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Praying in the Spirit vs. Tongues: What is the Difference?

There is no difference between praying in the Spirit and praying in tongues. The act of praying in the Spirit is the same as praying in tongues.

I understand that this is an unpopular opinion among some Christian circles so let me not just give you my opinion but let me give you the reason I believe this to be a fact from the only opinion that matters-the Word of God.

In two different places, we are exhorted to pray in the Spirit. One is by the apostle Paul and the second is by Jude.

“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 with 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.20-21)

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Both of these verses very clearly command us to pray in the Spirit. But how do we do this exactly?

Some say to pray in the Spirit just means that you need to pray with extra fervor, or more deeply. Others say that it is simply praying with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But we should always pray with intensity and sincerity and we should always pray with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If this were the case the writers wouldn’t have to add the term “in the Spirit”. They would just simply say, “pray without hypocrisy” or “pray according to the will of the Holy Spirit.” If this view was true, then the writers added “in the Spirit” simply to make it sound more spiritual.

I do not believe that to be the case at all! No, they used the term “pray in the Spirit” because they knew the readers would understand what they meant by it.

They gave no explanation!

This tells us that the churches that Jude and Paul were writing to had an understanding of what praying in the Spirit meant.

Let’s look at another passage that will give us greater insight. This is the only other passage of scripture that uses the same language as the above verses, and the great thing is it is written by the apostle Paul-the same writer who exhorted us to pray in this way. Surely he’ll know what “praying in the Spirit” means!

“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:14)

Did you catch that? Paul said that when He prays in tongues his spirit prays.

“What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

Notice, how he uses praying in tongues and praying in the spirit interchangeably. The apostle views them as one and the same.

Now someone might say, “but the passage you quoted in 1 Corinthians is spirit (lowercase s) meaning Paul’s spirit, and the passages you quoted at the beginning of the article is Spirit (uppercase S) meaning the Holy Spirit. So this can’t be the same.”

This is an excellent point and one worth noting. But have you read 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 when we get born again and filled with His Spirit we become one spirit with Him. So if Paul says I pray in my spirit or I pray in the Spirit there is no difference because we are one spirit with Him.

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.

I also realize that some of you reading this may be thinking that speaking in tongues is not for every believer so praying in the spirit can’t possibly be praying in tongues. If you’re thinking something along those lines, I have an article just for you: Is Speaking in Tongues for everyone? (Biblical Answer).

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How do I know if I am praying in the Spirit?

You can know that you are praying in the Spirit through faith in God’s Word. You look at scripture, you see what it says about praying in the Spirit and what that means, and then as you act on this fact you simply believe it just like you did for salvation.

Now if you are someone who was taught that praying in the Spirit and praying in tongues are not the same thing, then I can imagine you would be a little confused because everyone in your circle has their opinions and those opinions disagree with one another.

But to truly have faith that you are praying in the Spirit you have to first know what praying in the Spirit is, and then as you start praying in the spirit, or praying in tongues, you need to believe that the tongues that you are praying are authentic and that they are truly from God.

This can be possible by first receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and then by speaking in tongues, believing that God has filled you with His Spirit.

I have some articles that can walk you through this process step by step: Baptism in the Holy Spirit (In-Depth Study) and How to Receive the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues (Explained). If you are someone who has never heard of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit or someone who has thought that you receive all of the Holy Spirit when you get saved then I recommend the “in-depth study” article.

I hope this article assisted you in your walk with the Lord. If you enjoyed this article, please consider giving a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. The support we receive from you enables The Biblical Foundation to keep all of the resources free and to reach more people with the teachings of the Word of God.

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