Praying in the Spirit
* See Stephanie’s bio at the end of this article.
If I pray in a different language, my spirit is praying . . . 1 Corinthians 14:14 ERV
The first truth we must consider when studying the subject of praying in a prayer language is whom we are speaking to. The Word provides a clear perspective: “For the person who speaks in another language is not speaking to men but to God” (1 Corinthians 14:2 HCSB).
Our prayer language is a direct line of communication to God. This is a tremendous truth that we should view with the same awe and honor we strive to give to Him in every other area of worship and prayer.
You may have heard people describe praying in a prayer language as “praying in tongues,” “praying in a heavenly language” or—as I’ll usually say in this book—“praying in the Spirit.” We know we’re praying “in the Spirit” when we pray in our prayer language because 1 Corinthians 14:2 continues by saying that the person who speaks in another language “speaks mysteries in the Spirit” (HCSB, emphasis added).
Another essential truth to realize about our new heavenly language is that it is a means for our spirit to pray. In other words, it is a way for the part of us that connects with God to speak out.
If I pray in a different language, my spirit is praying, but my mind does nothing. So what should I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind. . . . (1 Corinthians 14:14–15 ERV, emphasis added)
This verse explains that praying with our mind and praying with our spirit are different. You may have never thought about it this way before, but when we pray in our prayer language, our spirit prays. Using our prayer language allows our spirit to express itself like never before.
Jesus gave us a clue that He would give us access to this type of praying in one of His descriptions of the Holy Spirit.
The last day of the festival came. It was the most important day. On that day Jesus stood up and said loudly, “Whoever is thirsty may come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from their heart. That is what the Scriptures say.” Jesus was talking about the Spirit. The Spirit had not yet been given to people, because Jesus had not yet been raised to glory. But later, those who believed in Jesus would receive the Spirit. (John 7:37–39 ERV, emphasis added)
Praying with our spirit, from our heart, occurs when we pray in the language given to us when we received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Now don’t let the word language intimidate you. You may have prayed with what sounded like a language when you received this baptism. Or maybe your current prayer “language” sounds nothing like a language. Do not be concerned about that. Instead, remember that the Bible also describes the language of praying in the Spirit as groaning.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8:26 NLT, emphasis added)
Groaning does not sound like a language, but it is one way to describe praying in the Spirit. You may have experienced what sounds more like groans than a fluent language. The point is, we do not need to dissect the sounds coming from our spirit; we need to believe and understand that it is the Holy Spirit helping us to pray. The more your spirit prays in the language or sounds it has been given, the more fluent your language will become.
Another thing to notice in 1 Corinthians 14:14 is that when we pray with our spirit, our mind “does nothing.” This is a new experience for us. Our minds have always prayed until now. Our minds will not understand what we are praying in this new language. Your mind may even tell you that you are wasting your time because it is used to understanding what you are talking to God about.
Do not give in to the temptation to quit praying in the Spirit and go back to only praying with your mind. Remember that your spirit has not had a chance to pray like this before. Although it will feel different to have your mind do nothing, know that something great is happening while your spirit prays!
Charging Our Spirit
The person who speaks in another language builds himself up … 1 Corinthians 14:4 HCSB, emphasis added
But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit. Jude 1:20 WEB, emphasis added
These verses from 1 Corinthians and Jude tell us that we build ourselves up when we pray in the Spirit. In the last chapter, we learned that our spirit prays when we pray in this new language. Therefore, it is our spirit that is built up every time we pray in the Spirit.
We all know what it’s like to have devices that need to be charged. We have become dependent on these devices, especially our phones. We use them all day to conduct business, connect with others, and enjoy entertainment. Because our devices have become such a valuable resource in our daily lives, we have become intentional about keeping these devices charged. As useful as they are to us, they are of no use when they have not been charged—as we have all discovered at one time or another!
In a similar way, praying in the Spirit charges and builds up our spirits. This is one of the many benefits of our prayer language. It’s important that we take time to charge our spirits so that we can operate “fully charged.” Our phones die when they are not charged. Our spirits will not die, but we will not be empowered to the place of strength God has planned for us to be in if we do not take the time to charge ourselves up.
We need to charge our devices because we use them every day. We need to charge our spirits because we use our faith every day. The Bible says Christians live and walk by faith (see Galatians 3:11; 2 Corinthians 5:7). And notice that Jude 1:20 says we are building ourselves up in our “most holy faith.” Many times we begin to pray in the Spirit feeling like our faith is weak, but after we have spent time praying, our faith is strengthened and we are ready to use our faith! For example, if we are confused about a situation, we may be strengthened to the place of having peace. If we need direction, we may sense God’s leading. If we are discouraged, our faith may be strengthened to believe God’s promises are true.
Since praying in the Spirit is so vital to our spiritual edification, it’s no wonder that we often feel doubtful, weak, and empty spiritually when we haven’t taken the time to do it. We feel as if we are running on empty because we haven’t done our part to charge!
It’s exciting to think about what happens when we charge our spirits this way. You see, our spirits were born of God and created in Christ. So when we pray in the Spirit, our hearts plug into the One who created us. We are not of this world, so we must plug into the place we are from and where we were created—a place in the spirit realm called in Christ Jesus. When we take time to let our spirits charge, we can go back into the natural world equipped with power! (See 1 John 5:4; Ephesians 2:10; John 17:16; Acts 1:8.)
As mentioned in the previous chapter, our minds do nothing when our spirits pray in the Holy Spirit. You are not going to know what you are saying in your prayer language, but that’s okay. Just “charge.” Your time is never wasted when you disconnect from everything else and plug into the Spirit. You will build yourself up and be empowered to live for Christ!
Stephanie Trayers and her husband, Eddie Trayers, are the lead pastors of Summit Church, a thriving multicultural church in the Washington D.C., metropolitan area. Stephanie is an avid teacher, sharing with the Summit community the basics that bring everyday sustaining power for the follower of Jesus Christ. The following article is excerpted from her book, My Prayer Language.
My Prayer Language was written to be a resource for those who have recently received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
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