One of the steps of the last post was to pray in the Spirit. While it fit naturally into that post, I’m aware there are many misconceptions and controversy on this topic. I don’t want to add any division, but I did feel it necessary to at least explain what I mean more thoroughly.
What is the Controversy?
Praying in the Spirit has been a hot topic because for some it is a sign of greater maturity in Christ – for some it is even a sign that someone has the Holy Spirit. This doctrine comes from an interpretation of Acts where people displayed similar signs once they received the Holy Spirit.
Here are four of my principles when considering this debate:
- We are not to compare ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).
- The Holy Spirit is given to every believer (Ephesians 1:13-14).
- Many godly leaders never promoted praying in the Spirit: Billy Graham and Bill Bright.
While other godly leaders did: Martin Luther, Dwight Moody, and John Wesley.
- God is looking for hearts inclined to Him. This is more important than doing right steps (Psalm 51:17).
I pray in the Spirit more than any of you – Paul (1 Corinthians 14:18)
Because of the controversy, many churches, ministries, and Christians either shy away from the topic or push it to a time that has passed. Paul, however, steps into the firestorm and declares its importance to him and others. Even though he knew the Scripture so well that most of the New Testament was entrusted to him to write, he declared that praying in the Spirit was so important that he wished all would do it (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).
What Praying in the Spirit IS NOT
1. A sign to determine whether you have the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a gift to all who put their trust in Jesus. Praying in the Spirit doesn’t guarantee that you are listening to the Spirit’s direction or following Him. It is also not a magical incantation that makes you a super Christian. Even thought Jesus’ yoke is easy, we still need to die to ourselves, whether you pray in the Spirit or not.
2. Dwelling on God’s goodness.
Because of lack of teaching on the subject, some believe that it is dwelling on God’s goodness which then releases the Holy Spirit’s desires for you. Dwelling on God’s goodness is amazing and beneficial to all believers, but it is not the same as praying in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit has a spoken element.
3. The gift of tongues.
The gift of tongues is speaking in a real language unknown to the speaker. It is assumed it would be interpreted. The gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers but praying in the Spirit edifies yourself (1 Corinthians 14:22 & 14:4). They may somehow be related, but if you put this criteria on your ability to pray in the Spirit, you will hinder the freedom God has placed on it.
What praying in the Spirit IS
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. 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. – Romans 8:26-27
For each person it will sound differently, and like anything with God it takes faith. You will not know what you are saying. You may feel ridiculous, but that happens when you try something new. Just keep checking your heart. Are you doing it for Jesus? Do you feel closer to Him? More in love with others? For me, once convinced this was from God, I prayed to have the ability. Afterwards, as I spoke, I chose to trust it was from God as an act of faith.
Normal prayer is through our understanding using words we can comprehend. We engage the mind and make our requests known. But, when you pray in the Spirit, it bypasses the mind and engages your spirit. We may or may not know what we are praying for. As we pray in the Spirit, we do not limit our prayers to our understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Both ways of prayer are important. Don’t let the controversy surrounding this topic keep you from a tool God has given you to help your Christian walk.
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. – Ephesians 6:18
- Let me state again that this post is not intended to stir up debate. If you enjoy that type of mental exercise, there are many other sites that are maintained for that purpose. If you have a legitimate question, please post it below and I will do my best to answer it.
- If you would like to read more on this topic, How to Pray for Release of the Holy Spirit by Dennis Bennett was helpful to overcoming a lot of confusion I had.
Original image courtesy of Reporterruthie
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.