVERE! When life gets us down, through sickness, depression when tragedy strikes, business fails or job loss, when loved ones walk away, when we feel absolutely shattered by what life’s circumstances in this broken world throws up at us – we must persevere in prayer.
Even when we are so downhearted and depressed, when life is bitterly cruel and so unfair and unjust and God seems so far away that we don’t know what to pray, we don’t even feel like praying, we can pray in the strength of the spirit. We can cry out “Abba Father” and know that the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8). We cry out from the heart with groaning too deep for words and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
Folks, there is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your prayer life YOU must plan to see it.
The Holy Spirit inspires and leads us at odd times and in a variety of ways, not only when we sit down to pray, so planning to pray or having a set time to pray and keeping a prayer list are good ideas. Keep a prayer journal. Use the Newsletter prayer items.
Here at the start of a new year, let us take time to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits into our daily life. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you.
- How is God calling you to grow in constant prayer?
- Are you as involved in corporate prayer as you could be?
- Are you watchful in your prayer life? What is God doing around you? How is he calling you to intercede? What types of distractions commonly keep you from being spiritually alert?
- How can you be more faithful in praying for all saints?
- Are you praying for the preaching of the Gospel? Are you actively seeking ways to speak out for God, by word or deed?
God Bless You All