Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20
“I feel like something is missing from my prayer life.”
“I often feel ineffective in reaching God through prayer.”
“Sometimes my prayers seem cold and lifeless.”
“There are times that I just don’t know how to pray.”
I have heard good people make these statements about their prayer life. I have even said a few of them myself. If you have made any or all of these statements at one time or another then you will want to listen to the instruction of Scripture concerning praying in the Spirit.
In Ephesians 6:18 the Apostle Paul writes, “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” (NKJV)
Then in Jude 20 we read, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.” (NKJV)
Prayer For Illumination
The baseball game was tied with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The batter stepped into the batting box and made the sign of the cross on home plate with his bat. Yogi Berra, Hall-of-Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, was behind the plate. Berra wiped off the plate with his glove and said to the pious batter, "Why don't we let God just watch this game?"
Letting God just watch is appropriate when it comes to baseball, but it is inappropriate when it comes to prayer. An effective prayer life demands the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are to enjoy a vibrant, effective, and meaningful prayer life then we must pray in the Spirit. We must pray as the Holy Spirit inspires and directs.
It should come as no surprise to us that God wants us to pray in the Spirit. The New Testament teaches us that many different activities are to be done in the Spirit.
In Revelation 1:10 we read that the Apostle John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. We too should worship God in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.
In Luke 10:21 we read that Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit. We too should rejoice in the Spirit. Our lives should be characterized by joy that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 19:21 we read that Paul purposed in the Spirit to travel to Jerusalem to share the Gospel. We too should make Holy Spirit guided decisions.
In Colossians 1:8 we read that the Colossian believers loved Paul and others in the Spirit. We too should love in the Spirit.
So it should not surprise us that God instructs His children to pray in the Spirit. What does this mean? How does a Christian pray in the Spirit?
Big Idea: To pray in the Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to be your prayer partner.
I. First, to pray in the Spirit means The Holy Spirit Enables Our Prayers.
In his book, How To Pray, R.A. Torrey writes, “It is the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers.” Prayer is talking to God. Without the Spirit’s aid we are merely talking, not praying. For such a holy task as prayer we need the Spirit’s help. And for such a holy task He is available.
The Bible says in Romans 8:15-16, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." It is by the Holy Spirit’s enabling that believers are able to cry out to God in prayer and to call Him “Father”.
True prayer is marked by awareness that the Holy Spirit is present and enables us to speak to God. All of us have watched with amazement an Eagle soaring through the blue sky. The massive wingspan of the Eagle is a beauty to behold. Female bald eagles weigh up to 14 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. Males are smaller, weighing 7-10 pounds, and a wingspan of 6 1/2 feet. However, without the atmosphere, the air, the wind, those powerful wings become useless appendages. Without the air, the Eagle’s wings that were designed to lift it to the heights are unable to fulfill their God-given purpose.
So it is with the believer’s prayer life. Without the enablement of the Holy Spirit we are unable to enjoy the God-given privilege of prayer. Instead of soaring to the spiritual heights, into the very presence of God Himself, we remain Earth bound. Our prayers don’t even reach the ceiling! The only was we can approach God the Father is in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit!
To pray in the Spirit means first, that The Holy Spirit Enables Our Prayers.
II. Second, to pray in the Spirit means The Holy Spirit Enlightens Our Prayers.
The Apostle James informs believers that there are two main reasons for unanswered prayers. One reason is that we often fail to pray in the first place. James says, “You have not because you ask not!” (James 4:2b) James is talking about Missing prayers. Many believers simply do not pray. They have spiritual thoughts once and a while, but they seldom pray. Some of these people believe that just having spiritual thoughts constitutes prayer. But this is wrong. Just because I think about my wife doesn’t mean I should not talk to her! One of the sappiest songs Elvis ever sang was called, “You Were Always On My Mind.” The lyrics are:
Maybe I didn't treat you
Quite as good as I should have
Maybe I didn't love you
Quite as often as I could have
Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
I am sure if I treated my wife like that for years and years that I could make it alright between us if I just sang this song. “But honey, you were always on my mind!” I am sure she would reply, “Oh, why didn’t you just say so years ago? That makes everything alright.”
There is no substitute for prayer, for talking to God and building a closer relationship with Him through regular communication. Just having spiritual thoughts is not enough! So one reason for unanswered prayers is the problem of missing prayers.
Another reason for unanswered prayers is because we ask for the wrong things or with the wrong motives. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ” (James 4:3) James is writing about Misguided prayers. It is for this reason that we need to be aware of how we pray and for what we pray.
Too many times I have barged into God’s presence demanding what I want, when I want it! I have acted like a rude, uninformed child giving orders to his parent. When we act like this we find ourselves asking for things that are not in the will of God for our lives. We ask for things that will harm us or impede our spiritual growth. Thursday morning my three-year-old daughter picked up a colorful bottle from the bathroom counter. She looked at me and said she wanted to play with the bubbles. She did not realize that she was holding a bottle of Draino! She needed her father to tell her that her request was misguided!
We, too, need to be guided in our prayer-lives. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has to tell us that our prayers are misguided. He has to tell us that the things we are asking for are not in our best interest.
Yet, many people are not conscious of their need for the Holy Spirit’s aid in prayer. They approach prayer like giving a speech. They try to conjure up the magical words that they think sound right and that will get them what they want. They treat God as if He were a spiritual vending machine; put in your prayers and get your answer. But when you approach prayer in such a manner you will often not know how to pray or for what to pray or for whom to pray. Your prayers become cold and dead. You feel like an author sitting down to begin his latest novel only to discover you have writer’s block! He sits staring at a blank computer screen. The words refuse to come. When you neglect the Spirit’s enlightenment you sit down to pray and the words refuse to come.
It is at times like these, when we don’t know for what to pray or how to pray that we must be reminded of our need for the Spirit’s enabling, enlightening power. How does the Holy Spirit enlighten our prayers?
He does so in two basic ways.
A. One way He enlightens our prayers is by Interceding For Us!
In Rom 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
There are times when you don’t know how to pray, or for what to pray.
You don’t know how to pray when you are sitting next to your loved one’s casket in a funeral parlor with the lights down low and the organ music playing softly. You don’t know how to pray when your husband of 28 years serves you with divorce papers. You don’t know how to pray when your doctor says you have cancer.
Yes, we all experience times in our lives when we did not know how to pray. We find our grief, anxiety, or fear too overwhelming. Words just will not form on our tongues.
Hallelujah, it is at times like these when we can say, “Holy Spirit, please intercede on my behalf. You know my heart, you know my needs, and you know all things.”
So, one way He enlightens our prayers is by Interceding For Us!
B. A second way He enlightens our prayers is by Instructing Us.
Jesus said in John 14:16-17, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
In John 14:26 Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
Jesus fulfilled this promise historically after His death, burial, resurrections, and ascension. He asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit, and on Pentecost the promise was fulfilled. The Spirit later instructed the apostles in what to record as He reminded them of what Jesus had done and said. That is how we received a trustworthy New Testament.
Jesus’ promise is realized for us personally when the Spirit of truth teaches us the Word of God. A conscious dependence upon the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit will lead to a consistent study of the Holy Scriptures! God guides and enlightens our prayers through His Word.
I recently rode as a passenger in a car traveling through Atlanta, Georgia. The driver was unsure of how to get to our destination, so he programmed a portable GPS device and placed it on the dash of the car. The GPS gave visible and verbal instructions and directions. Imagine my dismay, however, when the driver refused to follow the directions. He said, “I don’t think that is the right way.” We had to make three course corrections as a result of his refusal to follow the directions. Imagine God’s dismay when He seeks to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6) through His Word and enlightenment, yet we assume we know better than Him! We are obligated to be doers of the Word!
III. Third to pray in the Spirit means The Holy Spirit Ensures Our Prayers.
The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:14-15, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him."
A. When we pray in the Spirit He hears our prayers.
Often when I am in a crowded room and people are lined up to talk to me, to shake my hand, hug my neck, tell me something, share a prayer request, etc., it can be a bit overwhelming. But God is never overwhelmed with millions of prayers coming at Him at once every moment of every day! He hears you as if you were the only person in the world! Isn’t it marvelous to know that when you pray you are speaking to your Heavenly Father who loves you?
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
B. When we pray in the Spirit He heeds our prayers.
“And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:15)
Notice the PREMISE to the PROMISE: See verse 14. Prayer must be according to God’s will! God is not obligated to answer every prayer by giving you what you want. Even Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, you will be done.”
The Spirit will ensure prayer that is enabled and enlightened by Him. Holy Spirit inspired prayer will be answer by the Father. The Spirit will ensure that God’s will is being accomplished.
In Exodus 14:25 we read that When the Egyptians chased after the Children of Israel toward the Red Sea God caused the wheels of the chariots to fall off. The Bible says, “And He took off their chariot wheels, so they drove them with difficulty.” This made it impossible for the chariots to move forward. Something similar happens when we pray without a dependence upon the Holy Spirit. I challenge you to pray in the Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to be your prayer partner.