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
I fist spoke in tongues when I was 15. I believed & I didn’t mind feeling foolish at first.
Then I got older, stopped going to church for a while & became cynical.
When I came back to church, I refused to speak in tongues as I believed I had deceived myself in my youthful enthusiasm. I was jaded in my view of tongues, having seen it abused for people’s own aggrandisement.
Years later, I felt the challenge from God to reclaim the gift and I did. I am so sorry now that I refused a gift for so long because I doubted.
This post is excellent. I should have studies the Word before throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
Thank you for this clear setting out of the gift.
Thank you for sharing your story and for the encouragement. May you continue to find deep encouragement and joy from practicing this gift.
Right. According to the bible a carnal Christian can speak in tongues.
Do you feel as though praying in the spirit and speaking in tongues are the same?
I personally speak in tongues but feel that praying in the spirit is different (although it may include tongues)
This is a great question that I only have opinions on. People seem to use the terminology interchangeably, so for many it is the same. I know there is a usage difference between praying in the Spirit and speaking in tongues, which I mentioned in the post. Speaking in tongues have the intent on being interpreted and are a sign to unbelievers. Praying in the Spirit is for the edification of the pray-er. It releases things of the spirit into the natural. I have found that I more commonly have new insights and quicker understanding after praying in the Spirit.
In all practical purposes (in what it sounds like and how it feels when using the gift) they both might be the same, but used at different times and different ways. I like to communicate them as if they are different because they have different uses and the gift of tongues can put too much of a performance on praying in the Spirit that it could keep believers from partaking in the gift.
That’s my understanding. How do you feel about it?
Thanks for the quick response!
I guess the reasoning behind asking the question that I did was because I noticed how you were referring to both tongues and praying in the spirit in the context of 1cor 14. You also did specifically say that praying in the spirit isn’t necessarily limited to tongues. So mainly I was seeking clarification.
Personally I have lots of friends who use the terms interchangeably. I’ve stopped doing that recently because I believe that tongues itself is a very limited way to view praying in the spirit. I believe that praying in the spirit is simply, being in the spirit and praying.. In the beginning of revelations John said he was “in the spirit on the Lords day” then he wrote a sweet book about going to heaven!
I think what you said about praying in the spirit looking different for all people is very important because we all may have different understandings of what being in the spirit looks like. The Ephesians verse says “pray in the spirit… With all kinds of prayers…” so not limited to tongues, but not excluding either. I’m more of a seer so I often pray more based off visions and ‘senses’.
Great article! I hope Jesus uses you to break down many many walls!
Thanks for giving your thoughts on the subject. I absolutely believe that pray can take so many different forms. Our whole lives are to be offerings of prayer. That means sleeping can be a form of prayer! How awesome is that?!!! As we keep our minds and hearts on things above, we are going to stay very close to God’s heart of prayer.
Thanks for teaching on praying in the Spirit. I love praising God in words, giving Him thanks to Him, declaring aloud whatever He said in the bible about my situation – calling those things be not as though they were. Then I would praise Him in the Spirit, till joy & peace floods & guard my heart or spirit man. Guess what happens? God’s presence would come upon me, and I would recieve a miracle in my situation within days. Praising God in the Spirit in spite of negative circumstances, declaring His words aloud really works! PTL forever for His faithfulness.
Thanks for sharing your experiences with praying in the Spirit. Not everyone will notice such a direct outcome to their prayers, but to paraphrase one prayer quote: “I don’t believe in luck, but I find that I am luckier after having prayed.” Maybe another way of saying it is, “the eyes of faith are more apted to God’s answers to prayers.”
I find it hard to pray in the spirit or speak in tongues. How can I achieve this.
This will be different for each person. For me I had an intellectual barrier to overcome. Even when I believed it was true and something from God, I had more faith in my ability to get it wrong than on God to give it to me. One of the things I mentioned in the post that was extremely helpful to me was that I had to realize it was from faith. Once I started what may or may not have been praying in the Spirit, I chose to believe it was from God. In reality I didn’t know. What I did know was that I was trying to move towards God, God wanted me to have this gift, and I felt closer to Jesus while doing it. Once I gave up on having to do it perfectly and started to just enjoy being with God, I started to also enjoy the process more. Over time I started to see more “evidence” that these prayers were of the Spirit, but I still focus on the faith aspect of it. “For it is impossible to please God without faith.” Pat, I hope this helps you. It may also help to find someone who can be with you as you walk through this process.
God wants you to have all His gifts. Keep pressing in.
This is a good guide on the important topic.wgike it’s vitalizes believers with peace power and prophetic revelations from Holy Spirit. beneficial to the family and necessary power for evangelism
It also downplay praying selfishly
It helps to pray for others it’s spiritual benefit
All Believers can ask for this supernatural gift and it helps the Christian race
Hi I love to pray in the spirit, i don’t know what I say, last week at church I felt a overwhelming feeling to cry out to god in the spirit and I did I call it my war cry, I don’t know why I do this but I do I sound like Indians is the only way to describe my war cry and speaking in tounges to me is like a release, it’s hard to explain, I still don’t fully understand it. But I do know I feel better after it.
If we understood everything God asks us to do ahead of time, we wouldn’t need faith to follow Him. Blessings over you as you continue to pursue God.
Pingback: 4 Things to Pray in an Emergency - prayer coach
Hello, I thought that I understood what praying in the Spirit meant and what praying in tongues meant. But, after reading the comments from o e of the readers, I am confused. Please, can you give me an easy example of praying in the Spirit means verse praying in tongues? Thank you.
It is easier to describe what praying in our minds mean. This is prayer that comes out in understandable words and thoughts. These prayers may be led by the Spirit through saying things you normally would not have thought about, but it will be praying by the mind as it is comprehendible by the listener. Praying in the Spirit is more the groans described in Romans 8. Paul tells us that others listening to us praying in the Spirit is not understandable. It is an act of faith as you are trusting that God is someone how understanding and translating these prayers. Both types of prayer are necessary and effective. Paul infers that he does both equally and a lot.
I hope that helps. Let me know if you would like more explanation.
God bless you
This is really amazing blog, glad that I am a part of this, keep up the good work.
Good day. How can I be enabled to pray in the Spirit on a daily basis. Thank you for the Good News and may I be furnished with the further particulars to strengthen me spiritually and help me to carry my cross on a daily basis
Praying in the Spirit is done by faith, so just do it. Set a reminder for yourself until it becomes a habit. I will often pray in the car because I will not distract anyone else. I will also pray quietly during worship. When I don’t know what else to pray, I will pray in the Spirit. It is so versatile and enhances my times with God
Hope these suggestions give you ideas to encourage the practice for you.
Good day. How can I be baptised in the Holy Spirit
I have found the Dennis Bennett book to be helpful. Jut remember that God gives good gifts. He doesn’t give a snake when you ask for a fish. He tells us to be filled with the Spirit and Acts reveals a difference between John’s baptism and the baptism of Jesus. One is of repentance the other of the Spirit. God wants you to have it. When you pray for what God wants you to have, believe He is faithful to give it to you. Thank Him for it.
I understand this is a very simple explanation and talking it over with someone is helpful to overcome things you are uncertain on. I believe the Bennett book would be helpful with those questions.
Hi, I would like when you pray in tongues, how would I know what I’ve said? How would I get a translation?
You will not always know what you prayed. Part of the faith is trusting God is using it. The gift of translation is often when you are praying in a group and someone else is there how has that gift. My suggestion to you is to practice praying in the spirit in your personal times with God. You will grow in faith over time and have a feeling of being closer to Him. Praying the spirit is a gift and for your blessing. Trust God in the process.
I went to a fasting service and I speak words I don’t understand how would I that I have the holy ghost became I keep doubting myself
Thank you for your comment. Anything you do for God takes faith. Hebrews 11:6. If everything made sense, there would be no need for faith, but since it doesn’t make sense at time, doubt will try to sneak in. Our enemy is always trying to get us to doubt. In the garden, his tricked Eve by getting her to doubt. Did God really say?… Faith requires perseverance. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36 For me, I try not to make sense of it but rather ask myself if I feel closer to God. God reveals Himself to those that seek Him. Those that seek will find…
Hope that helps you.
Thanks for the explanation of praying in the spirit.I go to a Pentecostal Church that prays in tongues but I can’t do it.
What does it mean when you are praying and fall out on the floor?
I have a question
I was told that “bc” I do not feel comfortable praying out loud or in front of people – that I do not have the Holy Spirit
I find that offensive- bc I pray oit loud all the time with my husband or family
But bc I do not want to pray in certain ppl, he says I do not have the Holy Spirit!
What do you think?
Diana, I am sorry people tell you that. Everyone that who accepts Jesus Christ as their lord has the Holy Spirit. How you pray or what you do, doesn’t change that the Holy Spirit was given to you as a deposit guarenteeing your salvation. You don’t have look or act like anyone else. God created you uniquely. Just dive into Him and allow Him to enjoy you.
I just found this and I absolutely love this post
I am encouraged to continue pressing in to him and rebuke the doubts the enemy tries to put before me. I will most certainly heed your advice to read the Dennis Bennett book. I let go of my gift too soon and I feel his gentle nudges to continue, not give up. I appreciate the way you’ve expressed the difference of tongues vs in the Spirit and that helps SO much.
Thank you for the encouragement. I hope you experience the joy of praying in the spirit.
Great article, thank you!
I think the part about bypassing the mind and directly engaging our spirit in prayer is so helpful to understanding what praying in the Spirit is and why it’s so powerful. The way I’ve understood it and experienced it is that when I pray in the Spirit for an extended period of time, my mind, emotions, will, and body begin to experience the life of God and fruits of the Spirit in a more clear way. Letting my spirit lead the way in praying seems better than always letting my soul lead the way in prayer.
Great insight into the scriptures on tongues and praying in the spirit, like the way you unpacked it . God bless you.