How to pray in the spirit

how to pray in the spirit

One of the steps of the last post was to pray in the Spirit. While it fit naturally into that post, I’m aware there are many misconceptions and controversy on this topic. I don’t want to add any division, but I did feel it necessary to at least explain what I mean more thoroughly.

What is the Controversy?

Praying in the Spirit has been a hot topic because for some it is a sign of greater maturity in Christ – for some it is even a sign that someone has the Holy Spirit. This doctrine comes from an interpretation of Acts where people displayed similar signs once they received the Holy Spirit.

Here are four of my principles when considering this debate:

  1. We are not to compare ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12-13).
  2. The Holy Spirit is given to every believer (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  3. Many godly leaders never promoted praying in the Spirit: Billy Graham and Bill Bright.
    While other godly leaders did: Martin Luther, Dwight Moody, and John Wesley.
  4. God is looking for hearts inclined to Him. This is more important than doing right steps (Psalm 51:17).

I pray in the Spirit more than any of you – Paul  (1 Corinthians 14:18)

Because of the controversy, many churches, ministries, and Christians either shy away from the topic or push it to a time that has passed. Paul, however, steps into the firestorm and declares its importance to him and others. Even though he knew the Scripture so well that most of the New Testament was entrusted to him to write, he declared that praying in the Spirit was edifying to him and others (1 Corinthians 14:4-5).

What Praying in the Spirit IS NOT

1. A sign to determine whether you have the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a gift to all who put their trust in Jesus. Praying in the Spirit doesn’t guarantee that you are listening to the Spirit’s direction or following Him. It is also not a magical incantation that makes you a super Christian. Even thought Jesus’ yoke is easy, we still need to die to ourselves, whether you pray in the Spirit or not.

2. Dwelling on God’s goodness.
Because of lack of teaching on the subject, some believe that it is dwelling on God’s goodness which then releases the Holy Spirit’s desires for you. Dwelling on God’s goodness is amazing and beneficial to all believers, but it is not the same as praying in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit has a spoken element.

3. The gift of tongues.
The gift of tongues is speaking in a real language unknown to the speaker. It is assumed it would be interpreted. The gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers but praying in the Spirit edifies yourself (1 Corinthians 14:22 & 14:4). They may somehow be related, but if you put this criteria on your ability to pray in the Spirit, you will hinder the freedom God has placed on it.

What praying in the Spirit IS

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

For each person it will sound differently, and like anything with God it takes faith. You will not know what you are saying. You may feel ridiculous, but that happens when you try something new. Just keep checking your heart. Are you doing it for Jesus? Do you feel closer to Him? More in love with others? For me, once convinced this was from God, I prayed to have the ability. Afterwards, as I spoke, I chose to trust it was from God as an act of faith.

Normal prayer is through our understanding using words we can comprehend. We engage the mind and make our requests known. Prayer in the Spirit bypasses the mind and engages our spirit. We may or may not know what we are praying for. As we pray in the Spirit, we do not limit our prayers to our understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Both ways of prayer are important. Don’t let the controversy surrounding this topic keep you from a tool God has given you to help your Christian walk.

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 Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18

  • Let me state again that this post is not intended to stir up debate. If you enjoy that type of mental exercise, there are many other sites that are maintained for that purpose. If you have a legitimate question, please post it below and I will do my best to answer it.
  • I have found praying in the Spirit to be a helpful tool to my growth in Christ. I particularly enjoy singing in the Spirit in the privacy of my car.

Original image courtesy of Jesus Culture

This sermon from the Adrian Rogers Legacy Library © 2010 Rogers Family Trust. Used by permission.,

Turn to the book of James, would you please for just a moment, the book of James chapter 4, and you will remember this morning we were preaching on triumphant prayer. Prayer that prevails, and we gave you some principles of prayer that cannot be denied. And, among those principles was a very vital principle that we call sensitivity to the Spirit. Look in James chapter 4, and verse 5. James chapter 4 and verse 5: “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:5).

Now, while that verse is somewhat hard to interpret, what it really means is this: I’m convinced, that the Holy Spirit within us is very, very jealous for the cause of Christ. And, the Scripture says that over and over again, that God has given the Holy Spirit to us and the Holy Spirit within us is there to glorify Christ and to promote the cause of Christ. And, it is absolutely essential that you understand this if you are to pray vitally, because this is what we call praying in the Spirit. And, so that’s what we’re going to be talking about tonight, “How to Pray in the Spirit.”

And, tonight I want us to think about the Holy Spirit’s ministry, first of all to us, and then secondly the Holy Spirit’s ministry through us, as we’re talking about praying in the Spirit.

Incidentally, I would like you to check these three other verses of Scripture before

we get into the message. You might write it down there in the margin by James, or you might just want to turn to it. But, look please in Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 6, and verse 18. Ephesians chapter 6, and verse 18. There the Bible gives us this admonition, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:18). Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.

I. The Holy Spirit’s Ministry

All right now, I want you to jot down this verse. In Jude, verse 20. There’s no chapter because there’s only one chapter in Jude, so we don’t give you a chapter designation, just the book and the verse. Listen to it. Jude, next to the last book in the Bible. Jude verse 20: “But ye beloved, building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20). Praying in the Holy Spirit. Again, prayer in the Spirit is mentioned.

Now, the third Scripture that I want you to notice in conjunction with the Scripture in James is found in Romans chapter 8, beginning in verse 25—excuse me, verse 26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself”—and may I pause here to say that itself is a poor translation, it could be and should be interpreted, “but the Spirit Himself”—“maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he”—the Spirit—“maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27).

A. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Privilege

May I say ladies and gentlemen, that prayer is the greatest Christian privilege that we have? Of all of the privileges that God has given us, beyond a shadow of any doubt and without any peradventure or argument, prayer is our greatest Christian privilege. And, the need of the hour is for loving prayer, laboring prayer, lingering prayer, listening prayer.

B. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Service

But, not only is prayer our greatest Christian privilege. Prayer is also our greatest Christian service. Too many times we think of prayer as the means of getting ready to serve God rather than as the means of serving God. So many times we think if we pray, then we can serve God better. But, my friend, may I tell you that you are serving God when you pray. And, those of you who are bound, and shut in, and can’t do other things, you say, “I can’t serve the Lord.” You can pray can’t you? And, if you pray, you’re serving the Lord.

C. Prayer is our Greatest Christian Failure

All right, but may I say that not only is prayer the greatest Christian privilege, and not only is prayer the greatest Christian service, but alas, prayer so frequently is the greatest Christian failure. We pray but our prayers are not answered.

Isaiah chapter 1, and verse 15. God spoke to Isaiah’s generation, and said, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear…” (Isaiah 1:15). Now, this is strange, for God wants to answer our prayers. And, yet God says they’re certain situations in which He turns His face away. And, God says in spite of the palpation of our prayers, He will not hear.

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