Summary: What does it mean to pray "in the Spirit", and how do we start?
Pray “In The Spirit”: A Season of Prayer
Eph 6:18 June 10, 2007
Some people pray in their car. Some people pray in their rooms. Some pray in their office, in their shower, or in their pj’s. 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”.
Last week we continued in our season of prayer by going to Scripture to see how, when, where, why, how to and how not to pray. We read almost 50 verses – a barrage of Scriptures on the topic of prayer. Today I want to go way in the opposite direction – only one verse; in fact focusing on only 4 words: “pray in the Spirit”.
Let me put the verse in context. In Ephesians 6, 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.
That passage leads to this verse, verse 18: “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Most of the verse is fairly self-explanatory. “at all times” talks about a lifestyle of prayer, where we are regularly and constantly in conversation with God. “Stay alert” reminds us of diligence, awareness, being clearly tuned in to things around us and in us, and hints at our need to be listening to God and being alert to what He is doing. “be persistent” encourages us to never give up on our prayers, to never conclude that God is not paying attention or that we are wasting our time. “for all believers everywhere” is a call to be global; worldwide; not narrowly focused on ourselves but to keep our prayers focused broadly on what God is doing in our world.
“In the Spirit”:
While those parts are fairly self-explanatory, the first 4 words are not. At least not to most of us. 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? (invite responses).
A few weeks ago, on Pentecost Sunday, we remembered and celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit – the continuing presence of God with us and in us who believe and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We’ve looked at the promise of power with the Holy Spirit, and of how that power draws people into relationship with Jesus just like it did on the day of Pentecost, when what looked like tongues of fire came with the sound of a rushing wind and rested on the 120 disciples who were praying in the upper room. We know and believe that God still gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, to lead and empower and guide and build the Kingdom of God in and through us.
That is the crucial foundation to this verse, about praying “in the Spirit”. We can’t pray in the Spirit if we have no concept or experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 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. So let’s start there:
“Normalizing” the Spirit:
I want you to listen very closely to me now, because this is important. 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). Now – still listening – those certainly can be things that God does. We see those things in the Bible. Sometimes today those types of things still happen, and often that is the Holy Spirit at work in God’s people. I do not dismiss or condemn those, in fact I celebrate them whenever it is clear that God is at work.