What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
To pray in the Spirit is equivalent to praying in tongues. When we pray in tongues our spirit is praying with the Holy Spirit, and the Bible reveals that He gives us the utterance of our words, as we pray in faith.
We find two different places in the New Testament where it tells us to pray in the Spirit.
“With every prayer and request, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be alert with all perseverance and every request for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18)
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude v.21-22)
In one of these instances, it is the apostle Paul who is exhorting us to do this. And although he didn’t give specific instructions on how to pray in the Spirit in his letter to the Ephesians, he did explain how he prays in the Spirit to the Corinthian church. (Related article: Praying in the Spirit: What it is & How to do it)
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unproductive. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15)
Notice that from the passage above the apostle Paul says that when he prays in tongues his spirit is doing the praying. So essentially, he uses praying in tongues and praying in the Spirit interchangeably.
He even goes on to say,
“For otherwise, if you bless God in the spirit only, how will the one who occupies the place of the outsider know to say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not understand what you are saying?” (1 Corinthians 14:16).
Did you catch that Paul called praying in tongues “blessing God in the Spirit”? Do you think if praying in tongues is referred to by the apostle Paul as blessing God in the Spirit, it would also be referred to as praying in the Spirit?
So not only does the apostle Paul say that praying in tongues is praying with the spirit, but he also says that praying in tongues blesses God in the spirit. I think from these few verses it is clear that when Paul said to the Ephesians “pray at all times in the Spirit” he was referring to praying in tongues.
Now someone might be thinking as they read this that the apostle was referring to the Holy Spirit (capital S) in his letter to the Ephesians, and he was referring to his own spirit (lowercase s) in his letter to the Corinthians. And so this person may be thinking that these two passages of scripture don’t apply to one another.
To this, I would have to say that this is a great point and one worth noting. However, have you ever read in 1 Corinthians 6:17 where it says, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him“? And that in 2 Corinthians 3:17 Paul clarifies that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord. “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”?
So judging from these two verses it makes no difference if Paul says I pray with my spirit or if he says I pray in the Spirit because as the verse above reveals they are one.
Another point to keep in mind is that when we pray in tongues we are speaking with an utterance that the Holy Spirit is giving us at that time.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:4)
This is another reason why there is no difference between our spirit praying and praying in the Holy Spirit because when our spirit is praying the Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is the one giving us what we should speak and pray. Therefore, it is a unified prayer between the Spirit of God and our spirit.
If you want to know more about speaking in tongues you can check out these articles and they can get you started: How to receive the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues (Explained), Is Speaking in tongues a Real Language? Or is it Gibberish? Is Speaking in Tongues for Everyone? (Biblical Answer)
How to pray in the Spirit at all times
To pray in the Spirit at all times simply requires us to develop the habit of praying in tongues. We can do this by remembering to pray in tongues in between activities, during mundane tasks, and during set times of prayer.
If we can do this we will be praying in the Spirit at all times.
Now I know that this habit development will not be necessarily easy, but if we rely on Holy Spirit to remind us then it no doubt will become easier to pray in the Spirit at all times throughout our day. (Related article: Praying without Ceasing: What it is & How to do it).
Some of you may be thinking, “does this mean I have to pray in tongues out loud in front of people at work, etc.?”
Of course not! Praying in tongues doesn’t require us to speak it out loud for all to hear. The manifestation of tongues is primarily a gift for the individual believer unless it is coupled with the interpretation of tongues.
So when you pray in tongues in front of people, do it in a whisper to where it would be impossible for them to hear you. Some may ask why your lips are always moving while you work. To that, you can just say, “I’m just praying.”
Imagine what that witness will do to unbelievers! They will be working alongside you and realize that you’re praying all the time. That will convict them for sure!
I use to do this at my work and rarely did people ask me what I was doing. Usually, It’s pretty hard to notice that your lips are moving if you’re doing it quietly enough.
The apostle Paul not only encouraged us to pray in the Spirit at all times in Ephesians 6:18, but he also practiced what he preached, and did it himself.
He said in 1 Corinthians 14:18, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all.”
Paul said this to a church of an entire city and he was very confident in what he was saying. He knew that he spoke in tongues more than any person in that entire city.
Because he would do it all the time!
His command to pray in the Spirit at all times and his statement about speaking in tongues that much reveals that Paul would speak in tongues when he woke up, as he got ready, as he traveled, as he cleaned, as he worked, and as he was falling asleep.
This is how he was so confident in his claim that he spoke in tongues more than all of Corinth because he did it all the time!
This is not impossible, nor is it out of reach for us today. The same Spirit that was in Paul is in us. That means that the same ability that Paul had we have. We simply need to learn to exercise this ability to the extent that the apostle Paul did.
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