Summary: We sometimes pray with the Spirit’s intercession. We should always pray as the Spirit leads.
Prayer Keys - In the Spirit
“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.” Ephesians 6:18
Much of this verse is easy to understand. “On all occasions” refers to regular and consistent conversation with God. Prayer is to be a regular part of our lives. “Be alert” reminds us to pay attention, to be aware of what is around us and in us. There is much in this world to inspire us to pray. In particular, “be alert” reminds us to listen to God. “Always keep on praying” tells us to never give up. “With all kinds of prayers and requests” means we can talk with God about anything that concerns us.
For example, have you ever locked your car door while you were outside the car but your keys were inside the car? In one sermon I read, the preacher told about a woman who did that. This may have been before the days of cell phones. I’ve seen commercials for phones that can open locked car doors. I don’t have one, but I’ve seen commercials. I guess I’m just down right primitive. I just use my cell phone to make phone calls. I would have to use mine to call for help.
This woman locked her keys in her car. She fretted and paced, then she found a coat hanger on the ground. Years ago, you could use coat hangers to hook the lock button and pull it up. She did not know how to do that, so the coat hanger did not help her. Finally, she prayed. “Dear Lord, please send someone to help me.”
Moments later, a rusty old car pulled up. A big, burly, unkempt man with tattoos and a bandana got out. The woman prayed, “Lord, is THIS the help you’re sending me?”
He proved he did know how to use the coat hanger and in a few seconds the door was open. The woman hugged him and said, “Thank you so much. You’re such a good man.”
He shook his head and said, “No, ma’am. I’m not a good man at all. I just got out of prison today after serving two years for grand theft auto.”
She hugged him again and prayed aloud, “Thank you, Lord, for sending a professional!” [www.sermoncentral.com]
The Bible says we can make all kinds of requests to God. Whether we are concerned about car keys or cancer, God cares. The Bible also says we are to pray “in the Spirit.” This has been interpreted a variety of ways. Just about anything you can suggest has been seriously suggested and studied. Tonight, we will look at three ways that are verified in scripture and we will look at one way that is contradicted by scripture.
One suggestion has been that it refers to speaking in tongues while praying. What does the Bible say about that?
In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul says that if there is no one to interpret, the person who wants to speak in tongues should refrain because it is not edifying. If we are to pray in the Spirit at all times, but there are times when we are not to speak in tongues, praying in the Spirit cannot refer to praying in tongues.
Earlier, in 1 Corinthians 12:29-31, Paul asks, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?"
I have heard preachers add answers to those questions. It really bothers me when those preachers do not study the text enough to add the right answers. I have heard them enthusiastically proclaim, "Are all apostles? Yes! Are all prophets? Yes! Are all teachers? Yes! Do all work miracles? Yes! Do all have gifts of healing? Yes! Do all speak in tongues? Yes! Do all interpret? Yes!" But... if all can interpret, Paul would not have warned them to refrain from speaking in tongues when there is no one to interpret.
In Greek, there are a couple of different ways to ask questions depending on whether you expect a “yes” or a “no” answer. To some extent, we do the same in English. We can make a positive statement followed by a question when we expect a yes answer. Asking, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” expects a “yes” answer. We can make a negative statement followed by a question when we expect a “no” answer. Asking, “You wouldn’t happen to have a million dollars I could borrow, would you?” expects a “no” answer.
In Greek there are two different words for “no” and two different ways of asking questions indicating if you expect a “yes” or a “no” answer. When Paul asks, “Do all speak in tongues?” the grammar indicates Paul is asking, “Not everyone speaks in tongues, do they?” He expects a “no” answer. Not every Christian speaks in tongues. It is a gift of the spirit, but not every Christian has that gift. Not every Christian speaks in tongues, but every Christian is to pray in the Spirit.