What does it really mean to pray in the Spirit?

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Many Christians are taught that to pray in the Holy Spirit is to operate in the Christian gift referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’. Rather unfortunately, Christian teachers who assert that ‘praying in the Holy Spirit’ is tantamount to speaking in tongues are sincerely wrong in their assertion.

While it is true that a person who speaks in tongues edifies himself or herself (1 Corinthians 14:4), and while it is true that people who speak in tongues may not themselves understand what it is they utter (1 Corinthians 14:14), whenever such persons simultaneously pray in tongues, it is unequivocally stated that they pray with their own spirits (1 Corinthians 14:13–14).

We have then that while praying in tongues is supposed to occur in the Holy Spirit, it is not definition of ‘praying in the Holy Spirit’. For evidence from nature, evidence from the human genome that speaking in words whose letter constructions appear not to connote communicable or recognizable language can be rational, see my post titled, The Mystery that is DNA.

I illustrate the difference between praying in tongues and praying in the Holy Spirit with some simple mathematical parlance.

In Mathematics, ‘Set A is contained in Set B’ implies that while everything that is defined to be ‘A’ also is ‘B’, everything that is ‘B’ cannot be construed to be ‘A’.

Let Set A denote praying in tongues, and Set B denote praying in the Holy Spirit. We have then that all else equal, while praying in tongues is praying in the Holy Spirit, it is possible to pray in the Holy Spirit, yet not pray in tongues.

What then is

praying in the Holy Spirit?

In light of importance of demonstration of truthfulness of true definition of praying in the Holy Spirit, I provide first the following verse, Romans 8:26–27 (words in brackets and bold mine).

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 (the Holy Spirit) makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

We have it stated unequivocally in the Scripture quoted above that whenever the Holy Spirit prays for those who believe in the name of Jesus Christ (the definition of Christians in 1 John 3:23), it is to ensure that their prayers are in, or according to the will of God for their lives.

What then is the will of God that is common to all those who believe in the name of Jesus Christ (again, words in brackets and bold mine)?

For this is the will of God, that by doing good (by walking in love) you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men — 1 Peter 2:15.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification (purification from sin, so capacity for love increases)… — 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God (beloved, pray in a manner that helps you avoid ungodly lusts, and helps you remain in the love of God so you can love others and inherit eternal life), looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life — Jude 1:18–21.

Totality of the evidence from Christian Scriptures demonstrates that it is the character with which we pray, and the extent to which our desires and requests are not lustful, but rather targeted at building up our capacity for loving others that determine whether we are praying in the Holy Spirit. Given none of us ever are perfect with respect to character, or perhaps even with respect to purity of our desires and requests, we always ever require intercession of the Holy Spirit in our behalf in presence of our heavenly Father, Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you seek to pray in the Holy Spirit, you seek to develop the love character of Jesus Christ, and seek to conform your prayers to desires that are not lustful, but rather, desires that develop your capacity for love. This means desire for professions, spouses, children, material possessions etc. all are rooted in love not lust.

The reward to

praying in the Holy Spirit?

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will (if we ask anything in the Holy Spirit, that is, if we ask anything because we are becoming God’s love and desire to grow in love), 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 — 1 John 5:14–15 (words in brackets and bold mine).

Praying in the Holy Spirit builds confidence that prayers are heard, that prayers are answered. I pray you are perfected with respect to praying in the Holy Spirit, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Written by

Educator and Researcher, Believer in Spirituality, Life is serious business, but we all are pilgrims so I write about important stuff with empathy and ethos

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