Question About Praying in the Spirit



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  • Question About Praying in the Spirit

    The Bible says to pray in the spirit. How would one do that? Is that like speaking in tongues??

  • #2
    Scriptural Outline About Praying in the Spirit

    Praying in the Spirit is a wonderful experience that comes from having a relationship with God's Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit makes sense when you read Jesus' words of encouragement to His followers:

    John 4:24 24 "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." We are to worship God in Spirit! Jesus also promised a counselor to His followers, One that would always be with them and in them.

    John 14:16-18 "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." Praying in the Spirit is Biblical and is encouraged to be practiced on all occasions.

    Jude 20-21 "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit."

    Ephesians 6:18 8 "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."

    How can you pray in the Spirit? There are two ways and both ways will fill a person with divine peace and awe for God's majesty and care for us. In the Bible, praying in the Spirit mostly refers to praying in tongues. The apostle Paul made a clear distinction between praying in the mind (intelligence) and praying in the Spirit: 1 Corinthians 14:14-19 "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 mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." When he said his mind is unfruitful, he means his own mind cannot comprehend what he is uttering. Paul was indeed a man who also uttered nonsense that was not the "xenoglossy" as the phenomenon at Antioch, but rather "glossolalia".

    Both prayers are useful and bestow great blessings. The Greek word for mind in this text is "nous" and means the intellect, i.e. mind. It is clear here that praying in the Spirit in this text means praying in tongues, while praying with the mind is praying in your own language. The apostle Paul explains it this way: 1 Cor 14:2 "For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries." In other words praying with the mind means you pray not only to God, but also for other people around you to understand you, while praying in tongues is directed directly to God only.

    This is why the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to pray with the mind in church: 1 Corinthians 14:19 "But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue."

    Unless someone could interpret what was prayed in tongues: 1 Corinthians 14:13-15 "Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."

    Now does being filled with the Spirit only mean to pray in tongues? Not at all! 1 Corinthians 12:29-31 "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?"

    It is clear from this text that the apostle Paul expects a "NO" for an answer. Not every Christian speaks in tongues. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it is not "THE" gift of the Holy Spirit. If not every Christian receives the gift of speaking in tongues, how could the apostle Paul encourage all Christians to pray in the Spirit, if praying in the Spirit means to pray in tongues? This would not make any sense at all. It's like encouraging someone to flap their arms in order to fly. Unless they have been endowed with a flying mechanism, the effort is fruitless.

    In other words, praying in the Spirit does not only mean praying in tongues. The following text will give us more clarity, although it also refers to speaking in tongues: Romans 8:26-27 "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 with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

    In this text we can understand what praying in the Spirit means. God's Holy Spirit intercedes for us, He guides us in our prayers, He helps us in our weakness. When you pray in the Spirit, God's Holy Spirit guides you, He leads you in prayer. It can be done through speaking in tongues, but it can also be done through speaking your own language. We do not know what we will be praying when we pray in the Spirit, but God's Spirit takes charge. He knows our burdens and our needs and He knows as well God's will and what is best for us. If someone's faith in God is shallow, his/her prayer life will also be shallow, irrespective if that person speaks in tongues or not. What should you do if you do not feel like praying? Should you force yourself in prayer, with a long unhappy face or should you not pray at all?

    The best answer is to wait for the Lord and tell Him how cold and prayer less your hearts has become, and ask Him to send His Holy Spirit to warm your heart and draw you into prayer: Psalms 37:7 "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him," and also Hosea 12:6 "Wait for your God always."

    Singing praise songs to God and worshipping out loud will also invite God's Spirit. It will not be long before you are filled with God's presence and that you will have a desire to pray with vigor. God's Holy Spirit has come into you and has stirred your heart into action. You will not want to stop praying as you will be aware that you are in direct communication with your Heavenly Father. You will start to pray for the right things in the right way. There will be joy and power in your prayer. You will feel God's Spirit guide you in your prayers. He will be your guide in your prayers.


    • #3
      More thoughts on being Filled with the Spirit

      Many Charismatic’s insist that tongues is the outward evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which I do not find scriptural. What about personal prayer language, I cannot find that in scripture either? Are we filled once and that is it? Are there any good books on the subject?


      • #4
        Being Filled, Prayer Language and Resources

        There are a multiplicity of theories on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I found A.W. Tozer has the best book on this subject, "How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit." It's only 58 pages long, but it is a powerhouse on the subject. Tozer's understanding is firmly rooted in the scripture and is both fully divine and practical. Also, Pentecostal Rick Walston has a book called "The Speaking in Tongues Controversy: The Initial, Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit Debate" which is very well received and has lead many towards sound Biblical hermeneutics regarding the subject.

        The greatest need of the born again Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will always glorify Jesus Christ. He will be exalted in our speech and in our behavior. Paul used a verb in the imperative and issued a command that every Christian believer to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)

        It is from this divine enabling that God the Spirit produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control (Galations 5:22). He produces in us the likeness of Jesus Christ. The idea behind the word “fill” is “control.” The indwelling Spirit of God is the One who should continually control and dominate the life of the believer.

        Charles Inwood, a 1900’s English Methodist preacher wrote “There is no such thing as a once-for-all fullness. It is a continuous appropriation of a continuous supply from the Lord Christ Himself. It is a moment-by-moment faith in a moment-by-moment Savior, for a moment-by-moment cleansing and a moment-by-moment filling. As I trust Him, He fills me; the moment I begin to believe, that moment I begin to receive; and as long as I keep believing, praise the Lord, so long I keep receiving.”

        Before His ascension into heaven, in Acts chapter 1 Jesus prophesied that this phenomenon would happen to believers. He called it "the promise of the Father," told the disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came on them, and He also referred to it as "the baptism with the Holy Spirit." It happened a few days later on the day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2:4, and there it is called being "filled with the Spirit."

        You may have noticed that Luke (write of Acts) equates being 'filled with the Spirit' with moral qualities, goodness and faith. Being 'Spirit-filled' does not specifically refer to a special experience as such, although we ought to be open to whatever experiences of the Spirit the Lord has for us. Sometimes, in Acts, people spoke in tongues when 'filled with the Spirit'; but Acts often speaks of people filled with the Spirit with no reference, explicit or implicit, to glossolalia (speaking in tongues). I know a number of teachers who humorously compare receiving the baptism of the Spirit to buying a pair of shoes - tongues come with it

        Jesus said "These signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE...." one of them being "they shall speak with new tongues" (Mark 16:17). At the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, ALL spoke with tongues (Acts 2:4). Paul desired all Christians to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:5). In almost every instance in the scriptures where people are filled with the Spirit, the scriptures tell us that they spake in other, or “unknown” tongues.

        What About the Teaching of a Personal Prayer Language?

        The “speaking in tongues” debate has gone on for ages in the Christian church and has been sadly a center point for many divisions among Christian sisters and brothers. Some say they need it for spiritual fulfillment, others say that it is to show evidence of one’s being filled with the Spirit, and others say that it’s personal between them and God as their private prayer language while yet others believe that it’s a known language.

        Is there biblical support for prayer language? Some respected theologians state there is no expression in scripture to support "prayer language" although there are legitimate issues of interpretative difference on this matter among scholars with a commitment to biblical inerrancy. This practice is held largely as a charismatic euphemism, currently promoted by "Word-Faith" Movement leaders such as "Bishop" Clarence McClendon, Benny Hinn, and Rod Parsley. The one scripture that is often used as support for this position is Romans 8:26-27 which says “…but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning (στεναγμος λαλήτοις the Greek here means 'trevailing' not prayer) which cannot be uttered.”

        Effort is also exerted to promote 1 Corinthians 14:2-3 as proof text in support, however Paul actually discourages private tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:1, stating it is unprofitable and unadvised in a group setting without interpretation, whereas those who observe outside may perceive madness (v23). Many of the people in the Corinthian church were recent converts of the regional Bacchus cult, which encouraged ecstatic babbling, and Paul understood this. In tongues, the speaker is unaware of what he is saying, for Paul says that “no one understands” and that the “mind” is not edified. Paul does say we should desire the greater gifts, "especially the gift of prophecy." To say that we should "especially" desire a gift other than tongues or languages would be contrary to the argument that a gift of tongues has some kind of special importance. In fact, Paul seems to rank the gift of languages way down on the list of importance. We also need to hear Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 12:11 where he indicates that the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts in varying ways to different people. Why would he say this if there was only one particular sign gift which God wanted every believer to manifest?

        A professor of theology recently wrote, "In contrast to the experience at Pentecost recorded in Acts 2 in which tongues were a public, known language given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of providing the Gospel to those who would not otherwise understand the message. What was occurring at Corinth is not Acts 2, but was a flesh imitation [the tongues] of Acts 2 -— and Paul’s limiting it in every way possible. This personal prayer is so carefully hedged by Paul and so clearly not in his favor that he has virtually requested it not being performed. Still, Paul does not forbid the tongues entirely in 1 Corinthians 14 in order to leave open the possibility that the legitimate gift referenced in Acts 2 can be operate as prompted by the Holy Spirit."

        Are Tongues Unique to the Christian Experience?

        There are those who claim tongues is an experience unique only to the Christian faith, however, this is simply not true. If a person studies other religions and ancient spiritual systems, tongues was a sign among those early systems a long time before Christianity. At Trophonius and Delos, the Pagan priestesses spoke in tongues, speaking in such a way that each person present heard her words in the listener's own language. African animists, too, have long had ecstatic speech in their religions for thousands of years.

        The Oracle at Delphi, for instance, founded in the 400’s BC, when Greece was at its strongest. Greeks considered madness an important aspect of worship to the Gods, particularly Bacchus worship. It continued into the Roman era, whereas members of the churches in Greece and Asia Minor would have been very familiar with how Delphi worked. It was a shrine of the Greek god Apollo. In response to someone's questions, a priestess would go into a frenzy and start babbling in esoteric tongues. An attendant priest would then 'translate' the babble into some glittering generalities that could in some way be understood as an answer. Hence, because one speaks in tongues is not necessarily evidence of being filled with the Holy Ghost, it is the external expression of an internal presence, which may or may not be of Godly origin.

        How then can Christian's utter a personal prayer language if scripture does not support it as some conclude? As I will outline below, spiritual tongues is an ancient practice, at least dating to the time of the Tower of Babel incident as some scholars claim. Genuine prayer language requires one to largely disengage the mind and allow the inward presence to well up, causing the tongue to rattle with noise essentially. Mediums, Shaman, and practioners of the New Age also practice variants of prayer language while having no association with the Christian message. It is a mechanical process of the psyche (mind) and the pneuma (spirit). More than once, I have been involved in assisting Christians who have attempted to force tongues by opening themselves up, only to allow an unholy entity to transverse the process. God has provided internal safe guards to protect our spirits, but we can force open a door to the spiritual realm, allowing infiltration by familiar spirits who seek to inhabit. We should only exercise the gift if it is given by God's choice, seeking a manifestation gift for the sake of a spiritual badge can lead to all manner of errors.

        Are Tongues Required Evidence to Being Holy Spirit Filled?

        A problem that runs consistent with many churches is the idea that the gift of tongues should be for every believer. Many say that it is a sign that one has been born again and equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit. But unfortunately, what many are ignoring is what the scriptures say about tongue being one of many gifts of the Holy Spirit and not everyone will have all of these gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

        The gift of tongues has divided the church tremendously and it’s taken Paul three chapters to expound on the true gifts of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul, makes it clear in these verses from 1 Corinthians that the gift of speaking in different tongues is just one of the many gifts, but all gifts work together as the Spirit of God determines - not as WE determine. That is the key of the verse. There are some of us that have determined that EVERYONE is supposed to have this particular gift, but the scriptures do teach here that God does the determining, and not us.

        Paul also exhorts churches to be careful of those who will zealously argue that their pet doctrine is the only right way. The bible clearly warns of "those who cause division" by lofty debates not grounded in love. The actions of the sinful nature is revealed, whose underlying cause is a struggle over power, or perhaps resentment and unforgiveness, or pride in ones superior knowledge as they see it. Such action is evidence of one’s failing in the fundamentals of the faith, not mature as to be grounded in love. Paul said some religious discussions are not only profitless but engender strife and division. In 1 Timothy 1:3-7 "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the scripture, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions."

        Being filled with the Spirit is something you choose to ask God to do: it's a matter of the will. God does this work in you (Philippians 1:11). You are not merely passive: your human personality is actively yielding to the abiding Divine Personality. You must want above anything else to surrender to the Spirit - hungering and thirsting to do what God wants i.e. to be filled with the Spirit rather than be filled with self. Confess your sins, so that you can be forgiven and cleansed. If a soul is to be filled with something it must be emptied of what is already there: therefore if there is anything in your life which displaces the Spirit you must be willing for God to empty you of these things. You must renounce the 'world, the flesh and the devil'. And all this is done with the same faith by which you received the Spirit in the first place, when you became a Christian.

        For some, the Spirit comes upon them in an experience of power, love and deep emotion. With others, it is a quiet, determined, almost matter-of-fact transaction. The great saints in the past experienced the Spirit in many and varied ways. The reality of the Spirit's fullness is a matter of faith, and then discipline.

        Should we allow someone to lay hands on us to receive the fullness of the Spirit? The act of 'laying on of hands' to receive God's gifts is depicted throughout scripture. However, we MUST be discerning about who lays hands upon us. It should be limited to those filled with a genuine Christ-like Spirit, persuaded by a pure lifestyle, ideally mature in the faith, and proven sound in the way of truth. While in service to full time ministry, I have been called to drive out malignant presences from those who have been prayed over by hands with corrupt hearts, transferring dark energies of unholy origin. Various kinds of physiological and/or psychological afflictions were remedied when completed. Laying on of hands is not a spiritual function to practice haphazardly or without discernment!

        As we read the book of Acts, being filled with the Spirit was a very definite experience. It wasn't just for leaders but for everyone. Being filled with the Spirit enables us to live a God-honoring life rather than one serving our own desires (Galatians 5:16). Being filled with the Spirit gives us power for service and witness. Jesus said ask, seek, knock; the Father wants to give the Holy Spirit to all who ask him (Luke 11:13).


        • #5
          A short video on speaking in tongues

          The following video is very helpful in understanding the gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge and why they ceased.

          Speaking In Tongues Part A
          YouTube - Speaking In Tongues Part A

          God bless,


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