Saturday, July 30, 2005

How Praying in the Spirit Helps Me

This is a response to someone who asked about speaking mysteries in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:22). See Downloading in the Spirit.
Jeff, I'm guessing that you have experienced this downloading of something from God that is ministering to your inner man. Can you please give me an example of this in your life? What do think this “something” is that is going on in the spirit that the mind cannot understand? It seems rather pointless to have something going on within me that I don't understand and is therefore useless to my spiritual growth. Do you speak in tongues? If so, what languages do you speak in?
Dear Stan,

Yes, I believe I have experienced the downloading of things from God which minister to my spirit. For example, whenever I go to preach or teach or lead worship, I spend some time praying in the Spirit. Since I have started doing this, I have found that my ministry time has been much more empowered and effective, with a much greater clarity.

I also pray in the Spirit when I need to make a decision about something, or need the answer to a problem. I often find that, immediately afterwards, the guidance or answer I am seeking from God shows up.

If it seems pointless to have something going in me that my mind does not understand, that is probably because my mind always wants to be in charge. But my mind was not made for that. The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Notice that it does not say, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart AND lean on your own understanding.”

The mind was never meant to be the boss. On the day Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, man died spiritually and the soul lost its connection with God. In that vacuum, the mind just assumed control.

There is nothing illogical about my spirit being edified by things my mind does not understand. There are also plenty of things that go on in my body that my mind does not understand (and medical science still has much to discover about it, as well), but the physical function of my body proceeds merrily along anyway. For example, my breathing is an involuntary process, not something I regulate by my thoughts.

My mind is not my spirit, nor is it the master of my spirit—it is the servant of my spirit. My mind functioned before I ever experienced the new birth, the spiritual birth from above by the Spirit of God. But I am not a mind, I am spirit, and I have a mind.

So what is the “something” that is going on in my spirit that my mind does not understand? I think there are a number of things that happen through praying in tongues.

1. Wisdom and revelation. Paul prayed in Ephesians that God would give his readers the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17). Paul was a very articulate communicator, but he wasn’t asking for better skills at preaching and teaching, or to make him more cogent or coherent in his letters. I think he realized early on that his communication would not mean a thing unless the Holy Spirit was ministering it to the heart. Now, I don’t think Paul necessarily had speaking in tongues in mind when he prayed this prayer. But I do think that speaking in tongues is a powerful way for this to happen.

2. Intimate fellowship with God. That was the purpose Paul prayed that prayer in Ephesians in the first place. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:11). But that does not mean we cannot experience them. In Isaiah 55, we see that He sent the revelation of His Word. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, we see the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit bringing forth the deep things of God:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of ma the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. BUT God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
When we pray in the Spirit, we are not limited by our own understanding because the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

3. Unhindered worship. When we pray in the Spirit, we give thanks to God well (1 Corinthians 14:17). Worship is a spiritual activity, that is, a Holy Spirit directed activity. No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

In Acts 2, speaking in tongues was worship, for the people declared, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Peter’s evangelistic sermon was apparently in his own language, not speaking in tongues.

4. Effective prayer. Paul said that the Spirit helps us because we do not know what or how we should pray (Romans 8:26). “But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Now, whether one wishes to take “groanings that cannot be uttered” in an absolute sense or simply understood as things which cannot be articulated by our own words, the point remains that in 1 Corinthians, praying in tongues was an activity involving the Holy Spirit.

When we pray in the Spirit, our prayers are focused because the Holy Spirit is not distracted. They are pure because the Holy Spirit has pure motives. They are effective and powerful because the Holy Spirit knows exactly what to pray.

By this time, you probably realize that, Yes, I do speak in tongues. But I don’t know what languages I pray in. There are so many known languages and dialects in the world (and that’s not counting the languages of angels) that I would not even know where to begin to try to figure out which ones I am speaking. Fortunately, identifying languages is not a Biblical prerequisite for speaking in tongues.

The Lord bless you in all things.

(See also Benefits of Praying in the Spirit.)