The Holy Spirit of God (sometimes called the Holy Ghost because of the King James translation) powerfully helps us when we pray. Jesus also called the Holy Spirit the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth. He taught His disciples that the Comforter would abide with them forever (see John 14:16). The Holy Spirit’s continuous presence in our lives enables us to “live in the Spirit” as well as to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).
Living in the Spirit is accomplished by continually feeding on God’s Word, by learning to know God in a personal and intimate way, and by patterning our lives after all of His instructions. Living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit are synonymous terms indicating that one has made himself subject to all of God’s will and way in his life. It means that whatever God tells me to do I will do. It means that pleasing Him is the very first consideration of my life. It means that I am seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in my life, I am depending on His help in my life, and I want Him to direct my life.
One of the ways the Holy Spirit operates in the prayer life of a believer is indicated in Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
“The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.” He does this because we often don’t know how we should pray about specific situations. Our understanding of what is needed and what is in God’s perfect plan may be incomplete. It is at such times that the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us.
“With groanings which cannot be uttered.” Often as we pray we are so concerned or burdened with the awareness of a need that our hearts cry out to God with intensity inexpressible by words themselves. The Holy Spirit within us interprets those “groanings,” those inarticulate cryings, into words that are understood by God.
We also see the Spirit’s help in Ephesians 6:18: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” “Praying always” means tuning our hearts to God with every heartbeat; every breath is another contact with our Father. Though we will have special times of prayer, praying should become so much a part of us that we will often breathe a prayer without even thinking. The Holy Spirit, ministering to our spirits, makes this possible.
“With all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Casual praying is not effective praying. Prayer is a mighty force. Prayer is capable of changing men and nations. This means that one’s prayers must be serious and intense if they are to achieve their intended purpose. Again, the Spirit helps us to pray in this manner.
Times of prayer become especially meaningful, more victorious, and more effective when our praying is done in cooperation with the indwelling Spirit of God. When we learn to do this, praying becomes a natural part of our existence and as much a part of our daily living as eating or sleeping.
Why Should We Pray in the Spirit?
Genuine prayer must come from the spirit of a man, not just from his mind. Your mind consists of your thinking and feeling capacity, and of your decision-making capacity, your will. All of these parts make up your soul and are under sin until you are born again, at which time your spirit comes alive. When your human spirit comes alive, then God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit) can become the King and Controller of your mind, your emotions, and your will. This is where prayer comes in.
Your praying begins with your spirit, then flows into your mind to direct it through your emotions into your will. Thus, prayer influences your total soulish nature. This is one reason why prayer is so important to the individual who is doing the praying.
When you are born again and learn to live in the Spirit, it means that the indwelling Spirit of God has access through your regenerated human spirit into your mind and will, thus affecting your entire being. Praying in the Spirit, then, indicates that the words that flow from your lips come from your Spirit-dominated and Spirit-directed human spirit, and not entirely from your mind.
So you can see the importance of learning to pray in the Spirit. Since you are praying as directed by the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:26), you are hooked into the source of all power, the almighty God Himself.
When the spirit and the soul are under the control of the Holy Spirit, the body will also come into line. This means that the body’s five senses will act in accordance with the desires of the Holy Spirit of God.
This results in victorious living, which, in turn, results in victorious, powerfully effective praying. When one reaches this place in his spiritual growth, his feet will go where the Spirit directs; his hands will do what the Spirit desires; and his lips will speak only words that will glorify the living God.
Prayer by the Spirit Conforms to the Bible
God’s Word is our guideline, our plumb line. If we always conform to the Word of God, we will never go astray. Error and the cults begin when someone deviates from the clear teaching of the Word of God and says, “God told me something different. He has given me a special revelation.” Or, instead of basing his theology, thinking, and actions upon the Word, he says, “I think this, or that.”
God’s Word is always right and we must line up our lives with it. It doesn’t matter what a man may teach. If his teaching is in opposition to God’s Word, the man is wrong, not the Bible. If a church or denomination teaches something contrary to the eternal Word of God, it is in error, not the Bible.
This illustrates the importance of praying in the Spirit. If we are in alignment with God’s Word, our praying through and by the Spirit of God will be clear and accurate, powerful and effective. You can absolutely count on this truth: God’s Word and the Spirit of God will always be in harmony—always. They will never disagree with each other, because the Word of God and the Spirit of God are one. They flow together and are inseparable. The Holy Spirit is described in John 14:17 as “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
The two are instruments of love and blessing and power. So when we pray in the Spirit, we pray in the Word of God and by the Word of God and fulfill the Word of God.
Someone recently asked me, “Tell me, how do you judge some new doctrine?”
I said, “It’s very simple. You lay it alongside the Word of God and judge it by the whole Bible—not by a verse, but by the entire Bible. If it is rightly related in harmony with the Bible, it’s all right, and the Spirit will confirm that fact with your spirit. But if it happens to be somebody’s private interpretation, or someone’s personal revelation, it will be in disagreement with the Bible at some point. That means it’s in error, and the Holy Spirit will make that plain to you. So don’t follow it!”
If someone says to me, “If you don’t accept my revelation, you are going against God,” I don’t accept that either.
But I do accept the Word of God—all of it. That’s number one. And praying in the Spirit is an integral part of the Word of God, so I accept it, because praying in the Spirit always glorifies God. Always.
Why should we pray in the Spirit? “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). There’s the answer. We need information about how to pray, but we can know it only through the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is the divine Carrier of God’s very thinking. When we know God’s thoughts about a subject—particularly about His will for our lives—then we can joyfully, expectantly, happily live and grow in our oneness with Him. We can pray for others with a knowledge we never possessed before.
My friend, if you have never experienced the release, the knowing, the power, the tremendous peace that comes in relating to the Holy Spirit in prayer, I urge you to open yourself up to Him and ask Him to take over your life and your prayer life. When you do so, you will wonder how you ever managed to get along before.