What is praying in the Spirit?
Praying in the Spirit is praying in tongues. Praying in the Spirit is not praying with extra awareness or fervor, it is simply praying with the utterance the Holy Spirit gives us as we speak in tongues.
Now I know that this topic is controversial so I want to make sure that I break this down from the Word of God, as clearly as possible so that everyone who reads this knows that this is not my opinion but that this is what the Word of God teaches.
In my short and quick answer above, I mentioned that praying in the Spirit is not praying with extra fervor, awareness, or even according to God’s will or the Spirit’s leading.
I believe that praying in the Spirit encompasses all of these things and that these things are important and even necessary, but they are not equivalent to what praying in the Spirit is. Let me explain how I know this and then we will cover some passages of scripture that reveal to us what praying in the Spirit actually is.
First, we are exhorted in two different places to pray in the Spirit. First, by the apostle Paul, and the second 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)
Both of these writers tell their readers to be sure to pray in the Spirit and to make it a habit in their lives. But here’s the amazing part – they never explained what praying in the Spirit is exactly! They simply just exhorted them to do it.
That tells us that praying in the Spirit is something that the early church apostles taught on and that everyone who would have received these two letters already knew what they meant by the term “pray in the Spirit.”
If this is not the case, then the writers would have been unjust to tell them to do something that they have no idea how to perform.
The problem with the belief that praying in the Spirit is equivalent to praying with the Spirit’s leading, or extra awareness or fervency is that these attributes should always be present when we pray.
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 the term “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 and that it was a very specific way of praying.
Now we are going to look at another 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 these 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 between the two 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. Therefore, it is a unified prayer between the Spirit of God and our spirit.
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).
Also, if you belive that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased and that speaking in tongues is no longer available to today’s church, I also have an article for you: Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for Today? (Objections Answered).
How to pray in the Spirit (Step-by-Step)
Step 1: Get Born again
Step number one is to receive salvation. This is obvious but it is necessary to mention it nonetheless. If you are not born-again then you have no part in receiving anything from the Spirit of God. This fact is mentioned in multiple places throughout the Bible.
“He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
Notice Jesus said, very clearly, that the world cannot receive the Spirit of God. If you don’t know Jesus you are in the world and you are not saved.
Another passage that reveals this truth is 1 Corinthians 2:14.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
A natural man is someone who has not repented and decided to follow Jesus and he is also someone who is living carnally and not walking in the Spirit.
So how can we get born-again and become someone who is ready to receive the Spirit of God?
The only requirement is that you become a follower of Jesus. You do this by turning away from your sin and believing that Jesus died on the cross for you to be forgiven and then rose from the grave. (Related article: What is the Gospel?)
Step 2: Receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Praying in the Spirit/tongues is simply a manifestation of the Person of Holy Spirit, so the first step to being able to speak in tongues is to receive the Holy Spirit.
Many believe that this is something that happens automatically once you get saved, but it is not. Receiving salvation and receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit are two separate experiences.
Here are a couple of passages that prove this.
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized…Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:12, 14-17)
Notice from this passage that the Samaritans had already received the word of God, they were already baptized in water, and yet the apostles traveled all the way from Jerusalem to ensure that they received the Holy Spirit.
There was the moment that they were saved and then there was the moment that they received the Holy Spirit, this proves that salvation and receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit are separate experiences.
“And finding some disciples he (Paul) said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
Think about this for a minute, why would the apostle Paul ask the question “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” if the Holy Spirit is automatic the moment we get saved?
The answer is simple: he wouldn’t.
Jesus even told us that we are to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:13.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Again, the same question applies, why would Jesus tell us to ask the Father for the Holy Spirit if He’s automatic at salvation? I believe the answer is clear, He wouldn’t.
If you have never received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and you desire to, or if you still have questions about this subject then I encourage you to check out my other articles on the topic: Baptism in the Holy Spirit (In-Depth Study) and How to Receive the Holy Spirit and Speak in Tongues (Explained).
These are great resources and they will cover this topic much more thoroughly than I am able to in this section.
However, if you can’t wait and you’re a follower of Jesus, and you are ready to receive the Holy Spirit then all you have to do is follow this simple step; ask the Father in Faith for the Holy Spirit.
That’s it! Jesus already told us what to do in Luke 11:13 now all we have to do is do it.
Simply say, “Father, I come before you because You have said in Your Word that we are to ask You for the Holy Spirit, and you have promised that you will give Him to me when I ask. So God I ask You to give me the Holy Spirit. Have Him come into my life and empower me for service. Thank you Father for baptizing me in Him. Amen.”
If you prayed that in faith, then you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Word promises that when we ask anything according to Gods will and in faith we will receive what we have asked for (1 John 5:14-15 & Mark 11:22-24).
To get a better understanding of Who you have received, I encourage you to read the articles I mentioned above.
Step 3: Start praying in Tongues by faith
After you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, next all you have to do is start speaking in tongues by faith.
You see, the Bible says that tongues is nothing more than one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in a believers life (1 Corinthians 12).
It is similar to receiving the manifestations of a swiss army knife. I can’t receive the blade, the toothpick, and the scissors without receiving the knife first. Now that we have received the knife (Holy Spirit) we are able to use the manifestations of that knife (togues, healings, miracles etc.).
So how do you go about doing this?
You simply start speaking in tongues, believing that as you speak the Holy Spirit is there giving you the utterance as He did for the 120 disciples in Acts 2. The Bible says that your brain will be unfruitful (1 Corinthians 14:14), so don’t expect to know everything that you are saying. You are speaking by faith!
You are not speaking in a natural, known language as many teach, rather it is a supernatural language that “no one understands” (1 Corinthians 14:2). If you have been taught contrary to this I strongly recommend this article: Is speaking in tongues a real language? Or is it Gibberish?
Step 4: Practice praying in the Spirit at all times
Once you have started speaking in tongues/praying in the Spirit, the next step is to learn how to do this all the time. This step is going to be for the rest of your life.
Remember the apostle Paul commanded us to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
The apostle Paul also said that he would pray in the Spirit more than the entire Corinthian Church! That’s why he said, “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18).
That is powerful! It is no doubt one of the secrets to his success.
How to do this is quite simple, although it may not be necessarily easy, in between every activity and during every mundane task, and during every set time of prayer and worship – speak in tongues.
If you do this you will be praying in the Spirit at all times and you will be walking in a glimpse of what Paul walked in.
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.