Key to prayer: praying in the Spirit
Intro: - [OHP1]The last three times I have spoken on the subject of prayer. We have been looking at some keys to prayer: the first time looking at Moses intercession, יהוה did as Moses said! - we saw the key of praying for God's glory; then we looked at the prayers of David, Elisha, Jeremiah, Daniel and Jesus and saw the key of listening to God – we don't know how to pray and need to hear from Him and align our will with His; last time I spoke of the need to be near to God in order to communicate effectively with Him, entering His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, the key being thanksgiving and praise. The key to prayer I want to look at today is praying in the Spirit. [OHP2]
We don't know how to pray: [Romans 8:23-27 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.] [OHP3] Paul says quite plainly and clearly that we don't know how to pray. James and John requested a favour of Jesus [Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking.”] We pray what seems right to us but we just don't know what we are asking, don't realise the implications, don't understand how God is working. His ways are far different, higher, than ours. Paul had a problem and he asked the LORD to heal it [ 2 Corinthians 12:8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.] but three times the LORD said, "No." Paul didn't know how to pray aright until he heard from the LORD who said, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness." God had a purpose higher than Paul's simplistic, make it better. God's ways are higher than ours, His thoughts on a totally different plain. [Isaiah 55:6 Seek יהוה while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. ...(that is pray)... “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares יהוה. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Romans 11:33,34 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?] Yet we seek to give God advise and tell Him what to do. We don't know how to pray – so do we give up and not bother? No, we don't know how to pray so we need help, and Romans 8 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps our weakness – He is the Helper [John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 15:26 When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,]. It says that the Holy Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf – so when we pray it is essential that we pray in the Spirit..
Praying in the Spirit: The Scriptures exhort us to pray in the Spirit – we are commanded to do so (at least 3x): [Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saint and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.][Jude 18-21 “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.] What does it mean: "praying in the Spirit"? What is praying in the Spirit? How do you pray in the Spirit? We are exhorted to do a number of things "in the Spirit": [John 4:23-24 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Philippians 3:3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.] so we are to worship in the Spirit; we are also to serve God in the Spirit: [Romans 1:9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,] - note the association with prayer. We are also to sing in the Spirit: [1 Corinthians 14:15 I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also.]. Here is a key to understanding what it means by "in the Spirit" – it is set in contradistinction to "with the mind". We are a very rational, mind centered culture. Everything is reasoned out and understood, with water-tight mentally consistent doctrine – we've got everything sorted with our mind. We can make our minds our god – I did. I used the Bible as the basis for a philosophy that was sorted out with my mind – then came the revelation (and it took a revelation from God) that any god that my mind could comprehend was a pretty small god – he had to be less than the mind that could conceive Him! It is idolatry! I had to repent of my own thinking, making a god out of my own thoughts. Now the mind has a part to play (pray and sing with the mind as well as with the Spirit) but the mind of itself is not enough. God is Spirit – if we are to understand Him and communicate with Him it has to be a spiritual undertaking, not merely a mental one. We need to get beyond the chains of our own mental processes. In order to pray in the Spirit, you must first be filled with the Spirit: [Ephesians 5:17-20 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord,]. It comes from the heart and not from the head. We need understanding but it must be spiritual understanding and it must, of necessity, come from God [Colossians 1:9,10 since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God]. It comes as a consequence of praying for it. But it is prayer that is completely beyond our natural understanding: [Praying in the Spirit in English (Katherine)] Praying in the Spirit can, as in that instance, be in English (or French, Spanish or whatever) but sometimes it is a prayer that cannot be expressed in words.
Groanings: praying beyond words: Romans 8 said that the "Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words". A groan is deeper than words – it comes from the depths of your being – words are cerebral, rational, but limited in expressing the depths of what we feel. When faced with calamity words are seldom of use – [phone call that your wife's had a serious accident, doctor tells you that you have cancer] – not "Oh what a calamity this is!" - you groan within and God hears. When you are comforting the bereaved or sorrowing, your presence, a hug, is more eloquent than any words. God hears and understands groaning: [Exodus 2:23-25 Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them. Exodus 3:7-10 יהוה said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 6:5-8 Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am יהוה, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am יהוה. your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am יהוה.’ ” Acts 7:34 I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’]. They didn't call a prayer meeting "Our gracious Lord we beseech Thee, deliver us from our oppressor." It was a cry of agony that came from their suffering – it wasn't even expressed in words – a groan went up – it is more eloquent than the carefully worded pious speech. Then later on in Israel's history [Judges 2:18 When יהוה raised up judges for them, יהוה was with the judge and delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for יהוה was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed and afflicted them. Nehemiah 9:27,28 “Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors. “But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, Psalm 22:5 To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed. Psalm 22:24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.] There is something in the cry of desperation that reaches God. [Psalm 79:11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; according to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die. Psalm 102:20 To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to set free those who were doomed to death, Psalm 138:3 On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.]. Jesus too groaned: [Mark 7:32-35 Some people brought him a man who was deaf and could hardly speak, and they begged Jesus to place his hands on him. So Jesus took him off alone, away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and touched the man’s tongue. Then Jesus looked up to heaven, gave a deep groan, and said to the man, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Open up!” At once the man was able to hear, his speech impediment was removed, and he began to talk without any trouble. Hebrews 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.]Prayer is not just the expression of intelligible language – it goes way beyond that. Praying in the Spirit can be without words (groans of despair prior to coming back to the LORD; Mum's intercession – you know the prayer is powerful when the words stop and the tears start).
Tongues: when words aren't enough: Groans and cries express the ache and yearning of the heart but they are not exactly eloquent – how do you communicate with God?! Words are very limited [describing a mountain scene – don't capture it – Cynthia's painting does better but still the 3 dimensions, the smells] – if words aren't enough to capture a physical scene how much less something spiritual! How do you praise God? "You are great! - very great!" How do you proclaim His greatness. He is holy! Isaiah had a vision of יהוה in His holiness, [Isaiah 6:1-3 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw יהוה sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is יהוה of armies, the whole earth is full of His glory.”] the seraphim said that He was holy, but that didn't capture it three times they said that he was holy – very, very holy – but does that capture what His holiness is like? Jesus prayed for an over an hour "Your will be done" – it was more than the mere Hebrew words. To communicate spiritual things we need spiritual words and God has provided by the Sprit a way to communicate spiritual words: the gift of tongues, a special language that God understands by which we express heavenly mysteries, hidden to our understanding but not to God. We can only communicate spiritual concepts by the Holy Spirit: [1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.] We need spiritual ability and we are exhorted to seek it. Tongues are a gift of the Holy Spirit: those given on the day of Pentecost were languages understood by men but those referred to in 1 Corinthians were a language that God understood but man didn't. [1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.] Paul goes on to say that he would rather prophesy or teach when he comes to them because that benefits them. The prophesying benefits others, the tongues is for the benefit solely of the one who speaks it, by it he speaks mysteries to God – communication just between the individual and God. Tongues is a gift used for communicating with God – we don't understand but God does. We need a way to go beyond the confines of our own limited understanding and tongues enables this. Paul cautioned the public use of tongues because in public it was necessary that others understood, so the tongues had to be interpreted, but in private Paul used the gift extensively. We would do well to imitate him [1 Corinthians 14:5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues 1 Cor 14:18-19 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.]. In the church tongues value is limited, their place is primarily in private prayer. Tongues is not just gabbling – there is coherent sense to God [prayer meetings, all praying in tongues, communicating to God privately – when those prayers were expressed in English we were all praying the same thing – why? The Holy Spirit was communicating through each, the Spirit brings unity, there was a sense to all those individual prayers. If we had each prayed in English there would have been all sorts of ideas and themes. But through tongues God brings unity, causing us to pray what is His ideas not what are ours. God has given us a mind and renews it, we are to use it, but we must not be limited to it, for God's ways and thoughts are beyond it – we need to pray with the mind but also with the Spirit.[1 Corinthians 14:14-16 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, (that is how your spirit prays, how you pray in the Spirit) but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit (that is in tongues) and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying?]. Both are necessary. Praying in tongues takes you beyond the confines of your own understanding: [praying in the Spirit in tongues (with Steve praying and deliverance)].
Summary: We don't know how to pray, we need the Helper, the Holy Spirit's help. To pray to God who is Spirit, we need to pray in the Sprit – this may be expressed in English, in the inarticulate groan/cry of the heart or with the heavenly language that Spirit gives. But to communicate with God we must pray in the Spirit – it is a Biblical command.