“Praying in the Spirit”
Some people pray in their car. Some people pray in their rooms. Some pray in their office, in their shower, or in their pajamas’. Some people pray in their heads, others pray in spoken words, and some even pray in languages they have never learned. Most of us pray in times of need, in times of sorrow, in times of desperation. Many of us pray in times of joy and celebration and thankfulness. Some pray in public, others pray in private. We pray in our minds, we pray in our hearts, we pray in our feelings, and we pray in our spirits.
Those are all good things to pray in – but I want to add one more: from Scripture, Eph 6:18: “pray in the Spirit”.
The last 2 weeks we have celebrated Palm Sunday and Easter. But prior to that we had looked intensely at the putting on our spiritual armor and talked at length about being in a spiritual warfare. This morning I want to talk about another weapon that we have and that is prayer. So we remember what we have been studying listen as Carl reads Ephesians 6:10-20
Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 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. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Background - Let me remind you what we have looked at:
- Paul is nearing the end of the letter and is writing, in this section, about the reality of the spiritual world – forces of opposition to the Kingdom of God, and what we as believers are supposed to do about them.
- He uses Roman armor as a running analogy to the spiritual essentials, such as salvation and peace and truth and the Word of God, all so that we as believers can stand “firm” in our active obedience.
“In the Spirit” Depending on your Christian background there may be a difference in the interpretation. What do you think that means, to “pray in the Spirit”? Notice the capital “s” on Spirit – that indicates that Scripture is talking about the Holy Spirit, not our spirits. So the passage is saying, “Pray in the Holy Spirit”. But what does that mean? What does that look like?
- In a few weeks we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday that ushers in the birth of the Church but even more so the power of the Holy Spirit indwells and empowers the disciples as promised by Christ. The Holy Spirit is the continuing presence of God with us, in us.
- We can’t pray in the Spirit if we are not born of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not part of us or we have no concept of Him we can’t pray in the Spirit.
- If we don’t know who the Holy Spirit is, or how to listen to the Holy Spirit, or how to recognize the Holy Spirit, we certainly won’t know how to pray in the Spirit.
“Normalizing” the Spirit - The Holy Spirit is not about sensationalism. That is what we often associate with talk of the Holy Spirit – weird, out-of-control, “super”-natural, sensationalism.
- Things like speaking in tongues or miraculous healings or being “slain in the Spirit” (which is where people are overcome by the presence of God and fall to the ground like they are dead) seem like sensationalism to us. We see some of those things done in the Bible. And sometimes those workings happen in other cultures and other forms of worship. It is not the point I want to get at.
- The miraculous, the sensational – not the point. It might happen, but it still is not the point. The point is always this: loving obedience to God. When the Holy Spirit is at work, the result is loving obedience to God. What I want us to understand is that we are all called to pray in the Spirit.
- My personal conviction is that the Holy Spirit works in normalcy of life. And that is what I want us to look at.
- Pray “in the Spirit” So what is praying in the Spirit? Is this any different than praying in your mind, or praying with the Scripture? Yes and No. It is a matter of who we are reliant on. If we are in an attitude of prayer that is in touch with the Holy Spirit then no matter what type of prayer we are using the Holy Spirit is present. It is like being in a zone – in a certain attitude.
- God’s zone! If we are praying in the Spirit we are praying in the manner that Christ would.
- You’re praying in harmony with how the Spirit is leading you. You say "How do I know if I’m in the zone? How can I know if my prayer is in agreement with how the Spirit wants me to pray?”
- The only way I know that my prayers are in agreement with the Spirit is by modeling my prayers after the prayers in the Scripture. Examples:
- 3 John 1:2 (NIV) 2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. – Let’s say that you want to keep a person in your prayers that is having surgery. My dad is going to have a spot removed from his face on Tuesday – so you can pray a prayer that fits that Scripture – that is praying in the Spirit.
- James 1:5 (NIV) 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Do we pray for the practical things of life like work, school, decisions that have to be made…
- Should I look for a new job?
- Should I look for a new roommate?
- Give me wisdom to make the best possible decision as a parent.
- To pray in the Spirit is to pray in accordance with Scripture in harmony with the Holy Spirit.
- Paul says there are three things to remember when we pray in the Spirit.
- Number one: We should pray in the Spirit ON ALL OCCASIONS. This means that we can talk to God even when things are going well! Why not?
- I don’t know how many of you have prayed – prayers of thanksgiving for the mild winter 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in ALL circumstances.”
- The problem is that we sometimes don’t talk to God until we’re in trouble. You go to school. The math teacher says “Clear your desks except for a pencil and a piece of paper. It’s time for a pop quiz.” “O Lord Help”
- Now don’t get me wrong. It’s OK to pray to God when you’re we need help. Psalm 50:15 says “Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
- I’m just saying that desperation time should not be the only time we pray. God says pray in the Spirit ON ALL OCCASIONS! God not only wants to be your crisis counselor. He wants to hear from you every day!! That’s why he created you! You should talk to God as a first resort, not just as your last resort.
- For example, instead of waiting until your next math test to talk to God, talk to Him each morning before you head for the bus stop. Say “Lord, I studied last night. But I need You to carry me the rest of the way. Help me to do my best.”
- Not only that, if you’re talking to God every day, you’re less likely to get freaked out over pop tests. Your faith in God will make you strong. How do I know that? Because Psalm 112:7 says that the righteous man “will have no fear of bad news. His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
- So pray in the Spirit on all occasions. The 2nd thing we should do is to pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. That opens things up. We can talk to God about anything.
Illustration: I heard about this lady who locked herself out of her car with the keys inside. She finds a coat hanger on the ground. But she doesn’t know how to use it to get the car door open. So she says “Dear Lord, please send someone to help me.”
Five minutes later, an old rusty car pulls up, and a big burly guy with tattoos and a bandana gets out. The woman is thinking, "Lord, this is the help you’re sending me?"
The guy takes the coat hanger, and he opens the car door in like 30 seconds. The woman gives the guy a hug and says “You’re a nice man! Thank you so much!” Probably he hadn’t had a hug in years.
He says “Lady, I’m not a nice man. I served two years in prison for car theft, and I just got out about three hours ago."
The woman hugged the man again and with tears she says "Thank you God! You even sent me a professional!"
- God says “Pray in the Spirit with ALL KINDS of prayers and requests!”
- ACTS –
- A – Adoration
- C – Confession
- T – Thanksgiving
- S - Supplication
- We need to pray all the time for the saints – for the believers. In the verses that follow Paul requests prayer for himself – for the leaders of the Church. We need to be in prayer for those in leadership so they might continue in a righteous life. Satan loves to attack the saints especially those in leadership. Instead of complaining about our leaders we need to be in prayer.
- An older lady in one of my churches I served made a comment that has stuck with me for years. I asked her why she never went to Sr. Citizens for lunch and she said that was her prayer time for the church and for me. I questioned her about that asking her why she hadn’t set another time so she could have a meal and her comment was that is no sacrifice then. I pray for you during that time – want me to give that up for a ham dinner or a meatloaf?
- She taught me a great lesson that day – we need to be in prayer for the saints – she created her list and was in prayer every noon time. I have tried to do the same – I am not as diligent as she was.
- My spiritual life and that of other pastors and saints are in your hands. I am only going to be as spiritual as the prayers that support.
- How do you get started in praying “in the Spirit” Let me close with some practical, tangible tips for beginning to practice prayer that is “in the Spirit” rather than just in your own words:
- start privately: this way, there is no pressure, to need to perform, no fear of others’ expectations. In your own times of prayer, ask God to lead. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you some ideas of how to pray or what to pray about.
- If something is of concern, avoid just asking God to fix it or change it and instead ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray about it. Then leave some quiet. Try to listen. And pray the things that come to your mind or to your heart. If you do this by yourself at first, you have nothing to lose.
- share a little with a trusted friend: the second step is to invite someone you trust to share your thoughts from prayer with. Best is if this person has a little more experience than you – has walked a little further down this road – and can help guide you.
- examine the content of your prayer times: what things occupy our times of prayer? You’ll have much better experiences praying “in the Spirit” if the things you are praying about are the things that are close to the heart of God. We discover those by regular reading of the Word of God, and by looking around us and trying to see the way God sees.
- be obedient: if you think God is leading you to pray a certain way or for a certain thing, then do it. Often, God waits for us to be obedient to the first things before leading us to deeper things.
- be patient and persistent: in our “instant” society, we sometimes lose the ability to stick with something new long enough to develop a new skill or habit. Since prayer is about relationship and conversation, be patient and persistent in learning to listen and then pray “in the Spirit”.
Let me end here: John 14:12-14 (NIV) 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
So as you go this week, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.