Friday, June 19, 2015

Praying in the Spirit

The Apostle Paul instructed us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions”:

  • 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. Pray also for me. (Ephesians 6:18-19; Jude 20)
However, I found this to be very troubling. I lacked the ability to pray in the
Spirit. Wasn’t a matter of praying in tongues or unknown languages:

  • For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
As strenuously as I pursued this gift, it continued to elude me, leaving me certain that God disdained me. However, I began to understand that praying “in the Spirit” did not always mean praying in the supernatural gift of tongues. In fact King David wrote in the Spirit as he wrote his Psalms:

  • While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit ["in the Spirit;" NKJV], calls him ‘Lord’? For he says [in Psalm 110], ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’” (Matthew 22:41-44) 
When David wrote Psalm 110, he was “in the Spirit!” However, he didn’t write with an unknown language. Instead, he wrote in Hebrew! Therefore, I concluded that writing or praying “in the Spirit” didn’t always mean praying in tongues. Instead, it also seemed to mean praying according to the revelation given by the Spirit.

Besides, I discovered that all did not speak in tongues:

  • Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)
The answer to all of Paul’s rhetorical questions was clearly a “no!” All did not have each of these gifts. Therefore, Paul would never ask someone to heal who didn’t have the gift of healing. Nor would he command all the brethren to pray in tongues for the needs of the church, since they all didn’t have the gift of tongues!

Besides, I discovered that when Scripture addresses the question of the assurance that we are saved, it never reassured the brethren that they could know that they are saved because they have a supernatural gift. Instead, John reassured the brethren this way:

  • We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)
We can reassure ourselves that we are in Him because we bear the fruit of obedience, not because we speak in tongues!

Re-examining Ephesians 6 in light of this, I found that Paul couldn’t have been admonishing us to pray in tongues. Why not? Because his command for the brethren to pray for “all the Lord’s people” required the brethren to pray knowingly and deliberately. However, this is not possible when speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:14-15). If it is the Spirit praying without our understanding, then we are unable to direct our prayers to address specific requests. Instead, it is the Spirit praying as He wills!

Also, Paul had instructed to pray “with all kinds of prayers and requests.” However, praying in tongues is just one kind prayer. Evidently, praying “in the Spirit” included many kinds of prayer, not just tongues!

What then does it mean to pray “in the Spirit?” Perhaps it means to pray according to the Word authored by the Spirit. The Spirit and His Word are closely associated. Here’s one example from Proverbs:

  • Turn you at my reproof: Behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you. (Proverbs 1:23 ASV)
Hebrew poetry often is expressed in the form of synonymous parallels. This means that although a thought is expressed two different ways, they are similar or parallel. In this case, it means that God pouring “out my spirit upon you” is parallel to God making “known my words unto you.”

In light of this, when we pray according to or “in the Spirit,” we pray according to His Word. Even in the preceding verse, Paul makes clear the powerful association of Spirit and Word:

  • Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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 saints. Ephesians 6:17-18) 
Regarding verse 17, it would seem that Paul’s admonition to “pray in the Spirit” is an exhortation to pray according to the “sword of the Spirit” which is the “word of God!”

This means that when Paul instructed the brethren to pray “in the Spirit,” he was asking them to pray according to the revelation of the Spirit. When we apply this to our prayers, we should not pray for our Lord to make the brethren rich and comfortable. Instead, we pray in manner that the Word provides, according to His will:

  • "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-12) 
Consequently, I try to start my prayers expressing thankfulness, acknowledging who He is, what He has done, and what He wants to do, before presenting my requests.

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