Praying in the Spirit

When Jesus is baptized, the heavens open, and a voice from heaven says, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.' At the same time, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. And the Bible says that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit.

August 8, 2022

Matthew 3: 13-17 (ESV) – Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

When Jesus is baptized, the heavens open, and a voice from heaven says, ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ At the same time, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus. And the Bible says that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s words are not just words of intellect and the mere knowledge that motivates us to get through life. God’s words are words of the Spirit, filled with life and peace. And only a spiritual mind can understand spiritual things.

When you hear God’s word, you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the body of Christ, most things have a lot of conspiracy around it. These are mysteries that can become a blessing for you. Since the devil does not want you to know the truth, he builds multiple doctrines and debates around those mysteries, which keeps us in confusion and causes division.

Acts 10: 44 (ESV) – While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

When you hear God’s word, the Holy Spirit fills you and teaches you the mysteries of God. It is possible that your mind will not comprehend it. So rather than trying to decode the word, remain with that Word.

Ephesians 1: 17-18 (ESV) – that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Paul prays for the eyes of your hearts enlightened to receive the word of God. As we stay with the word, the capacity of the mind expands to comprehend the spiritual mysteries. When one waits on the Lord with humility and expectation, God’s spirit will speak into their life.

Temptation in the Wilderness:

Luke 4: 1 (ESV) – And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness

Matthew 4: 1 (ESV) – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Unlike the popular thoughts, the Holy Spirit did not lead Jesus to book a stadium or conduct a conference to preach the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Holy Spirit led Him to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Many misinterpret it as Jesus being led into the wilderness for prayer and fasting. And because Jesus was on prayer and fasting, the devil came to tempt Him. This is not true.

Luke 4: 1-2 (ESV) – And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

The devil was not tempting Jesus because He was fasting. In fact, the spirit of God purposely and intentionally led Jesus into temptation so that Jesus could win the temptation that Adam lost. It is interesting to note that Adam ate the fruit in the garden and fell into temptation. However, Jesus was victorious in the wilderness even while he was fasting.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit for temptation, and He used prayer and fasting to go against the devil. Prayer and fasting is your greatest tool against the devil’s temptation.

Luke 4: 14 (ESV) – And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.

The fullness of the Holy Spirit leads one into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. But it is only after the temptation that they return with power. Many pray, saying, “Lord, do not lead me through the test.” But the one who goes through the test returns with power. God purposefully leads a believer through that test because He trusts them. Furthermore, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit empowers one to endure temptation. However, through prayer and fasting, one is sustained during the test period.

Why do you need prayer and fasting?

Prayer and fasting will help to reckon the body as dead to sin (Romans 6). When the body is craving food, it is impossible to think of anything else. Therefore, it is important to control the appetite.

Paul says, ‘reckon yourselves as dead to sin.’ Since the mind of the spirit is life and peace, and the mind of the flesh is death. When the body is fed by food, it assumes that food is the source of the supply of life. However, for man, the source of supply of life is God. The function of the Word for a believer is to experience spirit over their flesh. By fasting, the believer is training the body so that the Spirit of God that is within them can overwhelm and take over the desires of the flesh. Therefore, one must pray for the spirit of God to overflow and flood the heart, thoughts, and even the body.

Walking in the spirit is how one subdues the desires of the flesh. And for that, the ministry of the Spirit and the ministry of the Word are needed. The devil either deceives by lying or presents the extreme of one aspect of the truth. When presented with that extreme, one fails to see the whole picture. In the body of Christ, there are mainly two divisions: one who is in the extreme of the ministry of the spirit and another who is in the extreme of the ministry of the word. And they’re always in conflict.

The extremes of the two ministries:

When christians lack the ministry of the spirit they do not have a foundation. It’s the word of God that forms the foundation. They may experience the power of the Holy Spirit, but they neglect the ministry of the word. And when trouble comes, because there is no foundation in the word, they are like that house that is built on sand. The extreme side of the ministry of the word is that it puffs one up with pride and they become arrogant. They will have nothing to show in their life- no experience, no testimony or witnesses. They may know the Word and a lot of scriptures, but that’s it.

A mature Christian requires both because it is the combination that will keeps one humble. When one is reading the Scripture, they are filled with the Holy Spirit. And as they are praying and speaking in tongues, God responds by taking them back to the scriptures. It’s all interconnected. Prayer should lead one back into the scriptures, and scriptures should lead them back into prayer. In this cyclic process of transformation, the person gives absolute permission to the Holy Spirit to work in them by overwhelming them and renewing their minds.

Luke 4: 16-21 (ESV) – And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that gives a Christian the audacity to be bold. Paul preached to the Jews, gentiles, and Kings, and the boldness that he carried was not natural. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Though John never did any miracles, Jesus talks about John the Baptist as the greatest man born. Everyone recognised him as somebody with Elijah’s spirit because of his boldness. Boldness is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Through the personality and character, in the things that have been bestowed upon them as responsibility, a Christian must demonstrate God’s power. Many Christians fail to recognise that their workplace is their ministry ground. As they hear the word of God and minister to the people at their workplace, they must pray for God to open their colleagues’ hearts to receive the message. It is through prayer that the eyes of unbelief are enlightened. The prince of this world has blinded the hearts and eyes of people from receiving the light. So even if light falls on it, until the eyes are not open, they can’t see. The role of prayer is to open the eyes, and Word brings in the light.

What do you have?

A widow reached out to Elisha for her husband’s debt. And Elisha asked her, ‘What you do have?’ Similarly, Jesus asks the same when fed the 5000. This illustrates that the answer is right within reach of the seeker. One does not have to go to some mountain or take a pilgrimage to get it. Every answer that one requires to lead a Godly life is spoken to the person through the scriptures. Thus, it’s absolutely fine when you struggle to understand the Bible. However, as you spend more time in prayer, the Word will unravel the mysteries of the Lord. These are not words of intellect but words of the Spirit.

Praying in Tongues:

1 Corinthians 14: 2 (ESV) – For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

The best part about speaking in tongues is that only God knows what you’re speaking. Neither can devil hinder your prayers, nor can your flesh hinder your prayers. Therefore, it’s a good thing. Because if we knew what we were praying for, we probably will stand in our own way of blessing.

1 Corinthians 14: 14 (ESV) – For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.

One of the challenges of speaking in tongues is that we feel that we are not being productive because our mind is not engaging. But it’s not unfruitful in the realm of the Spirit. To engage your mind as you speak in tongues, here is a practical advice: While praying in tongues, take a scripture portion and start meditating on it. So your mind is engaged in scripture while your spirit speaks in tongues. In your daily devotion, read a passage from the Bible and read it a couple of times. As you are reading, there will be a particular portion or a passage that the Holy Spirit will put light on. And the moment it happens, you take that passage and start meditating on it. And as you’re meditating in your mind, start speaking in tongues. This is exactly when the Word will unravel unto you.

The Order of Prayer:

1 Corinthians 14: 4 (ESV) – The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

When you stand at the pulpit in a gathering, you need to use a language that is understood by everyone, thus bringing order in the church. The one who prophesies builds up the church. So if you speak in tongues and there is someone new, they may not understand what you are speaking. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this verse does not forbid you to speak in tongues.

1 Corinthians 14: 39 (ESV) – So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

In your private life, you should spend most of the time speaking in tongues. And if you don’t have the gift of tongues, earnestly desire for it. The only criteria for you to receive the gift of tongues is humility. If you humbly ask God, God is more than willing to give to you. The problem is that we spend more time praying in public than in private. When you spend time privately with God speaking in tongues, you build yourself up. You identify yourself.

Illustration of a baby’s food stages:

When a baby is born, you don’t feed meat to the baby because the digestive system cannot handle solid food. You start with feeding them milk. Then as the baby grows, the child starts eating solid food. If you want to eat the solid food of Word, you need to build yourself. Some of us have gone to church, but we are still babies in the spirit because we haven’t built our spiritual inner man.

Build yourself prayer by prayer.

You build your capacity so that when God’s revelation comes, you see it in multiple dimensions. That’s how the same Word can have different impacts on you. When God speaks to you, he uses vocabulary. But if you don’t understand the vocabulary in itself, you need to go back to the basics to develop your vocabulary to understand what He is saying. Every kind of revelation requires a specific kind of maturity to discern and receive it. Without maturity, you’ll only be left with intellectual knowledge. You have to pray for the revelation to become alive in your life.

The Parable of the Sower:

When you recall the parable of the sower, in which Jesus talks about the seed and the soil. The seed is the word of God, and the soil is our heart. It is the nature of the seed to bring forth fruit. It is an automatic process. However, the harvest depends on the condition of the heart. It is by prayer that you can change the condition of the heart. So if you realise that your listening to God’s word and reading the Bible is not bringing the same results, your soil (heart) needs to change. And the change will only come when you allow the Holy Spirit to transform you through prayer. Prayer is permitting the Holy Spirit to change you. As you allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart, you build your faith. You build your capacity. You may hear the same Word every Sunday, but you will receive different dimensions.

Edification and Sanctification

Speaking in tongues edifies you. Simultaneously, speaking in tongues sanctifies you. Sanctification refers to purification. Our hearts are filled with so much junk from envy and malice. So every time we pray to the Lord, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. There’s purification happening. But before that purification happens, sanctification sets us apart.

Illustration of falling in a ditch:

Imagine you fell into a ditch. Before you start cleaning yourself, you need to get out of the ditch. If you just clean up staying in the ditch, nothing is going to happen. Similarly, when you start praying in tongues, you allow the Holy Spirit, who first sets you apart, and then He starts cleaning you.

2 Corinthians 5: 17 (ESV) – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

We believe that we are a new creation, but we don’t experience it. It is by praying that you start experiencing the reality of being a new creation. So that the real reality that is deposited right within you, which is within your grasp, starts overflowing, and you start experiencing it. It’s the word of God, which acts like a mirror, that tells you of your reality. Look at the word of God. That’s your reality. Jesus is the prototype. Jesus is the word. As much as Jesus came to reveal the Father, He also came to reveal what it means to be a human. So the word of God reveals who you are, but it is through prayer that you experience your reality. If you only meditate on God’s word without prayer, it’s just going to puff you up. But if your meditation of the scriptures is combined with prayer, then you will have testimonies. The Bible says testimonies are a spirit of prophecy. Every time you testify and somebody celebrates with you, the same spirit that worked in you will start working in their life.

Let the Word become your reality.

Romans 8: 26 (ESV) – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

The Bible says we do not know what to pray for. So let’s not argue with the Bible. That’s a weakness, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Even the Holy Spirit is not using words to pray. Many wonder that it is their eloquent words that melt God’s heart. But it is the Holy Spirit who is praying with the groanings, which are too deep for words. It takes faith to pray in tongues.

Illustration of a Baby crying:

When a baby is crying, the mother knows what it is. The cry of the baby is the same, but the mother recognizes what the baby wants. She knows the difference. Similarly, when you pray in tongues, you may feel like you are saying the same words and syllables, but they are bringing different results. It’s the same electricity that powers the appliances, but they bring different results. Based on the circumstances that you are going through, the Holy Spirit will direct the power of God in those areas.

You have to trust the Holy Spirit to make better prayers on behalf of you. Holy Spirit is interceding for you, but the control is in your hands. He will not use your tongue to pray. You pray because the Holy Spirit is praying for you.

Romans 8: 27 (ESV) – And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God. We may be praying for little things, but He has greater things for us. So when we surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit, He prays according to God’s will. Every time you take the step of faith and align yourself with what the Holy Spirit is speaking, you begin to experience the reality that is already within you.

About the author

Samuel Thomas

Samuel is a second-generation pastor with a rich heritage in the Holy Spirit. He has been the pastor of Lighthouse Church since 2017 with a two-word mission statement: transforming lives. Samuel's priority in life has been to know Christ and to grow deeper in His love.

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