As Christians, there are many interpretations of what we believe “praying in the Spirit” to mean. On the other hand, you may be a new Christian and have read passages in the Bible instructing you to pray in the Spirit, but you don’t know how to, or what it means. An example of such a reading is in Jude 1:20 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,”
Let us begin by determining what praying in the Spirit is NOT! Some interpret praying in the Spirit as a reference to praying in tongues. According to 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, tongues is a gift of the Spirit. Not every Christian can speak in tongues and yet Paul instructs Christians to pray in the Spirit. Due to this fact, praying in the Spirit is distinct from praying in tongues.
The apostle Paul discusses the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:14 saying “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.” You see, when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying as it is a language he does not understand.
The passage is clear that they “pray with their own spirits” and no one else can understand as well. The instruction given is that if no one can interpret the tongue in a church setting, then you are to keep silent. 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 says “If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.”
Now, let us look at the instructions given to us in Ephesians 6:18 saying “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”
In this case, how are we to pray at all times in the Spirit, making supplication for the saints if no one including the person praying does not understand what is being said? At this point, some refer to Romans 8:26 which says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
If we are to read this passage carefully, it says that the praying of the Spirit is “too deep for words”. In other words, these are not ecstatic words or tongues or any particular language that is mentioned here. Instead, it is something that cannot be expressed through words.
Next, praying in the Spirit means that you are not “praying in the flesh”. When you pray in the flesh, then you are praying in your ability and your wisdom. Whereas in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit empowers the prayer carrying it to the Father in the name of Jesus.
So, quite simply praying in the Spirit is whenever a Christian pray’s under the will of God. 1 John 5:14 says “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
So then, who can pray in the Spirit? Friends, I want you to know that if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you can pray in the Spirit.
Alan Wright said the following words:
“Only inasmuch as you know that God is your Father can you pray with intimacy rather than with religious ritual. Part of what it means to pray in the Spirit, therefore, is to pray with the help of the Holy Spirit who is constantly reminding you of your position as heir of God. You’re God’s child and, as such, you’re a co-heir with Christ. You can pray with the power of a child of God to a perfect Father,” – Alan Wright
Dr Michael Milton also say’s:
“Praying in the Spirit’ is altogether a divine activity that one appropriates through faith in Jesus Christ and in His finished work on the cross… To pray in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit (‘in Spirit and in truth,’ John 4:24) is to come before the Lord according to His appointed means—that is through the One whom the Spirit magnifies, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-27), depending on His revealed Word and pleading as a lesser creature to our glorious Creator.”
So, in conclusion, praying in the Spirit is to pray according to the will of God. It is just like every other aspect of our Christian living; we are to walk in the Spirit and worship in the Spirit and pray in the Spirit. Therefore carry everything to God in prayer, and do so by His power and according to His will, and for His glory. If you do this, then you will be praying in the Spirit.