Compiled by Bruce Hurt, MD
Exposure & Examples
Their Doom (Jude 1:5-7)
Date: A.D. 70-80 (difficult to date)
Jude's Purpose: Expose the false teachers who had crept into the fellowship unnoticed and encourage the saints to stand firm in the faith and rescue the perishing.
Key Verses: Jude 1:4, Jude 1:20, Jude 1:24, 25
Key Words: Lord (Jude 1:4, 5, 9, 14, 17, 21, 25), Faith (Jude 1:3, 20) Keep/Kept (Jude 1:1, 6, 21, 24), Ungodly (Jude 1:4, 15, 18), Beloved (Jude 1:1, 3, 17, 20), Judgment (Jude 1:6, 9, 15), Remember (Jude 1:17), Angel/Archangel (Jude 1:6, 8, 9), Holy Spirit (Jude 1:19, 20). See discussion of key words, a vital component of inductive Bible study.
The following outline is adapted from J Sidlow Baxter's Outline entitled "Contend for the Faith"
GREETING, Jude 1:1,2.
WHY CONTEND EARNESTLY - APOSTATE TEACHERS (Jude 1:3-16).
HOW TO CONTEND EARNESTLY - OUR RESOURCES (Jude 1:17-23).
JUDE'S DOXOLOGY: Coming consummation. (Jude 1:24, 25)
In all contending for the faith we must "keep ourselves in the love of God," the counterpart of which is that the love of God must be in us. We must love, even while we contend against the errors of apostatisers (Contend without being contentious!). We must love their souls even while we oppose their words and deplore their ways. Sometimes it is delicately difficult to keep these separate, but the love of Christ in our hearts (cf Ro 5:5,) will put wisdom on our lips....There are some who "contend" against us. Endless counter-contention with them is useless. But there are others who need "snatching out of the fire"; they have been deceived, and in one sense or another, i.e. by bewilderment, remorse, doubt or danger, are in the fire. And there an still others on whom we are to "have mercy with fear," i.e. being cautious lest in seeking to bring them back we should defile our own garments. (J Sidlow Baxter)
Jude is the only NT book devoted exclusively to confronting “apostasy,” meaning defection from the true, biblical faith. Jude does not quote the OT directly, but there are at least 9 obvious allusions to it. Contextually, this “epistolary sermon” could be called “The Acts of the Apostates.” - John MacArthur
Application: Fight for the truth! Stand up against error! The book of Jude is the very definition of punchy and pithy proclamations—with its short commands and statements popping off the page like machine-gun fire. But in our day and age, punchy has become rude or unacceptable. In many circles the forcefulness of Jude will not be tolerated, the crowds preferring a softer and gentler side of the Christian faith. But Jude reminds us that there is a time and a place for the aggressive protection of the truth from those who would seek to tear it down. How can you participate in defending the truth from error? - C R Swindoll
Jude 1:20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit: humeis de agapetoi epoikodomountes (PAPMPN) heautous te hagiotate humon pistei en pneumati hagio proseuchomenoi (PMPMPN)
MacArthur subtitles Jude 1:17-23 "Survival Strategy for Apostate Times".
Keep the overall outline in mind...
But you (humeis de) - Jude introduces a striking contrast! Remember that whenever you encounter a but it marks a strategic "change of direction" and should always cause a pause to ponder what the writer is contrasting. You will have ample opportunities to practice as there are over 4000 "but's" (Terms of Contrast) in the NAS and the ESV! So take a moment to stop and study this change asking questions like "Why now? Who? What is involved with the change?," etc. Note that in Jude 1:20-23 the writer instructs his readers (and us) how they are to contend earnestly for the faith. Every leader of every church every where at all times would do well to follow Jude's "template!"
And so in this context we see Jude is contrasting the false with the true believers, the ungodly with the godly, the children of the devil with the children of God. From the mockers who were tearing down in Jude 1:19, Jude turns to the beloved who are building up.
James Smith (Handfuls of Purpose) OUR PRIVILEGES Jude 1:20-25 But ye beloved—
John MacArthur puts this next powerful section (Jude 1:20-23) in its proper context writing "For those of us who are Christians to exercise discernment and protect ourselves from being led astray, we must remain on the path of sanctification. Doing so involves first building ourselves up on our most holy faith. We must become doctrinally strong if we would recognize error and effectively fight the battle for truth."
MacArthur has a helpful alliterative summary of Jude 1:17-23 --
These summary titles nicely emphasize the imperatives in each section (remember, keep, have mercy...save)
Ryrie sums up this section - To keep oneself in the love of God (a command) is done by building (on the truth of God), praying (while guided by the Spirit of God), and waiting (with an eternal perspective). All three activities are participles in the Greek. (Ed: I would add that many interpret these participles in the sense of imperatives or commands, so that these are NOT "electives" but mandatory for the believer who would seek to be fortified against false teaching and false teachers." Others see them as the means by which the readers are to maintain themselves in the love of God.)
But you beloved draws a clear distinction between his readers and the apostates who had crept into the local body. By using beloved which is used in the NT only to address believers (and God's beloved Son), Jude contrasts his readers who do possess the Spirit, with the apostates who do not possess the Spirit. He knows that they will need to rely on the Spirit's enabling power to pray and to edify one another. Dependence on the Spirit is also imperative in order to carry out the commands in this section (These verbal imperatives are: Remember Jude 1:17, Keep Jude 1:21, Have mercy Jude 1:22, Save Jude 1:23, and Have mercy Jude 1:23). Remember that what God commands, He always enables. We can attempt to obey the command in our own strength or by relying on the supernatural strength of the Spirit. You can mark it down - The former is always futile but the latter is always fruitful! Are you continually submitted to, filled with, attentive to and dependent on the Spirit so that you might be supernaturally energized to obey the instructions and commands of Scripture? (Eph 5:18-note, Gal 5:16-note)
Grant Osborne notes that "In Jude 1:3, Jude directed them to “defend the faith,” and in Jude 1:5-16 and then Jude 1:17-19 they were to defend it by taking action against the false teachers and exposing their heresy. Now he tells them to defend the faith by strengthening their own faith and keeping the church “safe in God’s love." Bauckham (Word Biblical Commentary) calls Jude 1:20-23 the true epicenter of the letter, asserting that the argument of Jude 1:5-19 becomes “necessary background” to the appeal here, which is “the climax of the letter to which all the rest leads up.” (Jude 1:21-note). There are two parts to this section, beginning with the command to develop their own faith (Jude 1:20-21) and then the command to rescue as many of those who had strayed after the false teachers as they could (Jude 1:22-23-note). (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, Revelation) (Bolding added)
Beloved (Dearly loved) (repeated in Jude 1:3, 17)(27)(agapetos) - He appeals again with a fond affirmation. With pastoral care as a good shepherd, Jude addresses his readers again as agapetos. "Dear friends" (NET) And by Whom are they dearly loved? Jude 1:1-note says they are beloved in God the Father, which reminds us of John's great exhortation for believers to "See (aorist imperative) how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and [such] we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." (1Jn 3:1-note)
Building yourselves up on your most holy faith - Note again the striking contrast between those who cause divisions (Jude 1:19-note) and those who edify or build up (contrast also - "in the Holy Spirit" with "devoid of the Spirit" in Jude 1:19-note).
Yourselves - The reflexive pronoun yourselves (heautou) emphasizes that their continued growth in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is their personal responsibility. This idea is discussed in more detail below.
THREE CONTRASTS BETWEEN
To summarize the 3 striking contrasts between the ungodly and the godly (beloved) in Jude 1:19 and Jude 20-21...
Hiebert - “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith” points out the need for a growing spiritual experience for security against apostasy. “Building up” (epoikodomountes) depicts this growth under the familiar figure of the erection of a house or temple. In the New Testament the term is always used figuratively for spiritual growth and development (1Cor. 3:10, 12, 14; Eph. 2:20-note; Col. 2:7-note). The compound verb points to the superstructure being reared on an existing foundation. The present tense underlines that the building of a strong and stable Christian character is an ongoing activity. It stands in sharp contrast to the destructive impact of the errorists (Ed: Jude 1:19-note). The elements of this character construction are enumerated in 2Peter 1:5–7-note. As Peter indicates, such continued growth and development assures security, while the failure to grow spells danger (2Peter 1:8–9-note). (Second Peter-Jude- D. Edmond Hiebert) (Bolding added)
Yourselves (heautous) is a reflexive pronoun which "makes clear their personal responsibility for their growth. They were to act as moral and responsible agents in this,” for such growth demands their active cooperation. While the divine bestowal of life imparts the ability and desire to grow, it is yet the responsibility of each believer to “work out” (Ed: present imperative = Command to make this our habitual practice, only possible as we depend on the enabling power of the Spirit - which is actually explained in Php 2:13-note because God in us is the Spirit!) his own salvation (Phil. 2:12-note, Phil 2:13-note). The pronoun indicates that Jude here is not thinking of the evangelistic growth of the church, the adding of new stones upon the foundation, but rather the inner maturity of its members. “Yourselves” (heautous)....is not the same as “one another” (allēlous); it is not merely a mutual activity, for each individual must also foster his own growth. Acts 20:32-note makes clear that the Word of God ("the Word of His grace") is the means that produces this activity of personal growth. It immunizes (Ed: and fortifies) us against the deceptions and denials of the apostates. This is a duty incumbent upon all the members." (Ibid)
Why must (not an option) we continually, daily be in the process of building ourselves up, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Think of our Christian life of sanctification (holiness) this way -- compare it to riding a bicycle which moves us forward. But what happens if we stop peddling? We fall off of course. The Christian life is like that. If we don't keep moving forward, we will not simply in the same spiritual state because we have three relentless enemies that are continually, daily strategizing to take us down. If we go too long without "peddling" (so to speak) we will soon find ourselves backsliding! Thus the need to continually be building ourselves up on our most holy faith.
Spurgeon - He has told us about the one foundation, now he bids us build thereon: “Building up yourselves on your most holy faith.” “Praying.” That is the next thing; there is no preservation like that which is given by God in response to believing prayer. “Praying in the Holy Ghost.” There is a kind of praying which is without the Holy Ghost, and it speedeth not (will not prosper or have success; will not advance one's enterprise). There is a praying which is the breath of God in man (Ed: Spirit in Greek = pneuma = "breath"), returning whence it came; this will keep us from falling, and bring us untold blessings.
Wuest paraphrases "building yourselves up constantly in the sphere of and by means of your most holy Faith."
Jude's exhortation reminds us of Jesus' prayer for His disciples, asking His Father to "Sanctify them in truth, Thy Word is truth." (Jn 17:17-note). In a word, the best defense against false doctrine is sound doctrine, for only God's Truth can effectively counter Satan's lies! Remember that the spiritual battle is ultimately a battle for truth and the "battle field" is our mind! Churches that "bypass" this important element, are "wide open" for ravenous wolves to come into the flock and wreak "doctrinal havoc!" (Acts 20:29-31-note)
The holy faith is the foundation on which we are to build (Also emphasized by the prefix in epoikodomeo because the preposition "epi" means upon). Indeed the holy faith is that same "faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3-note) Plumptre adds "The readers of the Epistle are exhorted to take that faith as a foundation, and to erect on it the superstructure of a pure and holy life." (Jude 1 Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)
Jude urges them but they must make the choice to pursue spiritual maturity. As Duane Litfin says that "the best thing believers can do to withstand the malady is to develop their spiritual immunological resources." (A Biblical Strategy for Confronting the Cults)
I would add that the best way to do this is by growing in respect to their salvation by a systematic, steady intake of the "pure milk of the Word" (1Pe 2:2-note).
Hiebert agrees that "The key element in the antidote to apostasy is a vital and growing fellowship with God grounded in His self-revelation."
Building...up (2026)(epoikodomeo from epí = upon, Vincent says it indicates the placing of one layer upon another + oikodomeo [from oikos = house + domeo = to build] = build a house) literally means to build upon something already built, "adding to the foundation of a building" (Friberg), "to build further" (TDNT), to erect a superstructure (an entity, concept, or complex based on a more fundamental one - 1Co 3:10).
Epoikodomeo is used 7x in 6v in the NT - 1Co 3:10, 12, 14; Eph 2:20; Col 2:7-note; Jude 1:20
Epoikodomeo is always used figuratively in the NT referring to their spiritual edification (cf Eph 2:20-note, Col 2:7-note). The present tense calls for continual building on the superstructure of our faith. Note that some writers see this participle (as well as praying and watching) as have the force of an imperative or command. While the apostates majored on tearing down the faith, Jude charges the godly ones to be zealous to build up the faith. The building of strong Christian character is a process that takes a lifetime. Indeed, we are all "works in progress." (Php 1:6-note), or as someone has abbreviated it...
Which means "Please Be Patient. God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet." Often times when we look in the mirror and deep into our own soul, we may not like what we see, but it's then that we need to recall the great truth that God isn’t finished with us yet. And as Jude reminded them in Jude 1:1-note they are "kept" (perfect tense= speaks of the permanence of this keeping) and in Jude 1:24 God is "is able to keep (them) from stumbling and to make (them) stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,."
Paul used the root verb oikodomeo in his letter to the Thessalonians, exhorting them to "encourage one another and build up one another." (1Th 5:11-note) Peter uses a similar construction metaphor writing that we are "living stones...being built up as a spiritual house" built upon Jesus Christ the "precious corner stone." (1Pe 2:4-6-note).
In Acts 20:32-note we see "the Word of His grace...is able (has the inherent power) to build (oikodomeo) you up." The point is that the Body of Christ will NOT be built up without the intentional "injection" of the Word of Truth (cf Jn 17:17)!
In Ephesians 2:20-note Paul says that we have "been built upon (epoikodomeo - aorist tense = past tense; passive voice = divine passive = God the Spirit being the one who built us) the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone."
In Colossians 2:7-note Paul says we have "been firmly rooted (perfect tense = past completed action with continuing effect/result) and now being built up (epoikodomeo in the present tense = continually, passive voice = "divine passive" = by the Spirit) in Him (Christ). "
John MacArthur on building ourselves up - Practically speaking, edification centers on studying the Word of God and learning to apply it. In Acts 20:32-note Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” All the ministries of the church should result in edification (Ro 14:19-note; 1Cor 14:12, 26; Eph 4:16-note; 1Th. 5:11-note; cf. 1Cor 8:1). God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers to proclaim His Word, which results in “the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12-note; cf. Col 2:6-7-note). Peter wrote that believers should desire the Word for spiritual growth, just as babies desire milk for their physical nourishment (1Pe 2:2-note). Along those same lines, the apostle John wrote that the spiritually strong believers, those capable of successfully waging effective warfare for the truth, are those in whom the Word of God abides (1 John 2:14-note). (2 Peter and Jude MacArthur New Testament Commentary)
Matthew Henry - The way to hold fast our profession (cf Titus 1:9-note, 1Ti 3:9) is to hold on in it. Having laid our foundation well in a sound faith, and a sincere upright heart, we must build upon it, make further progress continually; and we should take care with what materials we carry on our building, namely, gold, silver, precious stones, not wood, hay, stubble, 1Co. 3:12. Right principles and a regular conversation will stand the test even of the fiery trial; but, whatever we mix of baser alloy, though we be in the main sincere, we shall suffer loss by it, and though our persons be saved all that part of our work shall be consumed; and, if we ourselves escape, it will be with great danger and difficulty, as from a house on fire on every side. (Jude - Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary)
Spurgeon - Edification is a grand defense against the assaults of skeptics and heretics. These prey upon the ignorant and unestablished, but fail to overthrow those who are rooted and grounded in the truth. We need to be continually built up: learning more, loving more, and living more the grand truths of the gospel. We must see to it that the foundation is right, for it will be useless, or worse than useless, to be built up upon false principles—it is “on our most holy faith” that the building must be based. We should be so established in the doctrines of grace as to recognize their holiness and to imitate it in our own lives. Only a “most holy” faith is safe for the soul, and woe unto the man who rests content with any other. See, then, brethren, that to ward off the ills of these last times we must labour to know the truth ourselves, and must endeavor to instruct our brethren therein. Personal and mutual edification in the church should be zealously maintained as one of the most valuable defenses against the invasion of error. (A Weighty Charge - Jude 1:21)
Most holy faith - This phrase is found only here in Scripture. Holy means separate or set apart, so the faith Jude exhorts us to is a faith that is distinguished, set apart. In the context of this letter, the faith Jude refers to is "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3-note = "faith" = bookends of this letter!)
Some see most holy faith as the referring to the entire revelation from God, the whole body of truth contained in His Word or as John MacArthur says "the objective body of Biblical truth." (Ref) Hiebert adheres "to the common view that “your most holy faith” denotes the foundation upon which the Christian life is founded." As discussed earlier faith (see Jude 1:3-note) in this context does not refer to the subjective experience (personal trust in Christ), but refers to objective faith, the substance of what is believed, the object of their personal belief ("the apostles' teaching" - Acts 2:42).
Mayor - The faith here is called most holy because it comes to us from God, and reveals God to us, and because it is by its means that man is made righteous, and enabled to overcome the world (1Jn 5:4-5, Jn 16:33). (The Expositor's Greek Testament)
Hiebert explains why the faith is called "holy" - As “most holy” it is separate and distinct from all other faiths because of its origin and transmission as well as the holiness it produces in those who ground their lives upon it. “Because the Spirit inspired this faith, genuine spirituality is its fruit.” This precious faith stands “in marked contrast to the vile and shifty doctrines which the libertines profess and uphold.”...The faith which believers build upon is not an abstract doctrinal system but the Spirit-formulated message of the holy character and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Only a faith resulting in a living relationship with the living Lord Jesus Christ will effect such spiritual growth. (Second Peter-Jude: An Expositional Commentary)
Calvin on most holy faith - He calls their faith most holy, in order that they might wholly rely on it, and that, leaning on its firmness, they might never vacillate. (Jude 1 Calvin's Commentaries)
Kistemaker on Most holy faith - This faith is a gift of God that is entrusted to Christians and is described in superlative form as most holy. This faith which originates with God is perfect, pure, and incomparable.
Paul describes this building process in Acts, addressing his words to the Ephesian elders...
Praying in the Holy Spirit - This is the only occurrence of this exact phrase in Scripture. Some might interpret this as glossalalia, praying in tongues, and while this does not exclude that manner of praying, it is not the main intent. The preposition "in" is what is referred to as locative of sphere (see Wuest below).
Holy Spirit - Notice the striking contrasts with the group just discussed - Those who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 1:19) The implication is that Jude's readers possess the Holy Spirit (as do all genuine believers - Ro 8:9).
Compare - (Ro 8:26-note) In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words
Wuest explains that in the Holy Spirit "is locative of sphere. That is, all true prayer is exercised in the sphere of the Holy Spirit, motivated and empowered by Him. That means that if the saint expects to really pray, he must be Spirit-filled or Spirit-controlled (Eph 5:18-note). The fullness of the Holy Spirit is the prerequisite to effectual praying. The Spirit, when yielded to, leads us in our petitions and generates within us the faith necessary to acceptable and answered prayer. The expression “praying in the Holy Spirit” is also instrumental of means. We pray by means of the Holy Spirit, in dependence upon Him."
Wuest is absolutely correct -- A Spirit Filled Church (remember all the verbs in Jude 1:20-21 are in the plural so he is addressing the church) is described in detail by Paul in Ephesians especially the "power source" of a Spirit filled church. It begins in Eph 5:18 (plural imperative) and crosses over the chapter break through spiritual warfare and down to Eph 6:18 (also in the plural - present mid/pass participle, plural, nominative - identical parsing to Jude 20!) (Actually it passes through to Eph 6:20 = boldness for witnessing!)
So how do we continually pray in the Spirit? It sounds paradoxical! But we pray in the Spirit...
Jude is in a very real sense telling us what a A Spirit Filled Church (see discussion) looks like! It is a praying church, individually and corporately! We will have to come up with some way/time of praying together as a church. Boy, am I convicted! My weakest discipline by far is prayer! Would the church you go to or pastor be known as a praying church?
A few thoughts on the Spirit Filled Church in Jude 1:20-21...
(1) How do we continually build ourselves up? (Jude 1:20)
By being continually filled with God's Word and God's Spirit!
(2) How can we continually pray (pray w/o ceasing)?
Filled with the Word and the Spirit!
(3) How can we keep or guard ourselves (Jude 1:21-note) (aorist imp = Do this now! Don't delay! It always conveys a sense of urgency -- it is like a commanding general in this case Jude giving orders to his troops contending earnestly for the faith in spiritual struggle for truth)? We can only keep ourselves in the love of God by being filled with the Word of God and the Spirit of God (cp Ro 5:5, Gal 5:22)!
(4) How can we wait expectantly for Jesus? (Jude 1:21-note)
Filled with the Word and the Spirit! Wow! What a picture of a Spirit filled church -- a picture of church that is supernaturally empowered to contend earnestly for the faith!
Let me give you a real time illustration of a Spirit filled church from the Global Prayer Digest, July 31, 2015 - China is now poised to send missionaries cross-culturally. God is calling individuals to “go to the ends of the earth.” The church in China has a keen awareness of dependence upon God and a willingness to suffer, both valuable assets in their global missions effort. They are also a praying church; in fact more than 10 times more people use this Global Prayer Digest in Mandarin than in English. - See more at (Global Prayer Digest). I pray you are as convicted (in a motivating, not condemning sense) as I am! Spirit filled churches are radical churches, continually praying in the Holy Spirit!
Spurgeon - The second most needful defensive principle in the church is devotion. “Praying in the Holy Ghost” is the weapon with which the hosts of the Lord will put to rout the armies of the alien. The prayers of saints are the mighty artillery with which the walls of our Jerusalem are protected. Supplication is a cannon which throws tremendous bolts against the advancing foe, as Sennacherib knew when Hezekiah pleaded with God. The prayers, however, must be deeply spiritual, written on the heart by the Holy Ghost, and presented with energy of his creating. Formal, lifeless petitions are but a Chinese painted fortress, but praying in the Holy Ghost is an impregnable castle. Those “groanings which cannot be uttered” are pieces of ordnance which make the gates of hell to tremble. We must put our hearts under the influence of the blessed Spirit of God, and then lift them up in continued intercession before God, and there can be no fear about the preservation of our minds from the error of the wicked. A praying church soon tries the spirits of false prophets, and casts them forth as evil. I have far more faith in prayer than in controversy. Keep the prayer meetings right, maintain private prayer with earnestness, and we may laugh to scorn all the sophisms of unbelievers and deceivers. (A Weighty Charge - Jude 1:21)
Jamieson - The Holy Spirit teaches what we are to pray for, and how. None can pray aright save by being in the Spirit, that is, in the element of His influence. (Jude - Commentary Critical and Explanatory)
Hiebert explains that "In the Holy Spirit marks the sphere of the praying, “as if immersed in the Holy Spirit and shut off from the world’s evil.” The picture is parallel to Ro 8:26-27-note where Paul portrays the Holy Spirit as prompting, purifying, and directing prayer in harmony with the will of God. It is not a mere ritual but “praying out of hearts and souls that are indwelt, illuminated, and filled by the Holy Spirit.” (Second Peter-Jude: An Expositional Commentary)
Wuest adds that this phrase shows "how the saints are to build themselves up on their most holy faith. That is, prayer is the vital factor in the Christian life which activates all the other departments of the Christian experience."
Moffatt - The real experience and possession of the Holy Spirit inspires prayer, not any proud sense of superiority to others or any false independence towards God.
Clarke - The prayer that is not sent up through the influence of the Holy Ghost is never likely to reach heaven. (Jude Commentary)
Rob Morgan - We are praying in the Spirit when we sincerely bring before God those requests the Holy Spirit leads us to pray about with the earnestness and faith that the Holy Spirit gives.
Wiersbe - The Word of God and prayer certainly go together (Acts 6:4). Evangelist Billy Sunday used to give his converts three rules for success in the Christian life. Each day they were to read the Bible and let God talk to them. They were to pray; in other words, they were to talk to God. And they were to witness and talk to others about God. It would be difficult to improve on those rules. (Be Alert 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude- Beware of the Religious Impostors)
Paul gives a similar instruction to the saints at Ephesus - "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Eph 6:18-note)
For an interesting study, observe the NT uses of the phrase "in the Holy Spirit" which is found 8x in Scripture (in NAS) - Mk 12:36; Lk 10:21; Jn 1:33; Ro 9:1; 14:17; 2Cor 6:6; 1Th 1:5; Jude 1:20. The synonymous phrase "in the Spirit" is found 20x (in NAS - Amplified may be translated different) - Mt 22:43; Lk 1:17; 2:27; Acts 19:21; Ro 8:9; 1Cor 6:11; 14:16; Eph 2:22; 3:5; 4:23; 6:18; Phil 3:3; Col 1:8; 1Ti 3:16; 1Pet 3:18; 4:6; Rev 1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10
John Calvin has a good word on praying in the Holy Spirit - In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth (disinclination to action, sluggishness; laziness; spiritual apathy and inactivity), and that such is the coldness of our flesh (Ed: Beloved, cannot we all identify with Calvin's description!!!), that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God; and that we are also so inclined to diffidence (quality of being hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence) and trembling, that no one dares to call God his Father, except through the teaching of the same Spirit; for from Him is solicitude (attentive care and protectiveness), from Him is ardor and vehemence (marked by intense emotion), from Hm is alacrity (a cheerful readiness), from Him is confidence in obtaining what we ask (1Jn 5:14-15); in short, from Him are those unutterable groanings mentioned by Paul (Romans 8:26.) It is not, then, without reason that Jude teaches us, that no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide. (Jude 1 Calvin's Commentaries)
Spurgeon on in the Holy Spirit - Mark the grand characteristic of true prayer-"In the Holy Spirit." The seed of acceptable devotion must come from heaven's storehouse. Only the prayer which comes from God can go to God. We must shoot the Lord's arrows back to Him. That desire which He writes upon our heart will move His heart and bring down a blessing, but the desires of the flesh have no power with Him. Praying in the Holy Ghost is praying in fervency. Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer-it is essential that it be red hot. It is praying perseveringly. The true suppliant gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed, the more vehemently does he use the knocker, and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God's sight is tearful, agonizing, unconquerable importunity. It means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. It is His office to convince of sin, and so to bow us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We shall never sing Gloria in excelsis except we pray to God De profundis: out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never behold glory in the highest. It is loving prayer. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love-love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ. Moreover, it must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God's promise. O that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Spirit is in our hearts (Ro 5:5-note)! Most blessed Comforter, exert thy mighty power within us, helping our infirmities in prayer. Amen
Matthew Henry - Prayer is the nurse of faith; the way to build up ourselves in our most holy faith is to continue instant in prayer, Ro 12:12. Our prayers are then most likely to prevail when we pray in the Holy Ghost, that is, under His guidance and influence, according to the rule of His word, with faith, fervency, and constant persevering importunity; this is praying in the Holy Ghost, whether it be done by or without a set prescribed form.
John Calvin - And as we commonly pray in a formal manner, he adds, In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God...no one can pray as he ought without having the Spirit as his guide. (Calvin's Commentary)
Disciples Study Bible on in the Holy Spirit - Pray submissive to, filled with, attentive to, and utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit. Jude had just described people devoid of the Spirit. See on Ro 8:26-27-note.
George Lawrence Lawlor - Praying in the Holy Spirit is not speaking in tongues, but is “praying out of hearts and souls that are indwelt, illuminated, and filled with the Holy Spirit."
Praying (proseuchomai from pros = toward, facing, before [emphasizing the direct approach of the one who prays in seeking God’s face] + euchomai = originally to speak out, utter aloud, express a wish, then to pray or to vow. Greek technical term for invoking a deity) in the NT is always used of prayer addressed to God and means to speak consciously (with or without vocalization) to Him, with a definite aim (See study of noun proseuche). This verb also conveys an attitude of reverence when praying to Him. Wuest adds that the prefixed preposition pros "gives it the idea of definiteness and directness in prayer, with the consciousness on the part of the one praying that he is talking face to face with God...(thus proseuchomai) speaks also of the consciousness on the part of the one who prays, of the fact of God’s presence and His listening ear."
Proseuchomai is in the present tense which calls praying without ceasing, at all times and all places (cf 1Th 5:17-note). Beloved, do not attempt to do this in your own power or out of a sense of legalism, for you are destined to fail. Spiritual praying ultimately can only be stirred and enabled by the Spirit Who lives within us. We must rely on Him for the spiritual energy to pray "present tense!" As an important aside, praying continually in the Spirit is tangible evidence of one's dependence on God.
Thomas Manton, the great Puritan expositor, has twenty-three pages of commentary on Jude 1:20,21-see commentary.
Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but is getting God’s will done on earth (cf 1Jn 5:14-15).
John Phillips - Praying in the Spirit does not mean going into a trance or speaking an ecstatic utterance. The Holy Spirit does not overpower our mental faculties. He directs, but He does not dominate. He never acts despotically. "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Corinthians 14:32).
Henry Blackaby - Praying in the Spirit - We are weak and do not know how we ought to pray. There is, however, some good news: “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” (Rom. 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit has an advantage over us — He already knows the will of God. When He prays for us, He is praying absolutely in agreement with the will of God. He then helps us know the will of God as we pray. For his sixth birthday, my oldest son Richard was old enough to have a bicycle. I looked all around for a bicycle. I found a blue Schwinn™. I bought it and hid it in the garage. Then I had a task — to convince Richard that he needed a blue Schwinn bike. For the next little while, we began to work with Richard. Richard decided that what he really wanted for his birthday was a blue Schwinn bike. Do you know what Richard got? Well, the bike was already in the garage. I just had to convince him to ask for it. He asked for it, and he got it!
Geoff Thomas - Praying in the Spirit
Ray Pritchard - Effective prayer requires sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
Paul says we are to pray “in the Spirit.” That means “under the influence of the Holy Spirit.” It helps me to think about it this way.Praying in the Spirit means following the Spirit’s guidance as to when to pray. Because prayer itself is the language of heaven, the impulse to pray comes from the Holy Spirit. He not only invites us to pray, he also incites us to pray. Sometimes you will think, “I should pray about that.” Don’t ever brush that thought away. Do it. Go ahead and pray right then. Sometimes people may say, “I wish we could pray about that.” Take that as a message from the Holy Spirit and go ahead and pray. These impulses to pray may come at any time . . .
If you think about praying, go ahead and pray. You don’t have to pray out loud. You can pray to the Lord without speaking any words at all, and the Lord will hear you from heaven. When the Lord speaks to you and says, “Pray,” don’t say “No.” Go ahead and pray.
When the Lord speaks to you and says, “Pray,” don’t say “No.” Go ahead and pray.
And pray about the things the Lord lays on your heart. Don’t be ashamed or worried that you won’t say the right thing. The Holy Spirit knows your heart and intercedes for us with wordless groaning (Romans 8:26-27). He comes alongside to help us when we pray so that our feeble prayers rise with power and enter the courts of heaven to be carried to the Throne of Grace. As an old gospel song says, sometimes we just need to “have a little talk with Jesus.” That song along says, “When you feel a little prayer wheel turning.” It’s hard to explain exactly what that means, but I know what that’s like. You can be sure that the Lord is turning the “prayer wheel” in your heart and moving you to pray.
So let’s not make this mysterious. Whenever you feel an inner urge to pray, do it! We would all pray a lot more every day if we became sensitive to the impulse of the Spirit in our lives. (Full message "What If" - Ephesians 6:18-20)
RELATED RESOURCES ON PRAYER
James Rosscup - Praying, the central focus of the three phrases linked with keeping in God’s love, is relevant to the others, as they are pertinent to genuine prayer. Praying is a prime factor in spiritual growth, and all fruitfulness in relation to God, as in love and joy (John 15:7-12). Peter has linked prayer closely with love (1Pet. 4:7-8). It is a spiritual reflex to pray for strength or guidance to wait trustfully on God, as the psalmist reflects (Ps 119:43, 49, 74, 81-82). (An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible: Igniting the Fuel to Flame Our Communication with God)
Gotquestions - What is praying in the Spirit?
Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, “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.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “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.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “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.”
Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27–28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in tongues. (Reference)
John Piper asks What Is “Praying in the Spirit?”
The best brief statement I have found of what it means to pray in the Holy Spirit goes like this: It means “so to pray that the Holy Spirit is the moving and guiding power.” The key words there are “moving” and “guiding.” In other words, when you pray in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is “moving” you to pray. That is, he is the one who motivates and enables and energizes your prayer. And when you pray in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God is “guiding” how you pray and what you pray for. So, to pray in the Holy Spirit is to be moved and guided by the Holy Spirit in prayer. We pray by his power and according to his direction.
The Power of the Spirit
Let’s see where this interpretation of praying in the Holy Spirit comes from in the Bible. The first thing to notice is the very close parallel passage in Ephesians 6:18, where Paul says, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.” The reason this is important is that it shows that “praying in the Spirit” is not a special form of prayer—like speaking in tongues. We can tell this is so because Paul says in Ephesians 6:18 that we should pray “at all times” in the Spirit. In other words, all prayer should be “in the Spirit.” Praying in the Holy Spirit is not one form among several. It is the way all prayer is to be offered.
The second thing to see is the parallel in Romans 8:26 where Paul says, “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Here it is plain that one thing the Holy Spirit does for us is help our weakness when we need to pray but can’t the way we should. So it is natural to take “praying in the Holy Spirit” to mean praying with the help of the Holy Spirit—with the strength and enablement of the Spirit to make up for our weakness.
A third parallel would be Romans 8:15–16 where Paul says, “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” The point here is that the Spirit of God helps us have assurance that we are children of God by causing us to cry out from the heart (to pray!), “Abba, Father.” In other words, the Spirit moves our prayers. He motivates, enables and energizes our prayers. That’s a key part of what “praying in the Holy Spirit” means.
The Guidance of the Spirit
The other part of what it means to pray in the Holy Spirit is that when we do so, our prayers are not only “moved” by the Spirit, but also “guided” by the Spirit. This is no surprise, because if the Holy Spirit is prompting and enabling and energizing our prayers, it would natural to think that he does so in a way that accords with his nature and his Word. We would not want to say, The Spirit moves our prayers, but they are not according to God’s will. If the Spirit is moving us to pray, then he would move us according to his will and Word.
So praying in the Holy Spirit would mean not only experiencing the power of the Spirit to help us pray when we are weak, but also experiencing the guidance of the Spirit to help us when we are foolish or confused or selfish. For example, James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” That would not be praying “in the Holy Spirit.” That would be praying “in the flesh” or in your own sinful nature.
How Do I Pray in the Holy Spirit?
So now the question is the practical one: How do you pray in the Holy Spirit? Don’t fail to see how utterly unusual it is to be told to do something by the power and guidance of another. It is God telling me to do it—pray! And yet telling me that it is a work of the Holy Spirit when I do it. It is just like other things in the Christian life: Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit.” Romans 8:13, “Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3, “Say Jesus is Lord by the Spirit.” Philippians 3:3, “Worship by the Spirit.” In all these things we are supposed to do something. But we are to do them in a way that it is the Spirit who is doing them through us.
This is the way human life is, since God is sovereign and we are responsible. We act. We are responsible to act. But God is the decisive actor. Our action is dependent. So when we are told to “walk” (Galatians 5:16), or fight sin (Romans 8:16), or confess the Lordship of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:3), or worship (Philippians 3:3), or pray (Jude 1:20), we are told to do it “in the Holy Spirit.”You do it so that it is the Holy Spirit who is doing it in and through you.
So how do I pray so that it is really the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding the prayer?
Trusting God to Give His Spirit
I think there are two basic answers. The first is faith. We pray “in the Holy Spirit” when we take our stand on the cross of Christ (which purchased all divine help) and trust God for his help by the Spirit. In other words, when you admit that without the help of the Spirit you cannot pray as you ought, and then you consciously depend on the Spirit to help you pray, then you are praying “in the Holy Spirit.” So the first answer to the question, How?, is by faith—by trusting God to give you the Holy Spirit to help you pray.
You can see this from the New Testament in several ways (see, for example, Galatians 3:1–5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). One is that in Philippians 3:3 it says, “We worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Here, worshipping “in the Spirit of God” is explained by “put no confidence in the flesh.” I think that means, instead we put confidence in the Spirit, that is, in God’s blood-bought mercy to help us worship as we ought by his Spirit. So I take it that the way to “pray in the Holy Spirit” is the same as the way to worship “in the Spirit of God,” namely, by not putting any confidence in what we can do in our own nature, but instead looking away from our own resources and trusting in the mercy of God to help us pray by his Spirit.
That is what we should do this year in all our praying. Trust God for the help we need to pray. When you are too weak or too confused or too depressed or too angry or too dull to pray, at that moment do not assume that you can’t pray. Instead, consciously look away from yourself to Christ and to the mercy of God in Christ, and trust him to help you—even if it is only to produce groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26). Learn to distrust yourself and to trust God in prayer. Learn that without him you can do nothing and cast yourself on him at all times for all you need in order to pray.
Let Your Prayers Be Shaped by God’s Word
The other answer to the question of how to pray “in the Holy Spirit” is to bring all your praying into conformity to the Word of God which the Spirit inspired (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16–17). Right here is where God’s call to be in the Word every day and his call to pray at all times in the Spirit become intertwined. If you live in the Word of God, meditating on it day and night by reading it every day and memorizing portions to carry with you all day and savoring them hour by hour, then your prayers will be shaped by the Word. Which means they will be shaped by the Spirit. And that is what it means to pray “in the Holy Spirit.” Not only to be moved by the Spirit in prayer, but to be guided by the Spirit in prayer. And since this is something we are called to do (“pray in the Holy Spirit”), our role is to take what we know about the Spirit’s will from the Word and saturate our prayers with it. (Full message - Learning to Pray in the Spirit)
It does not make sense to pray if we do not pray in the Spirit:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Eph 6:18-note).
Prayer and the Holy Spirit are vitally linked together. This is a truth taught in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Jehovah said to His prophet,
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the [Spirit of grace and of supplications (Zec 12:10).
I have spelled the word Spirit with a capital S because I believe the reference is to the Holy Spirit. Possibly this verse has reference to the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel. He is called the "Spirit of supplications" because it is He who awakens us to the desire and need to pray. He quickens the believer to pray now as He will in the day of Israel's spiritual awakening.
In the little epistle of Jude, we have an exhortation like that in Ephesians:
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost (Jude 20).
In these two phrases, "praying in the Spirit" and "praying in the Holy Ghost," we have one of the truly great secrets of prayer. If anyone were to ask me, what was the first great secret of a successful prayer life, I believe I would answer, "Praying in the Holy Spirit."
But what does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? The superhuman task of praying according to the will of God demands more than mere human reasoning. It needs the wisdom and power which only the Holy Spirit can supply. Human wisdom and human desires can achieve human results, but praying in the Spirit produces divine results. In praying in the Holy Spirit, the child of God has the power and wisdom of God to offset the power and wisdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Real prayer is a spiritual warfare.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph 6:12-note).
Here the praying Christian is between God on the one hand and the devil on the other. He is engaged in prayer warfare, and in his own strength he is no match for the enemy. Satan is a strong man, mightily armed (Mt 12:28-29), and only as we pray in the Spirit can we overcome him. The power to be victorious in prayer was promised by our Lord when He said,
Behold, I give unto you power . . . over all the power of the enemy (Lk 10: 19).
We Christians are in a conflict, and prayer is our mighty weapon. But we must view prayer not as a ritual but as a relationship with the Holy Spirit. The spiritual weakness that plagues most of us grows out of our failure to enter into that experience which Paul called "the communion of the Holy Ghost" (2 Cor. 13:14). Effective prayer is found only in the experiential knowledge of this blessed communion.
When we are praying in the Holy Spirit, we will not be trying to talk God into doing something He does not want to do, but rather we will be yielding to the Holy Spirit, who knows what is best for us. If we are not praying in the Spirit, we must be praying in the flesh. All spiritual prayers have their source in the Spirit. It does not make sense to pray if my prayers originate with me and not with the Spirit.
There are some things to remember
(1) There are times when we Christians do not know how to pray or for what we should pray.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself [Himself] maketh intercession for us . . . according to the will of God (Ro 8:26-27-note).
Here we are told that we have an infirmity which arises from our ignorance. We do not know what is best for us. It is right here that we need guidance, the guidance of the only Person who always and at all times prays "according to the will of God." The Holy Spirit assists us in our praying by giving to us the right desire and direction. Some of our prayers do not correspond to our needs. This is the infirmity that He "helpeth."
The word for helpeth occurs here and only one other time in the New Testament (Lk 10:40), where Martha requests help in the kitchen. What we need is the practical kind of help Martha was asking for.
(2) We need to know and be aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Cor. 3:16).
There are some professing Christians who claim to be saved but who say they have not yet received the Holy Spirit. If such persons have been saved, they have the Holy Spirit. It is not possible for one to be saved and not have the Holy Spirit.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His (Ro 8:9-note).
It will not be possible to enlist the Spirit's help in prayer if we do not have Him, or if we have Him and are not aware of His presence. It is common to hear someone pray, "Lord, send Thy Holy Spirit among us to bless us in this meeting." Such a request does not make sense. The Holy Spirit is here. Christian, He is in you. You can know Him and experience and enjoy His teaching and leading ministry. Do not treat this truth lightly. It is a mighty and holy truth to know. Your body is His temple (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19-20-note). The more closely we associate our praying with the Holy Spirit, the better will be our praying.
(3) To "pray in the Spirit," we must be careful that we do not grieve Him.
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God (Eph 4:30-note).
How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Look at the context of Ephesians 4:30. We grieve Him through lying, anger, stealing, dirty and useless conversation, malice, unkindness. These sins are repulsive to His holy nature and thus grieve and offend Him.
In all of our praying, we need the Holy Spirit's help. But if we have offended Him and our sins remain unconfessed and unforgiven, we cut ourselves off from the Spirit's help, which is necessary for effective praying.
(4) In order to pray in the Spirit, we must be filled with the Spirit.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18-note).
To be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. When we are praying in the Spirit the mind and the will are subjected to His control. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Ro 8:14-note) and in no area of our lives do we need His leading more than in prayer.
I am not a master in the important business of praying. The difficulties I encounter are so insurmountable that I need the great Teacher. At times the work of prayer becomes burdensome, and it is then that I am keenly aware that I must look to the Holy Spirit to seek His help. At other times prayer is a hard and bitter struggle, and my prayers are empty. Then I thank Him for His indwelling presence. I search my heart for any sin that might have caused Him grief, and I ask Him to take control of my prayers and my praying.
If we cultivate praying in the Spirit, it will bring about a change in our prayer life which we hardly thought possible. Prayer will no longer be a tedious and tiresome experience.
It does make sense to avail ourselves of the privilege of praying in the Spirit.
Dr. Strauss taught Old Testament history for eight years at Philadelphia Bible Institute, and served as pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, Bristol, Pennsylvania, from 1939 to 1957. He was pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church (Highland Park, Michigan) until the end of 1963 when he resigned to devote full time to an itinerant Bible conference and evangelistic ministry both in the States and abroad. Dr. Strauss was residing in Florida and writing his 19th book at age 86 when the Lord called him home in June 1997.
In Dr Strauss' comments on Ephesians 6:18 he wrote:
we are directed to pray “in the Spirit.” The opposite to praying in the Spirit is praying in the flesh, the latter being a form of prayer without power. We saw earlier in our study that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. Even our prayers must be guided by the Spirit of God, “for we know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom. 8:26). There are times when we cannot collect our thoughts or express ourselves in words, and yet we desire to pray. Thank God, we may be assured that the Holy Spirit sees the battlefield and knows the position of the enemy, and He will pray for us. If we are not praying “in the Spirit,” we had better not pray at all. To pray in the Spirit one must be born of the Spirit and led by the Spirit. There is a lot of spirited praying that is not praying in the Spirit. Those who pray in the Spirit never pray selfishly but always in the will of God; therefore, they get answers to their prayers and they know the blessings of victory over the foe. Praying in the Spirit glorifies God, and where God is glorified victory is assured.
Fight for God by praying in the Spirit.
What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit” (see also, Jude 20)? First, we need to clarify what it does not mean:
A. Praying in the Spirit does not refer to praying in tongues or to praying emotionally.
The early church experienced the gift of speaking and praying in tongues (1 Cor. 14:14). While there is debate about whether that gift is still given, I am convinced that most of what goes under that banner today is illegitimate. Genuine speaking or praying in tongues is to speak or pray in a translatable foreign language, not to speak or pray in nonsense syllables. (See my sermon, “Testing Tongues,” on the church web site.) That criterion alone eliminates most of what is claimed to be tongues today. But in our text, Paul is talking about making definite petitions to God, not praying in an unknown tongue.
Also, while it is right to involve our emotions in prayer as we sense our desperate need, this is not what Paul means by praying in the Spirit. It is possible to pray emotionally in the Holy Spirit or to pray calmly in the Spirit. It is also possible to pray emotionally in the flesh, getting all worked up for reasons far removed from the Holy Spirit. So, what does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
Three comments on praying in the Spirit:
(1) I cannot pray in the Spirit if I have unconfessed sin in my life.
Psalm 66:18 states, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” If I think that I can come before God’s holy throne in the power of His Holy Spirit, while at the same time holding on to sin in my life, I am greatly deceived. That’s why Peter tells husbands that if they do not treat their wives properly, honoring them as fellow heirs of the grace of life, their prayers will be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7).
God knows our hearts. We can’t play games, thinking that we can disobey Him and then come and sweet talk Him into giving us what we want. You can’t pray in the Spirit, “Lord, bless my business,” while you’re being dishonest and corrupt. You can’t pray, “Lord, bless my family,” while you’re secretly enslaved to pornography. You’ve got to repent of all known sin and do the deeds appropriate to repentance before you can pray in the Holy Spirit.
(2) Praying in the Spirit is to pray according to God’s will as revealed in His Word.
Paul has just told us to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:17). God’s written Word reveals to us His moral will for our lives (1 Thess. 4:3) and His eternal will of summing up everything in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). The Spirit will never lead us to pray contrary to the will of God as revealed in the Word of God. You cannot pray in the Spirit, “Lord, bless me as I enter into marriage with this unbeliever.”
One way of praying in the Spirit is to use the prayers in Scripture to direct your own requests. We’ve studied two of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). There are many other prayers in the Bible. In addition, all of God’s commandments in Scripture should be turned into prayer for holiness in the lives of God’s people, including your own life. To pray in the Spirit is to pray according to God’s revealed will in His Word.
Although it doesn’t happen very often, I have had times where I was struggling to pray, finding it difficult to concentrate, and not sensing the Lord’s presence. Then, suddenly the Spirit prompts me to pray something and He directs my thoughts and words, giving me power and freedom in prayer that I was lacking moments before. The Spirit is moving me along in prayer that originates with Him.
Also, at times the Spirit puts the same request on my heart frequently and with an intensity that I formerly lacked. Maybe it’s on my prayer list and I mechanically went through the list. But then one item comes home to me with unusual force. I believe that this is, in part, what it means to pray in the Spirit. We should keep praying, even when we don’t feel this unction of the Spirit. But we also should ask the Spirit for His direction and power as we pray.
Herbert Lockyer - Prayer and the Holy Spirit
The Supplication of the Spirit
It is to be feared that the majority of Christians fail to realize how dependent they are upon the varied ministry of God's Spirit. The Scriptures, for example, teach that He is the Spirit of supplications (Zechariah 12:10) and, therefore, the One who becomes at once the Sphere and Atmosphere of all true prayer.
Without the Holy Spirit our prayers are as lifeless as a body without a soul, as ineffective as an arrow without a bow. In his most illuminating and helpful book, His in a Life of Prayer, Dr. Norman B. Harrison writes,
Martin Luther once confessed, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning the devil gets the victory through the day." Luther's motto was, "He that has prayed well, has studied well." From this we learn it is only by the Spirit that we can pray and live effectually.
As we approach the outstanding features of the mystic truth of "Prayer in the Spirit," it may be found helpful to group together the different passages associated with such a theme.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26, 27).
"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).
"For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18).
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18).
"For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit,... and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20).
The Spirit Is the Inspirer of All True Prayer
Responsive prayer is impossible except as we are enabled to pray, and this ability is conferred upon us by the divine Spirit. First of all, He brings the soul into right relationship with God. Being born of God, we have the privilege of sons and as sons we can pray (Galatians 4:6). Spiritual sonship, then, is the true starting point of all access to God. Fear, with its enslaving influence, is driven out, and spiritual adoption takes its place. Contact with God rests upon the basis of regeneration. Prayers are not accepted and are not acceptable unless the praying one is truly saved. The Holy Spirit is not able to pray in and through a life He does not possess, and which has not been adopted into the family of God. It is the Holy Spirit who becomes the filial Spirit, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father."
There are three elements associated with all mighty praying.
(1) Prayer is impossible without an act of memory.
There must be the recall of all we desire to present to God. Whether it be God's mercies, our sins or needs, or the needs of others, the Spirit must bring to our remembrance all we desire to pray about.
(2) Prayer is impossible without an act of mind.
As the Spirit of wisdom, He can cause us to use acceptable words as we express our adoration, supplication and petitions. And it is only by His power that we can be delivered from distractions and develop that necessary concentration prayer demands.
(3) Prayer is impossible without an act of love.
As the Spirit of love, shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God, He is able to lead us to present, sympathetically, the needs of others. Intercession, whether divine or human, rises on the wings of love.
It is the Spirit, then, who quickens the mind and the emotions, and imparts the ability to continue in prayer. This mighty, heavenly Intercessor prepares and possesses and prompts our minds. We easily tire, for true prayer is exacting. We ought always to pray and not to faint. Alas, however, we are better at the fainting than the praying. To pray without ceasing comes hard to the flesh (Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:17). But it is here that the Spirit helps such an infirmity. We can only pray always with all prayer and supplications in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). To quote Dr. Norman Harrison again:
Were we left to ourselves and our own effort in prayer, we could not be heard. We would be as impotent as a radio set or a telephone without electric current. As electricity gives carrying power to the human voice, projecting it for thousands of miles, so the Holy Spirit performs a like service in winging our worship, petitions and aspirations "unto the Father." We may be well assured that "praying... in the Spirit," they do not fall short of His throne of Heavenly Grace.... That which enables us to "reach" the Father, giving us "access" to Him, is the Spirit-quality.
2. The Spirit Arouses Within the Soul a Sense of Need
Prayer can never attain true perfection unless it is transacted "in the Spirit." It is only through His illuminating grace and personal promptings that we can come to know the hidden consciousness of our own needs.
It is the Holy Spirit who opens to our spiritual vision a new world of purity and power by revealing the contrast between the old world of the natural life and the glorious world of victory and spirituality. And, until we are right with Him on the matter of personal and practical sanctification, we cannot expect His help in prayer. Allowing the Spirit to awaken desires to which we have been strangers, and then adjust us to those spiritual desires, we thereby fit ourselves to pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
Further, the Spirit knows what we do not know, and thus works in the heart of the believer, begetting earnest longings and groanings after those things He knows to be good and according to the will of God for us. As Dr. A. R. Fausset expresses it, "God as the Searcher of hearts, watches the surging emotions of them in prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by them only for what God Himself designs to bestow."
But Paul's thought of the Spirit's intercessory ministry goes down to the depths, and includes more than those ordinary and coherent expressions before God, and those desires and feelings emerging from a clarity of apprehension through the Spirit's illuminating work. Within man there is an unfathomed depth in which there are feelings so vast and mysterious that the human mind cannot give definite form to nor articulate in fitting words.
Deep down within human personality, from which our yearnings come, the Spirit moves with perfect familiarity; and sympathizing with these mysterious longings for which we have no language, but a sigh, and a cry, lays hold of the inarticulate groanings and gives them fitting and definite meaning before God. "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." And as we are constantly beset with imperfection, weakness and ignorance, this peculiar office of the Spirit will be necessary and complimentary until we need to pray no more. It would seem as if the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience produce a deeper sense of our requirements of the Spirit's aid as Interpreter and Intercessor.
3. The Spirit Intercedes for Us
As God's free Spirit, He mingles with our spirit and makes our prayers His own, or rather creates the prayers we should pray. As the Spirit of Intercession, He exercises His function within us even as Christ exercises His intercessory work in heaven for us. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). "But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable Priesthood" (Hebrews 7:24). The Holy Spirit prays in and with and for us. He is our Paraclete on earth, as Christ is in heaven.
There are two features of this unheard and mysterious groaning to be observed. Such unutterable groanings are known and understood by the Father. And they are also presented in accordance with the will of God. Human needs and divine requirements are thus harmoniously blended.
Another thought emerging from a full realization of our need of dependence upon the Spirit's ministry in prayer is deliverance from all bondage in praying. Instead of saying prayers, we pray—we follow inward guidance and promptings rather than outward, mechanical forms. And with such a mighty Intercessor there is no reason for prayerlessness.
Pray, always pray, the Holy Spirit pleads;
(From All the Doctrines of the Bible)
James Barker on Praying in the Spirit - THIS INVOLVES PRAYING IN THE HOLY GHOST (JUDE 1:20).
1. If we are not praying in the Holy Ghost, then we are praying in the flesh and that is a waste of time.
2. Romans 8:26 says “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.”
3. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
4. This means effectual prayer. We pray specifically for a need and we believe God will answer our prayer.
5. This means fervent prayer – not cold, lifeless, wishy-washy prayer. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
6. This means believing prayer. Our Lord said in Matthew 21:22, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
7. James 1:6, 7 says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
8. This means continual communion with God. 1Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.”
9. This means praying according to God’s will – not selfish prayer. James 4:2, 3 says, “ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
10. When we are led by the Spirit of God, and are filled with the Spirit of God, then we will be “praying in the Holy Spirit” (Gal 5:18, Eph 5:18, Jude 1:20).
11. Then we can be confident our prayers will be answered. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Bible Baptist Church - Lesson 9 - Book of Jude)
Spurgeon's Sermon - Praying in the Holy Spirit - Jude 1:20
Praying in the Spirit
1. Without the Spirit there is no praying.
2. How excellent and honorable a work is that of prayer! The whole Trinity has a work in this holy exercise.
3. As without the Spirit there is no prayer, so without prayer a man evidently shows himself to have nothing of the Spirit.
4. Needs must the prayers of the saints be acceptable. They are by the Holy Ghost.
5. How good is God to His poor saints! He not only grants, but makes, their prayers.
6. It is our greatest wisdom to get and keep the Spirit.
7. How happy are saints in all straits! They have the Spirit to help them to pray. (W. Jenkyn, M. A.)
INSTINCTIVELY WRONG - Saul Gellerman, in his book How People Work, says, “Solving tough organizational problems may require counter-intuitive strategies.” In business, counter-intuitive is a fancy way of referring to ideas that go against common sense.
Consultants who advocate such thinking are simply reinforcing the advice of Jesus. Over and over, He urged His followers to do what God said was right, not what desire, instinct, and intuition told them to do.
Desire says, “I want it.” Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Instinct says, “Me first.” Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16).
Intuition says, “I’ll feel better if I get revenge.” Jesus said, “Do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
Wanting something doesn’t make it good. Achieving something doesn’t make it valuable. And having strong feelings about something doesn’t make it right. As Jude wrote, those who follow their own desires and instincts lead others into conflict and division (Jude 1:18-19).
The alternative is to be spiritual, which means doing what does not come naturally. In fact, it requires supernatural strength that only God can give. - Julie Ackerman Link
More about Jesus would I know,
You can trust your instincts when you are trusting Christ.
"Praying in the Spirit"
THE HOLY GHOST AND PRAYER (Eph. 6:18) - Robert Neighbour - Living Waters Commentary
'Tis there, alone, we learn to know His face,
Alone, yet not alone, when He is there;
GOD'S MERCY AND OURS - There’s a legend about a rabbi who welcomed a weary traveler into his home for a night of rest. After learning that his guest was almost a hundred years old, the rabbi asked about his religious beliefs. The man replied, “I’m an atheist.” Infuriated, the rabbi ordered the man out, saying, “I cannot keep an atheist in my house.” Without a word, the elderly man hobbled out into the darkness.
The rabbi was reading the Scriptures when he heard a voice, “Son, why did you throw that old man out?”
“Because he is an atheist, and I cannot endure him overnight!”
The voice replied, “I have endured him for almost a hundred years.” The rabbi rushed out, brought the old man back, and treated him with kindness.
When we treat unbelievers with contempt, we’re not serving God. He wants us to love them as He has loved us. Jude said, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, . . . but others save with fear, . . . hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (vv.21-23). We can still love sinners while hating their sin.
God’s abundant mercy to us is the motivation for us to be merciful to others. (Our Daily Bread)
For Further Study
It's better to give others a piece of your heart than a piece of your mind.
THE STRENGTH OF OUR BRIDGE - As he aged, Dabney began to worry about his impending death, and he expressed his fears in a letter to a former student and theologian, C. R. Vaughan. Dabney wondered about his ability to die honorably and to hold on to his Christian faith.
Vaughan replied: “Dear friend, let me advise you now as you often have me. If you were about to cross a deep chasm, and there were a bridge over it, would you stand there looking in at yourself, wondering if you trusted enough in bridges to be able to cross? Or would you not rather go and examine the beams and timbers of the bridge and the quality of its construction, and determine whether the bridge were trustworthy, and then pass over it in confidence? Our faith is in Christ; spend yourself focusing on Him and His sufficiency, rather than on yourself.”
Do you have doubts about dying? Remember, God “is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory” (Jude 1:24-25). - Our Daily Bread
We who love Jesus are walking by faith,
Faith focuses on God instead of the problem.
From Spiritual Leadership - highly recommended reading for ALL spiritual leaders!
I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone.…1 Timothy 2:1
The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all, in prayer. And yet the most advanced leader is conscious of the possibility of endless development in his prayer life. Nor does he ever feel that he has “already attained.” Dean C. J. Vaughan once said: “If I wished to humble anyone, I should question him about his prayers. I know nothing to compare with this topic for its sorrowful self-confessions.”
Prayer is the most ancient, most universal, and most intensive expression of the religious instinct. It includes the simplest speech of infant lips, and the sublime entreaties of older age. All reach the Majesty on high. Prayer is indeed the Christian’s vital breath and native air.
But, strange paradox, most of us find it hard to pray. We do not naturally delight in drawing near to God. We sometimes pay lip service to the delight and power of prayer. We call it indispensable; we know the Scriptures call for it. Yet we often fail to pray.
Let us take encouragement from the lives of saintly leaders who overcame this natural reluctance and became mighty in prayer. Of Samuel Chadwick it was said:
“When I go to prayer,” confessed an eminent Christian, “I find my heart so loath to go to God, and when it is with Him, so loath to stay.” Then he pointed to the need for self-discipline. “When you feel most indisposed to pray, yield not to it,” he counseled, “but strive and endeavor to pray, even when you think you cannot.”
Mastering the art of prayer, like anything else, takes time. The time we give it will be a true measure of its importance to us. We always find the time for important things. The most common excuse for little time spent in prayer is the list of “to-dos” that crowd our day—all our many duties. To Martin Luther, an extra load of duties was reason enough to pray more, not less. Hear his plans for the next day’s work:
If Luther was busy, and prayed, so can we.
Try to explain exactly how prayer works and you will quickly run against some very difficult puzzles. But people who are skeptical of prayer’s validity and power are usually those who do not practice it seriously or fail to obey when God reveals His will. We cannot learn about prayer except by praying. No philosophy has ever taught a soul to pray. The intellectual problems associated with prayer are met in the joy of answered prayer and closer fellowship with God.
The Christian leader who seeks an example to follow does well to turn to the life of Jesus Himself. Our belief in the necessity of prayer comes from observing His life. Surely if anyone could have sustained life without prayer, it would be the very Son of God Himself. If prayer is silly or unnecessary, Jesus would not have wasted His time at it. But wait! Prayer was the dominant feature of His life and a recurring part of His teaching. Prayer kept His moral vision sharp and clear. Prayer gave Him courage to endure the perfect but painful will of His Father. Prayer paved the way for transfiguration. To Jesus, prayer was not a hasty add-on, but a joyous necessity.
In Luke 5:16 we have a general statement which throws a vivid light on the daily practice of the Lord. “And He withdrew Himself in the deserts and prayed.” It is not of one occasion but of many that the evangelist speaks in this place. It was our Lord’s habit to seek retirement for prayer. When He withdrew Himself from men, He was accustomed to press far into the uninhabited country—He was in the deserts. The surprise of the onlookers lay in this, that one so mighty, so richly endowed with spiritual power, should find it necessary for Himself to repair to the source of strength, that there He might refresh His weary spirit. To us, the wonder is still greater, that He, the prince of Life, the Eternal word, the Only-begotten of the Father, should prostrate Himself in meekness before the throne of God, making entreaty for grace to help in time of need.
Christ spent full nights in prayer (Luke 6:12). He often rose before dawn to have unbroken communion with His Father (Mark 1:35). The great crises of His life and ministry began with periods of special prayer, as in Luke 5:16: “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”—a statement that indicates a regular habit. By word and example He instructed His disciples on the importance of solitude in prayer (Mark 6:46, following the feeding of the five thousand; Luke 9:28, preceding the Transfiguration). To the person on whom devolves the responsibility for selecting personnel for specific spiritual responsibilities, the example of the Lord’s spending the night in prayer before making His choice of apostles (Luke 6:12) is luminous.
Both our Lord and His bond slave Paul made clear that true prayer is not dreamy reverie. “All vital praying makes a drain on a man’s vitality. True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice,” wrote J. H. Jowett. Jesus performed miracles without a sign of outward strain, but “he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).
Sometimes our prayers are pale and weak compared to those of Paul or Epaphras. “Epaphras … is always wrestling in prayer for you,” wrote Paul in Colossians 4:12. And to the same group: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you” (Colossians 2:1). The Greek word used for “struggle” here is the root for our words “agony” and “agonize.” It is used to describe a person struggling at work until utterly weary (Colossians 1:29) or competing in the arena for an athletic prize (1 Corinthians 9:25). It describes a soldier battling for his life (1 Timothy 6:12), or a man struggling to deliver his friends from danger (John 18:36). True prayer is a strenuous spiritual exercise that demands the utmost mental discipline and concentration.
We are encouraged to note that Paul, probably the greatest human champion of prayer, confessed, “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” And then he hastened to add, “The Spirit 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” (Romans 8:26–28). The Spirit joins us in prayer and pours His supplications into our own.
Pray in the Spirit
All Christians need more teaching in the art of prayer, and the Holy Spirit is the master teacher. The Spirit’s help in prayer is mentioned in the Bible more frequently than any other help He gives us. All true praying comes from the Spirit’s activity in our souls. Both Paul and Jude teach that effective prayer is “praying in the Spirit.” That phrase means that we pray along the same lines, about the same things, in the same name, as the Holy Spirit. True prayer rises in the spirit of the Christian from the Spirit who indwells us.
To pray in the Spirit is important for two reasons.
First, we are to pray in the realm of the Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the sphere and atmosphere of the Christian’s life. In this we often fail. Much praying is physical rather than spiritual, in the realm of the mind alone, the product of our own thinking and not of the Spirit’s teaching. But real prayer is deeper. It uses the body, requires the cooperation of the mind, and moves in the supernatural realm of the Spirit. Such praying transacts its business in the heavenly realm.
Second, we are to pray in the power and energy of the Spirit. “Give yourselves wholly to prayer and entreaty; pray on every occasion in the power of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18 NEB). For its superhuman task, prayer demands more than human power. We have the Spirit of power as well as the Spirit of prayer. All the human energy of heart, mind, and will can achieve great human results, but praying in the Holy Spirit releases supernatural resources.
Sometimes the ignorance of our minds hinders our prayers. But the Spirit knows the mind of God and shares that knowledge with us as we wait and listen. The Spirit does this by giving us a clear conviction that a particular prayer request is part of God’s will for us, or not.
Then, as if these three conditions were not enough, the spiritual leader must oppose Satan in prayer. Satan will try to depress, to create doubt and discouragement, to keep a leader from communion with God. In the Holy Spirit, we have a heavenly ally against this supernatural foe.
Spiritual leaders should know the experience of praying in the Spirit as part of their daily walk. Do we ever try to live independently of the Spirit? Do we fail to see full answers to prayer? We can read all day about prayer, and experience little of its power, and so stunt our service.
The Bible often explains prayer as spiritual warfare. “For our struggle is … against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). In this struggle phase of prayer, three personalities are engaged. Between God and the devil stands the Christian at prayer. Though weak alone, the Christian plays a strategic role in the struggle between the dragon and the Lamb. The praying Christian wields no personal power, but power nonetheless delegated by the victorious Christ to whom that faithful believer is united by faith. Faith is like a reticulating system through which the victory won on Calvary reaches the devil’s captives and delivers them from darkness into light.
Jesus was not so much concerned over wicked people and their deeds as with the forces of evil that caused those people to sin. Behind Peter’s denial and Judas’s betrayal was the sinister hand of Satan. “Get thee behind me, Satan,” was the Lord’s response to Peter’s presumptuous rebuke. All around us are people bound in sin, captives to the devil. Our prayers should ascend not only for them but against Satan who holds them as his prize. Satan must be compelled to relax his grip, and this can only be achieved by Christ’s victory on the cross.
As Jesus dealt with sin’s cause rather than effect, so the spiritual leader should adopt the same method in prayer. And the leader must know how to help those under his charge who are also involved in that same spiritual warfare.
In a telling illustration, Jesus compared Satan to a strong man, fully armed. Before anyone can enter such a man’s house and set captives free, the man must first be bound. Only then can a rescue succeed (Matthew 12:29). What could it mean to “tie up the strong man” except to neutralize his might through the overcoming power of Christ who came “to destroy (nullify, render inoperative) the works of the devil”? And how can that happen except by the prayer of faith that lays hold of the victory of Calvary and claims it for the problem at hand? We cannot hope to effect a rescue from Satan’s den without first disarming the adversary. God makes available His divine authority through prayer, and we can confidently claim it. Jesus promised His disciples: “I have given you authority … to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).
The spiritual leader will be alert to the most effective way to influence people. Hudson Taylor is well known for his expression, “It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.” During his missionary career he demonstrated the truth of his claim a thousand times.
It is one thing to believe such power is available in prayer, but another thing to practice it. People are difficult to move; it is much easier to pray for things or provisions than to deal with the stubbornness of the human heart. But in just these intricate situations, the leader must use God’s power to move human hearts in the direction he believes to be the will of God. Through prayer the leader has the key to that complicated lock.
It is the supreme dignity and glory of the human creature to be able to say yes or no to God. Humans have been given free will. But this poses a problem. If by prayer we can influence the conduct of others, does such power encroach on free will? Will God temper one person’s freedom to answer another person’s prayer? It seems difficult to imagine. And yet, if prayers cannot influence the course of events, why pray?
The first point to make is that God is consistent with Himself always. God does not contradict Himself. When God promises to answer prayer, the answer will come—always in a manner consistent with divine nature, for “he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). No word or action from God will contradict any other word or action of God.
The second point in resolving these questions is that prayer is a divine ordinance. God has commanded prayer, and we can be confident that as we meet revealed conditions for prayer, answers will be granted. God sees no contradiction between human free will and divine response to prayer. When God commands us to pray “for kings and those in authority,” there is implied power to influence the course of men and events. If not, why pray? Our obligation to pray stands above any dilemma concerning the effects of prayer.
Third, we can know the will of God concerning the prayer we raise. Our capacity to know God’s will is the basis for all prayers of faith. God can speak to us clearly through our mind and heart. The Bible instructs us directly concerning the will of God on all matters of principle. In our hearts the Holy Spirit ministers to instruct us in the will of God (Romans 8:26–27). As we patiently seek the will of God concerning our petition, the Spirit will impress our minds and convince our hearts. Such God-given conviction leads us beyond the prayer of hope to the prayer of faith.
When God lays a burden on our hearts and thus keeps us praying, He obviously intends to grant the answer. George Mueller was asked if he really believed that two men would be converted, men for whom Mueller had prayed for over fifty years. Mueller replied: “Do you think God would have kept me praying all these years if He did not intend to save them?” In fact, both men were converted, one shortly after Mueller’s death.
In prayer we deal directly with God and only in a secondary sense other people. The goal of prayer is the ear of God. Prayer moves others through God’s influence on them. It is not our prayer that moves people, but the God to whom we pray.
Prayer moves the arm
To move people, the leader must be able to move God, for God has made it clear that He moves people in response to prayer. If a scheming Jacob was given “power with God and with men,” then surely any leader who follows God’s prayer principles can enjoy the same power (Genesis 32:28).
Prevailing prayer that moves people is the outcome of a right relationship with God. The Bible is very clear on the reasons why prayers go unanswered, and every reason centers on the believer’s relationship with God. God will not cooperate with prayers of mere self-interest, or prayers that come from impure motives. The Christian who clings to sin closes the ear of God. Least of all will God tolerate unbelief, the chief of sins. “Anyone who comes to him must believe” (Hebrews11:6). In all our prayers the paramount motive is the glory of God.
Great leaders of the Bible were great at prayer. “They were not leaders because of brilliancy of thought, because they were exhaustless in resources, because of their magnificent culture or native endowment, but because, by the power of prayer, they could command the power of God.”
A. The school of prayer begins with a kindergarten understanding of communion with God and proceeds beyond graduate studies—in what grade is your prayer life? What progress have you made recently?
Note: Owen is one of those Puritan writers who is difficult to read but is filled with sound doctrine.
Chapter VII. -The nature of prayer in general, with respect unto forms of prayer and vocal prayer — Eph. 6:18 opened and vindicated.
The duty I am endeavoring to express is that enjoined in Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Some have made bold to advance a fond imagination (as what will not enmity unto the holy ways of God put men upon?) that “praying in the Spirit” intends only praying by virtue of an extraordinary and miraculous gift; but the use of it is here enjoined unto all believers, none excepted, men and women, who yet, I suppose, had not all and every one of them that extraordinary, miraculous gift which they fancy to be intended in that expression. And the performance of this duty is enjoined them, in the manner prescribed, ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ, — “always,” say we, “in every season;” that is, such just and due seasons of prayer as duty and our occasions call for. But the apostle expressly confines the exercise of extraordinary gifts unto some certain seasons, when, under some circumstances, they may be needful or useful unto edification, 1 Cor. xiv. There is, therefore, “a praying in the Spirit,” which is the constant duty of all believers; and it is a great reproach unto the profession of Christianity where that name itself is a matter of contempt. If there be any thing in it that is “foolish, conceited, fanatical,” the holy apostle must answer for it, yea, He by whom he was inspired. But if this be the expression of God himself of that duty which he requireth of us, I would not willingly be among the number of them by whom it is derided, let their pretences be what they please. Besides, in the text, all believers are said thus “to pray in the Spirit at all seasons,” διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως, and ἐν πάσῃ προσευχῇ καὶ δεήσει, “with all prayer and supplication;” that is, with all manner of prayer, according as our own occasions and necessities do require. A man, certainly, by virtue of this rule, can scarce judge himself obliged to confine his performance of this duty unto a prescript form of words: for a variety in our prayers, commensurate unto the various occasions of ourselves and of the church of God, being here enjoined us, how we can comply therewith in the constant use of any one form I know not; those who do are left unto their liberty. And this we are obliged unto, εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἀγρυπνοῦντες, “diligently watching unto this very end,” that our prayers may be suited unto our occasions. He who can divide this text, or cut it out into a garment to clothe set forms of prayer with, will discover an admirable dexterity in the using and disposal of a text of Scripture.
But yet neither do I conclude from hence that all such forms are unlawful; only, that another way of praying is here enjoined us is, I suppose, unquestionable unto all impartial searchers after truth; and, doubtless, they are not to be blamed who endeavour a compliance therewith. And if persons are able, in the daily, constant reading of any book whatever, merely of a human composition, to rise up in answer to this duty of “praying always with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” or the exercise of the aid and assistance received from him, and his holy acting of them as a Spirit of grace and supplication, endeavouring, labouring, and watching thereunto, I shall say no more but that they have attained what I cannot understand.
The sole inquiry remaining is, how they are enabled to pray in whose minds the Holy Ghost doth thus work as a Spirit of grace and supplication. And I do say, in answer thereunto, that those who are thus affected by him do never want a gracious ability of making their addresses unto God in vocal prayer, so far as is needful unto them in their circumstances, callings, states, and conditions. And this is that which is called the gift of prayer. I speak of ordinary cases; for there may be such interpositions of temptations and desertions as that the soul, being overwhelmed with them, may for the present be able only to “mourn as a dove,” or to “chatter as a crane,” — that is, not to express the sense of their minds clearly and distinctly, but only as it were to mourn and groan before the Lord in brokenness of spirit and expressions. But this also is sufficient for their acceptance in that condition; and hereof there are few believers but at one time or other they have more or less experience. And as for those whose devotion dischargeth itself in a formal course of the same words, as it must needs be in the Papacy, wherein for the most part they understand not the signification of the words which they make use of, they are strangers unto the true nature of prayer, at least unto the work of the Spirit therein. And such supplications as are not variously influenced by the variety of the spiritual conditions of them that make them, according to the variety of our spiritual exercises, are like one constant tone or noise, which hath no harmony nor music in it.
I say, therefore, —
1. That the things insisted on are in some degree and measure necessary unto all acceptable prayer. The Scripture assigns them thereunto, and believers find them so by their own experience. For we discourse not about prayer as it is the working of nature in its straits and difficulties towards the God of nature, expressing thereby its dependence on him, with an acknowledgment of his power, in which sense all flesh, in one way or other, under one notion or other, come to God; nor yet upon those cries which legal convictions will wrest from them that fall under their power: but we treat only of prayer as it is required of believers under the gospel, as they have an “access through Christ by one Spirit unto the Father.” And,
2. That those in whom this work is wrought by the Holy Spirit in any degree do not, in ordinary cases, want an ability to express themselves in this duty, so far as is needful for them. It is acknowledged that an ability herein will be greatly increased and improved by exercise, and that not only because the exercise of all moral faculties is the genuine way of their strengthening and improvement, but principally because it is instituted, appointed, and commanded of God unto that end. God hath designed the exercise of grace for the means of its growth, and giveth his blessing in answer to his institution. But the nature of the thing itself requires a performance of the duty suitably unto the condition of him that is called unto it; and if men grow not up unto farther degrees in that ability by exercise in the duty itself, by stirring up the gifts and graces of God in them, it is their sin and folly. And hence it follows,
3. That although set forms of prayer may be lawful unto some, as is pretended, yet are they necessary unto none, that is, unto no true believers, as unto acceptable, evangelical prayer; but whoever is made partaker of the work of the Spirit of God herein, which he doth infallibly effect in every one who through him is enabled to cry, “Abba, Father,” as every child of God is, he will be able to pray according to the mind and will of God, if he neglect not the 300aid and assistance offered unto him for that purpose. Wherefore, to plead for the necessity of forms of prayer unto believers, beyond what may be doctrinal or instructive in them, is a fruit of inclination unto parties, or of ignorance, or of the want of a due attendance unto their own experience.
Of what use forms of prayer may be unto those that are not regenerate, and have not, therefore, received the Spirit of adoption, belongs not directly unto our disquisition; yet I must say that I understand not clearly the advantage of them unto them, unless a contrivance to relieve them in that condition, without a due endeavor after a deliverance from it, may be so esteemed. For these persons are of two sorts:—
(1.) Such as are openly under the power of sin, their minds being not effectually influenced by any convictions. These seldom pray, unless it be under dangers, fears, troubles, pains, or other distresses. When they are smitten they will cry, “even to the Lord they will cry,” and not else; and their design is to treat about their especial occasions, and the present sense which they have thereof. And how can any man conceive that they should be supplied with forms of prayer expressing their sense, conceptions, and affections, in their particular cases? And how ridiculously they may mistake themselves in reading those prayers which are no way suited unto their condition, is easily supposed. A form to such persons may prove little better than a charm, and their minds be diverged by it from such a performance of duty as the light of nature would direct to. Jonah’s mariners in the storm “cried every one unto his god,” and called on him also to do so too, Jonah 1:5, 6. The substance of their prayer was, that God would “think upon them, that they might not perish.” And men in such condition, if not diverted by this pretended relief, which indeed is none, will not want words to express their minds, so far as there is any thing of prayer in what they do; and beyond that, whatever words they are supplied withal, they are of no use or advantage unto them. And it is possible when they are left to work naturally towards God, however unskilled and rude their expressions may be, a deep sense may be left upon their minds, with a reverence of God, and remembrance of their own error, which may be of use to them. But the bounding and directing of the workings of natural religion by a form of words, perhaps little suited unto their occasions and not at all to their affections, tends only to stifle the operation of an awakened conscience, and to give them up unto their former security.
(2.) Others there are, such as by education and the power of convictions from the word, by one means or other, are so far brought under a sense of the authority of God and their own duty as conscientiously, according unto their light, to attend unto prayer, as unto other duties also. Now, the case of these men will be more fully determined afterward, when the whole use of the forms of prayer will be spoken unto. For the present I shall only say, that I cannot believe, until farther conviction, that any one whose duty it is to pray is not able to express his requests and petitions in words, so far as he is affected with the matter of them in his mind; and what he doth by any advantage beyond that belongeth not to prayer. Men may, by sloth, and other vicious distempers of mind, especially by a negligence in getting their hearts and consciences duly affected with the matter and object of prayer, keep themselves under a real or supposed disability in this matter; but whereas prayer in this sort of persons is an effect of common illumination and grace, which are also from the Spirit of God, if persons do really and sincerely endeavor a due sense of what they pray for and about, he will not be wanting to help them to express themselves so far as is necessary for them, either privately or in their families. But those who will never enter the water but with flags or bladders under them will scarce ever learn to swim; and it cannot be denied but that the constant and unvaried use of set forms of prayer may become a great occasion of quenching the Spirit, and hindering all progress or growth in gifts or graces When every one hath done what he can, it is his best, and will be accepted of him, it being according unto what he hath, before that which is none of his.
And, we say "Amen" to that song. Come on down Lord Jesus and come soon. Turn to the book of James, would you please for just a moment, the book of James 4, and you will remember this morning we were preaching on triumphant prayer. Prayer that prevails, and we gave you some principles of prayer that cannot be denied. And, among those principles was a very vital principle that we call sensitivity to the Spirit. Look in James 4:5. James 4:5: "Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" (James 4:5).
Now, while that verse is somewhat hard to interpret, what it really means is this: I'm convinced, that the Holy Spirit within us is very, very jealous for the cause of Christ. And, the Scripture says that over and over again, that God has given the Holy Spirit to us and the Holy Spirit within us is there to glorify Christ and to promote the cause of Christ. And, it is absolutely essential that you understand this if you are to pray vitally, because this is what we call praying in the Spirit. And, so that's what we're going to be talking about tonight, "How to Pray in the Spirit."
And, tonight I want us to think about the Holy Spirit's ministry, first of all to us, and then secondly the Holy Spirit's ministry through us, as we're talking about praying in the Spirit.
Incidentally, I would like you to check these three other verses of Scripture before we get into the message. You might write it down there in the margin by James, or you might just want to turn to it. But, look please in Ephesians. Ephesians 6:18. Ephesians 6:18. There the Bible gives us this admonition, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit..." (Ephesians 6:18). Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
I. The Holy Spirit's Ministry
Now, the third Scripture that I want you to notice in conjunction with the Scripture in James is found in Romans 8, beginning in verse 25—excuse me, verse 26: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself"—and may I pause here to say that itself is a poor translation, it could be and should be interpreted, "but the Spirit Himself"—"maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he"—the Spirit—"maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27).
A. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Privilege
May I say ladies and gentlemen, that prayer is the greatest Christian privilege that we have? Of all of the privileges that God has given us, beyond a shadow of any doubt and without any peradventure or argument, prayer is our greatest Christian privilege. And, the need of the hour is for loving prayer, laboring prayer, lingering prayer, listening prayer.
B. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Service
But, not only is prayer our greatest Christian privilege. Prayer is also our greatest Christian service. Too many times we think of prayer as the means of getting ready to serve God rather than as the means of serving God. So many times we think if we pray, then we can serve God better. But, my friend, may I tell you that you are serving God when you pray. And, those of you who are bound, and shut in, and can't do other things, you say, "I can't serve the Lord." You can pray can't you? And, if you pray, you're serving the Lord.
C. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Failure
All right, but may I say that not only is prayer the greatest Christian privilege, and not only is prayer the greatest Christian service, but alas, prayer so frequently is the greatest Christian failure. We pray but our prayers are not answered.
Isaiah 1:15. God spoke to Isaiah's generation, and said, "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear..." (Isaiah 1:15). Now, this is strange, for God wants to answer our prayers. And, yet God says they're certain situations in which He turns His face away. And, God says in spite of the palpation of our prayers, He will not hear.
Now, why is that? I'm convinced that one of the greatest reasons our prayers are so fruitless, and so powerless, and one of the reasons that our prayers do not reach Heaven is that we do not pray in the Holy Spirit.
Praying in the Spirit will change prayer
II. The Holy Spirit's Ministry Through Us
Now, let me speak therefore, about the Spirit's ministry through us. What does the Holy Spirit do through us? Well, He gives us strength where we do not have strength to pray. Look again please, if you will, in Romans 8. We're still in Romans 8. If you're still in the neighborhood and haven't driven out yet. In Romans 8, I want you to notice a significant series of verses beginning in verse 5. In Romans 8 he says, "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh..." Romans 8:5 "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh..." (Romans 8:5).
Now, when the Bible uses the term flesh, the Bible does not mean the skin and bones. But, the Bible means a principle, a way of life that we inherited from Adam. Actually, when the Bible uses the word flesh, it means our old unredeemed nature. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded"—or fleshly minded—"is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace"—and, then put a star by verse 7—"Because the carnal mind"—that is the fleshly mind—"is enmity against God"—now, that word enmity means warfare—"for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:5-7).
Now, you have within you a spiritual nature. But, you also have a fleshly nature and there's a civil war that goes on within you. For the Bible says, "The spirit lusteth against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit: and these two are contrary, the one to the other" (Galatians 5:17). And, when you go to pray a battle begins between your spiritual nature and your fleshly carnal nature. And, your carnal nature does not want to pray. Your carnal nature is set against prayer. Look again at verse 7: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God..." (Romans 8:7).
Have you ever wondered why it's so hard to pray? Now, let me just ask you a question. Be honest. Is it hard for you to pray at least some of the time? Lift your hand. And, sometimes you say, "What on earth is wrong with me? I love God, I believe in prayer, I know I ought to pray and I want to pray, but sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world for me to pray." Can you agree to that? Can you bear witness to that? Well, why is it? Because there is something in you that is at warfare with God. There is a nature in you that is not subject to the law of God, "neither indeed can be."
And, you find yourself, sometimes when you go to pray, with absolutely no desire to pray. You will find yourself with wandering thoughts. Your mind will gather wool. You will find yourself with unbelief crowding in upon you. You will find yourself with no knowledge of God's will. You will find yourself, when you pray, with no sense whatever of God's presence. It seems like God is ten billion miles away, and yet you love God. And, you know you ought to pray, and you want to pray, but there is a principle in you that we call the carnal mind.
It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Indeed it is at warfare with God. And, we make an extra start, we resolve we're going to do better. We hear someone preach a sermon on prayer and tell us why we ought to pray and we say, "I'm going to pray," and then we fall flat on our face in our prayer efforts. Why is it? Well, dear friend, there's something in you that has no stomach for prayer any more than my dog has for the opera, or me either for that matter. And, it is a carnal mind that is not subject to the law of God.
A. There is Weakness in Us
Now, this carnal mind, and this flesh nature, is a form of weakness in us. And, the sooner we admit it the better off we will be. Notice, again if you would please, the weakness that is in us, and we need to accept this weakness. For the Bible says here, in verse 26 of this same chapter of Romans 8: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities..." (Romans 8:26).
Now, you know one of the hardest things for a Christian to admit is that he's infirm, that he's weak. We go around always denying that we're weak, trying to demonstrate that we're not weak, when indeed we are weak. And, let me tell you that you might as well bow your head and accept your weakness. Don't deny it, accept it, for two reasons. Number one: the Bible declares it. You haven't got an inferiority complex. You're inferior. Just accept it. The Bible speaks of our weakness, the weakness of our flesh and the Spirit helps our infirmities.
B. Your Weakness is an Asset
But, now notice, not only should accept it because the Bible teaches it, but believe it or not because your weakness is really an asset. Your weakness is really an asset. Why does God allow you to continue to have that weakness? I'll tell you why. To keep you from independence in your prayers—to keep you depending upon him, to keep you weak—because in the Bible the secret of strength is understanding your weakness, and therefore no longer depending upon yourself.
Listen to this passage in 2 Corinthians 12:9. God is speaking to the Apostle Paul—a man that we would think was a strong man—but God said to Paul, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness..." (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you hear that? God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul said, "... for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). The Spirit of God helps us in our weakness. And, many of us say the reason that I don't pray any better than I do is that I'm too weak, but the truth of the matter is you may not be weak enough. You may not have really understood just how weak you are so that you no longer struggle to pray in the flesh, but you begin to pray in the Spirit.
You see, there are two ways to pray. One is for the ol' flesh to try to pray, and that's the reason why it's so much work. The other way to pray is to pray the way the Bible teaches us to pray, admitting our weakness, casting ourselves upon God, no longer having a self-sufficiency in prayer, but praying in the Spirit.
You see, God allows us to stay perpetually weak that we might be perpetually dependant upon the Holy Spirit of God. There are six enemies that keep us from praying. And, I want you to see how praying the Spirit is the answer to each of these six enemies.
Now, first of all, there is the enemy of indifference—indifference—where we just don't feel like praying. We have a spiritual lethargy. We have no real desire to pray. It's sort of a spirit of bondage where we are just lethargic about the spiritual thing. Somebody said, "The greatest problem in America is apathy, but who cares."
Now, I think that's the way we feel about this matter prayer, sometimes we're just really indifferent to pray. Do you want me to tell you why you don't pray more than you do pray? Is you don't want to? We find time to do what we really want to do. It's not that we don't have time to pray. There is just an indifference about us. The truth is that our flesh has no appetite for prayer whatever, because the carnal mind is enmity against God. For it indeed is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So quit trying to cover it up. Admit that the reason that you don't pray is that you don't want to. Just go ahead and admit it.
There's something in you that doesn't want to pray. That's hard to say, isn't it? 'Cause we all try to impress each other with our spirituality. But, I'll be honest, there's something in me that doesn't want to pray. There's something in me that absolutely rebels at going to the place of prayer. You say, "What? And, you're a preacher." Yes. And, you're the same way. There's something in you that doesn't want to pray. There's something in you that is indifferent to the matter of prayer. It's that ol' carnal nature.
Well, how does praying in the Holy Spirit help you to want to pray? Well, I want you to look here in Romans 8:15: "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). Who is it that's crying, "Abba, Father" in us? It's the Holy Spirit of God. You see, the Spirit of God loves to pray. He wants to pray. And, when you turn that Holy Spirit loose in you, He then gives you the energy and the desire to pray. It is the Spirit of God in you that is crying out, "Abba, Father." Or, right along side that verse just jot down Galatians 4:6. And the Bible says, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). Because I'm a son of God, God put the Spirit of His Son into my heart, and it is the Holy Spirit in me that cries out, "Abba, Father."
And oh, I like that term, "Abba, Father." I wish I had time just to talk about that. It's an Aramaic term—it's not a Greek term—it's a dominionative term. It literally means daddy, father—daddy, father. Have you ever thought of the great God who scooped out the oceans, and heaped up the mountains, and flung out the sun, the moon and the stars as being your daddy? Oh, we thought of Him as the great eternal God, the everlasting Father. But God has sent forth His Spirit into our hearts crying, Abba, Father. Oh, the tender devotion and emotion of the Holy Spirit of God. He is the one who does the praying—if we'll let Him—if we'll turn Him loose in our hearts. And, may I tell you that the problem of indifference to prayer may never be settled until you begin pray in the Spirit. It is the Spirit in you that will give you that to desire to pray that your old carnal nature does not have. So, enemy number one is handled by the Holy Spirit. That enemy I call indifference.
Now, there's another enemy and that's the enemy that we call ignorance, ignorance. Look again please, if you will, in Romans 8 and notice verse 26: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought..." (Romans 8:26). We don't know. Have you ever gone to the place of prayer and gotten discouraged because you didn't know what to pray for? I do. Sometimes when I go to pray there are so many of you to pray for, and there are so many things to pray for, and so many opportunities to pray that sometimes it gets discouraging. I know I can't get it all done. I know I can't pray for everything, and sometimes if I would let that type of thinking get me down I'd say, "If I can't pray for everything, why pray for anything?" Who knows what to pray for? There is so much to pray for, now isn't there? We don't know what to pray for.
All right, you see, if I tried to pray for every possibility of prayer, my prayer would cease to be the kind of a force that it ought to be. And, no longer would my prayer be a river that is channeled, my prayer would become just like a dismal swamp. If my prayer is to be effective, it just be selective.
Now, how am I going to know for whom to pray? How, on Wednesday night when you get that hospital list there—and of course, theoretically, you could pray for all of those persons—but is there someone that the Holy Spirit especially wants you to intercede for? And, in this church family, and in the leadership, and in our city, and in our nation, and in our world—what about all of the missionaries, what about all of the countries of the world, what about all of the opportunities? No one human being can pray about all of those things at one time, but the Holy Spirit of God knows what you ought to pray for. "... we know not what we should pray for as we ought..." (Romans 8:26)—and the best Christian, in my estimation who ever lived, the Apostle Paul said that, so that makes me feel in pretty good company when I don't know what I ought to pray for. He didn't know what he ought to pray for. And, not only do we know not what we ought to pray for, but we don't know how to pray for what we ought to pray for when we find out what we ought to pray for.
Now, what I mean by that is this. Suppose the Lord—here, suppose there's an elderly man in his seventies, eighties, nineties, and he's sick. And, you go to pray for him. Do you pray, "Lord, heal him?" Or do you pray, "Lord, take him to Heaven?" Huh? Have you ever faced that with an elderly person? Do you remember the night we prayed here that God would take Dr. Robert G. Lee to Heaven, and took him to Heaven that same night? Do you remember that? I felt impressed of the Holy Spirit to pray that prayer, "Lord, take him home, it's time." And, I believe the Holy Spirit of God put that prayer in our hearts. How are we going to know exactly, precisely, what to pray for after we determine who to pray for? What to pray for the person, or what to pray in the incidents. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. Thank God for the blessed Holy Spirit, who not only overcomes our problem of indifference, but the Holy Spirit overcomes our problem of ignorance, and He knows how to pray in the will of God.
Notice verse 27 of this chapter, "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27). Hallelujah. This is the confidence that we have in Him. If we ask Him anything according to His will, He heareth us. And, the secret of praying in the will of God is absolutely praying in the Holy Spirit. This is the only way that I can pray in the will of God, and that you can pray in the will of God. Thank God the Holy Spirit knows what to pray for.
I love that description of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2. The Bible describes him with these words: "And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD" (Isaiah 11:2). Do you know? Do you need wisdom, understanding, counsel? Then you must pray in the Holy Spirit so you'll know what to pray for.
All right, there is another problem that we have that the Holy Spirit helps us with. And, it's not only the problem of indifference, and the problem of ignorance, but it is the problem of impotence—impotence—or just simply our weakness, our inability. Have you ever tried to pray when you get a dull headache? Have you ever tried to pray when you get sleepy? Have you ever tried to pray, when you just want to pray—"... the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak..."—do you remember how Simon Peter, and James, and John fell asleep there in the garden when Jesus said, "... watch and pray..." (Matthew 26:41). They did not have the physical power, the physical stamina, the mental alertness, the concentration. There was not enough physical, spiritual, emotional strength to concentrate in prayer. There's just weakness.
Now, the Holy Spirit is the answer to that too. Look in Romans 8:11: "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:11).
Now, some people say this refers to the resurrection, and indeed one day we're going to be quickened by the Spirit in the resurrection, but there's nothing here that says this applies only to the resurrection. I want to tell you, there's something about being filled with the Holy Spirit that gives you energy. There's something about being filled with the Holy Spirit that gives concentration. There's something that is about being filled with the Holy Spirit that gives you power when you don't have power to pray, to overcome your impotence. "The Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead will dwell in your mortal bodies and quicken your mortal bodies."
I think a good illustration is this: remember when the Lord Jesus Christ was sitting there on that curbing of the well in Sychar? You remember there at Jacob's well and that Samaritan—I won't say lady—woman came out. You know the one that had been married so many times? If she lived today we'd give her an Academy Award, I suppose. And, Jesus spoke to her. Jesus spoke to her about that water of life. And, do you remember Jesus was so tired? He was so weary. He was famished and His body was hungry. And, the disciples had gone into the city to get provisions and when they came back they found Jesus Christ absolutely invigorated, exhilarated, charged up. And, they said, "Here, you need something to eat." He said, "I have meat to eat that you know not of." (John 4:31-32). The Spirit of God had so energized that divine body of the Lord Jesus Christ and given Him strength.
And, I tell you sometimes when your spirit is flagging, sometimes when your mind cannot concentrate, sometimes when you're weak—your will is so weak and you feel so impotent—cast yourself upon the Holy Spirit. Pray in the Spirit, not in the flesh. And, let me just add a word of practicality here, because sometimes we get so spiritual we don't get practical. If you have trouble going to sleep when you pray, don't try to do all your praying in bed. And, don't kneel beside that big ol' overstuffed chair and bury your face in a pillow. You'll smother. That's right. Sometimes when I have difficulty concentrating and praying—and I'm talking about being spiritual—but sometimes friend, I just get up and walk around and pray. Sometimes I can do my best praying in my study, just walking up and down. If you'd seen me, you'd think I was a hyena in a cage, but I'm going to get some blood flowing, get my mind thinking, get some air in my lungs. But, that's a practical thing. But, above that, and beyond that, and beneath that, and through that shall be a dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God.
Now, let me tell you another enemy of our prayers that the Holy Spirit overcomes. And, it's the enemy of interference. And, I'm talking here about devilish, Satanic interference. Remember James not only spoke to us about being sensitive to the Spirit, but James spoke to us about being steadfast against the devil. And, friend when you get on your knees and begin to pray, the devil levels all of the artillery of Hell against you. We said that this morning, I want to say it again. The devil will do anything he can do to keep you from praying. When Sidlow Baxter was here, Sidlow Baxter said something I shall never forget. He said that when a Christian goes to pray, the devil says to his demons, "Boys, stop him whatever you do, because if you stop him we can beat him every time. But, if you don't stop him when he prays he'll beat us every time." And, the devil tries to stop us when we pray.
Well, how are you going to overcome the devil? You're no match for the devil. You don't have the strength to overcome the devil. There's only one way that you're going to overcome the devil and it is to pray in the Spirit.
I want us to leave the book of Romans for just one moment, but however we're going back, so just keep your fingers in there and turn, if you will, to Ephesians 6. Now, here the Bible is speaking about our warfare. And, we are in a war. So the Bible says in Ephesians 6, beginning in verse 11: "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11-15).
Now, so far you've just been getting ready for the battle. So far you hadn't fought a lick. So far all you've been doing is putting on the armor, now the battle begins. Look in verse 18: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6:18). God tells us of the armor, but God also tells of the warfare. And, I want to tell you that the Christian is in a warfare, and that war is won or lost on our knees, and on our face. And, when we come here on Sunday morning, we're not coming here to do battle. We're coming here just simply to pick up the spoils of the battle—the battle is won or lost by our prayers, by our prayers.
And, how are we going to overcome the devil? How are we going—listen you talk about interference, you try to pray, the phone will ring. You try to pray, the beans will burn. You try to pray, the kids will fight. You try to pray, and you'll get a headache. You try to pray, your mind will be distracted. You try to pray, and a thousand and one things that you never thought of will happen. Amen? You know it's true. Who is it does that?
It's the enemy. He does not want you to pray. And, so you'd better take the whole armor of God and pray in the Spirit. He is no match for the Holy Spirit of God. You cannot pray effectively in the flesh because of the interference of the devil.
Now, go back to Romans 8 again. And, I'll tell you, not only do we have the problem of indifference. And, not only do we have the problem of ignorance, and not only do we have the problem of impotence, and not only do we have the problem of interference, but we also have the problem of inexpressibility.
The Bible says, "He groans and He makes intercession for the saints" (Romans 8:26). This word groaning here is a word that expresses sounds that are uttered at childbirth. That's what the etymology of the word is. It speaks of the groanings. Have you ever heard the groanings of a mother about to give birth to a child? The agony, the pain, the groanings—but there's something about that groaning that's unique. There's something about the pain of childbirth that is absolutely unique, because it is pain, but linked with that pain is an intense desire to bring forth. It is pain that is transfigured by hope and expectation, and that's the deepest form of prayer. Pain, transfigured by hope and expectation as the Holy Spirit of God in us prays the prayer of agony. Thank God for the Holy Spirit who helps us to pray.
And, then not only is there the prayer of inexpressibility—or the problem of inexpressibility—but also there is the problem of inaccessibility. You see, sometimes we just feel that our prayers are not getting through. That somehow when we pray, we don't come right into the throne room.
Last summer we were in Taiwan, and I was invited to go with several other men to speak to one of the highest officials in the Taiwanese government. The son of General Kang Sheng, ka shek, (I cannot verify he had a son of this name, or something close) who was in charge of all of the military forces there in the Republic of China. We were very honored to get to go. And, we had an invitation to go. And, then they took our passports and they did a security check on us. That gave us the right to come, but when we came to the gate of that palace there was a man there who escorted us in. We needed more than the right. We needed someone who would take us and lead us in.
The Holy Spirit is the one who escorts us into the divine throne room of Almighty God and gives us that accessibility. Not only do I have a royal invitation, but dear friend, I have a palace attendant, the Holy Spirit to lead me right in to the presence of the one that I love so much. Right on through that iron curtain of sin, right on in to the holy of holies, by the blood of Jesus and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
Now, that's why it's so important to pray in the Spirit, to pray in the spirit. But, now look, not only must we pray in the Spirit. You see, not only does the Holy Spirit have a ministry to us, but the Holy Spirit has a ministry to us in order that the Holy Spirit might have a ministry through us.
Very quickly now, because time is fleeting, I want you to notice this intercession of the Holy Spirit. Look, if you will, in just a moment, in verse 26. Romans 8:26, and if I don't give the chapter from now on just assume it's Romans 8. All right, Romans 8:26, look at it, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us..."—that is on our behalf. (Romans 8:26). But, now I want you to notice in verse 34 of this same chapter, "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). The Holy Spirit makes intercession and Christ makes intercession.
But there's a difference. There's a difference into the places of these intercessions. Christ makes intercession at the right hand of the Father. The Holy Spirit makes intercession in us. There's a difference in the purpose of intercession. I am the object of the Savior's intercession. He's interceding for me at the right hand of the Father. But, I am the vehicle of the Spirit's intercession. He is interceding through me on behalf of others. You see, the Holy Spirit not only gives the ministry to me, but He gives a ministry to me so He can give a ministry through me so that the world can be reached. God wants to raise up a Church that knows how to intercede. I want to pastor that Church. A people who know how to pray, who know how to get hold of God, and I want to be that kind of a man so I can show you how to do it. So that the dear Holy Spirit of God will minister to us that He might minister through us, and that this city and this world might feel the impact of a Holy Church in the hands of a mighty God. Let us pray.
Excerpt from sermon "Prayer - Its Force, Its Course, and Its Source
The Source of Prayer - Now, thirdly and finally, but not immediately, let me speak to you about the source of our prayer. Now, the force of our prayer is God Almighty, who can do anything. And, if the course of my prayer is Jesus Christ, who brings it to the Father, then the source of my prayer must be the Holy Spirit—the Holy Spirit. Now, you see what prayer is. When a person prays, he prays in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. That is prayer that is powerful, and that is prayer that travails. Now, I suppose that, out of all of these concepts, praying in the Spirit is perhaps, to most of us, the foggiest. But, dear friend, your prayer, again, will not be answered, unless you pray in the Spirit. The Bible says, in Ephesians 6:18: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18)—praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Jude 1:20 says, "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 1:20). We ought to pray in the Spirit.
Excerpt from another message by Dr Rogers - Six Keys to Answered Prayer - John 14:13
Pray in the Spirit
Second thing: Not only do you pray in the name, but number two, you pray in the Spirit. Praying in the name is the first step, but you also pray in the Spirit.
Jude, for example, verse 20, says, "But ye, beloved..."—now, Jude 1:20—"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 1:20). Now, why do we pray in the Spirit? Because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer.
Over in the Book of Zechariah, there's a wonderful verse talking about the time when the Jewish people would wholesale come to Christ. The Lord is talking about the House of David, and He says, "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications" (Zechariah 12:10). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of grace. Oh, thank God for that. And, He is the Spirit of supplications. The supplications—that's just a big word for prayer. And so, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer.
And, when you pray in the Spirit, some wonderful things happen that I'm going to talk about in just a moment. Well, let's talk about them, right now. Turn to Romans chapter 8 with me for a moment, and look, if you will, in verse 26—Romans 8:26—one of the great prayers of praying in the Spirit—it says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself"—and that may be properly translated, "himself"—"maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). So, that's praying in the Spirit.
And, what does this verse mean? Well, it means that the Holy Spirit inspires; the Holy Spirit guides; the Holy Spirit energizes; the Holy Spirit helps our praying.
Another excerpt from a different sermon on "Six Keys to Answered Prayer" - John 14:6
Pray in the Spirit
Second thing: Not only pray in the name of Jesus, but the second is that you must pray in the Spirit—in the Spirit. This time, turn, if you will please, to Ephesians 6:18. Here, the Apostle Paul is giving us a marvelous lesson on prayer, and he says, "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit"—"in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). First of all, we pray in the name; and now, we pray in the Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit is called, in the Bible, "the Spirit of prayer." Did you know that? In Zechariah 12:10, the Holy Spirit is called, "the spirit of grace and of supplications" (Zechariah 12:10). So, it is so important, therefore, that you not only be saved, but that you be Spirit-filled.
Now, a person can be saved and still not be praying in the Spirit. If you just automatically pray in the Spirit when you're saved, then the Bible would not command us to pray in the Spirit. So, when the Bible commands us to pray in the Spirit, of course, we have to admit the possibility that we could be a Christian and yet not be praying in the Spirit.
And, in the Book of Jude—there's just one chapter, so I'm not going to give you a chapter, just the verse—in Jude 20, the Bible says this: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 1:20). So, the Bible tells us to pray in the Spirit.
Why is it so important to pray in the Spirit—that is, to be yielded to the Holy Spirit? Well, Paul makes it clear.
A. Because of our Weakness
In Romans 8:26, Paul explains why we must pray in the Spirit. And, this is what he says: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities..."—anybody here weak? Anybody here infirm? Well, hallelujah! You have a helper—"the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
Now, this verse is very interesting, because the word help has a double prefix in front of it, or in conjunction with it, and it means, "instead of," and, "together with." It almost sounds contradictory that the Holy Spirit prays instead of us and then the Holy Spirit prays together with us. What does that mean? Well, it's very beautiful, when you think about it. It means that we cannot do it without Him, and it means that He will not do it without us. It is the Holy Spirit that so fills us when we pray—when we're surrendered to Him, when we're in the Spirit—that He molds our prayers and makes our prayers acceptable to the Father.
To help means that He inspires our prayers, He guides our prayers, He energizes our prayers, and He sustains our praying. We're so weak that, without His help, we would not get it done. And, as a matter of fact, the Bible says that He does it "with groanings" (Romans 8:26). That speaks of sounds that are uttered at childbirth. "The pains of childbirth" is literally what that word means, when He "makes intercession for us with groanings." Hallelujah for the Helper!
I tell you, dear friend, prayer is hard work. The devil will attack you when you pray; your mind will get clouded when you pray. And, hallelujah for the Helper! Have you ever tried to pray without the Spirit? If you have, you'll understand how important it is to pray in the Spirit of God.
B. Because of our Ignorance
Pray in the name; pray in the Spirit—not only because of our weakness, but also because of our ignorance. Folks, listen. We don't know what we should pray for, as we ought. Listen to Romans 8:26 again: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought." We can't pray for every possibility.
Just a few moments ago, Paul handed me a slip of paper, and someone said, "Pastor, pray for this particular situation." Well, during the song service, I bowed my head and prayed for that particular situation, lest I forget it. But, I tell you, I cannot pray for everything; you cannot pray for everything. And, I believe that the Holy Spirit of God makes prayer assignments to us.
And, I've said before, and I want to say again—for your prayer to be effective, your prayer must be selective. You can pray in general—"God bless the world." But, dear friend, when you get down to specific praying, the Holy Spirit of God gives you that prayer assignment; and, not only does He tell you who to pray for, but also He tells you how to pray for whom you pray. Or, if He doesn't tell you, then He'll just make groanings for you—words that you can't utter.
For example, there's a sick saint. Let's suppose that your grandmother is 80 years of age, and she's sick; and, you're starting to pray. Well, what are you going to pray? "Lord God, heal her." Or, "Lord God, bring her to Heaven." Huh? That's kind of hard, isn't it, to know what to pray?
Well, God knows what to pray, and you know, many times, it's God's will to take her to Heaven. As a matter of fact, that's the more wonderful thing—if God takes her to Heaven. Have you ever noticed that we get in prayer meetings on Wednesday night, and so many times we spend so much more time praying for the saved who are sick than the unsaved who are lost? We spend more time trying to keep the saints out of Heaven than the lost out of Hell. Do you ever think about it? Because we are just not burdened for the unsaved, many times, as much as we are burdened for the saved.
But, how do we pray? Suppose there's a troublemaker in the church. I mean, let's just suppose that, in this church, somebody just made up his or her mind they were going to cause trouble in the church, and we begin to pray about it. Well, how would we pray? Many of us might be praying, "Lord, remove him." As a matter of fact, some of us might be saying, "Lord, fix his wagon." But, I think about the Apostle Paul, when the Apostle Paul wrought havoc on the church. Those early saints prayed—I suppose some of them might have been saying, "Lord, strike him dead." But, the Lord struck him alive. The Lord just saved him and made a mighty apostle out of old Saul, who later became Paul.
Many times, we don't know what to pray for. But, here's the wonderful thing about the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit takes our prayers—and even sometimes when we ask for the wrong things with the right heart—then He takes the right thing and applies it to the right heart.