How to Pray in the Spirit
Romans 8:26Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Do you feel like a successful warrior on the battlefield of prayer? Or do you feel somehow inadequate? Most of us would confess, “I need help in this area.”
Help. The Helper. This is one of the names of the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter. He is the paraclete (in Greek), the “one who comes alongside to assist” God’s child. He is essential in our prayer life!
The Holy Spirit of God will help you in your prayer life. As we “dig deeper” in this month’s study, we’ll see the necessity not only to be saved, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
We’re in a battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil, three enemies who don’t want us to pray.
- Some of us are indifferent—we’re “ho-hum” about prayer.
- Some don’t know what to pray for or how to articulate our prayers.
- And sometimes when we try to pray, the devil invades our thoughts to divert our attention.
Prayer is our greatest Christian privilege, but we fail more in our prayer life than any other place. God knows this, so He has given us Someone to help us in our prayer life—and that Someone is the Holy Spirit.
1. Turn in your Bible to Romans 8:26-27:
Fill in some key words.
Likewise the ______________ also helps in our ___________________. For we do not _________ what we should pray for as we ought, but the ____________ ______________ makes ____________________ for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts ___________ what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes _________________for the _____________ according to the _________ of ______.
2. Turn to Ephesians 6:18:
The apostle Paul admonishes the church at Ephesus to be praying “___________ with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.”
He doesn’t mean “spirited praying.” He’s not talking about praying with energy, like “Got get’em, that’s the spirit!” He’s talking about in the Spirit… the Holy Spirit.
This passage reminds us of that classic verse about prayer, Jude verse 20:
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.”
To pray in the flesh (the old nature) is to fail. To pray in the Spirit is to succeed. The early church accomplished what it did because it advanced on its knees, mighty in power because they were mighty in prayer.
How do we pray in the Spirit? How does our Helper help us?
The Holy Spirit Activates Our Will to Pray
Sometimes we don’t want to pray because our flesh doesn’t like it.
3. Turn now to Romans 8:5-7.
“5For they that are after the __________,” that is, the old Adamic nature, “do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the __________, the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded” (fleshly minded) “is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
4. Do you wonder sometimes why you don’t want to pray? Look in verse 7 and write how this works out in your own life.
| A CLOSER LOOK AT WHY WE DON’T PRAY
We might as well admit it: when we don’t pray, it’s because we don’t want to pray. Why is it we don’t want to pray? Because the flesh doesn’t like it. When we don’t want to pray, what does that tell us? That we’re carnally minded rather than spiritually minded. The carnal mind has no more desire to pray than your dog has to watch opera.
There’s something in us, in our flesh (our old nature), that not only doesn’t want to pray, it has an antipathy toward prayer. We need to stop trying to cover it up and admit that the reason we don’t pray when we don’t pray is we don’t want to pray. And the reason we don’t want to pray is we’re in the flesh rather than the Spirit. If you get Spirit-filled, you’ll have to backslide to keep from praying. The Holy Spirit will activate your will in prayer. The Holy Spirit will help you.
For the Spirit-filled person it becomes so natural to say, “Abba Father,” to worship and praise Him. When the Holy Spirit is in you and you’re yielded to the Spirit, not walking in the flesh, it is as normal as breathing to pray. This is the answer to the problem of a lack of appetite for prayer. The Holy Spirit activates our will in prayer. We’re not just taking ourselves by the nape of the neck and making ourselves pray as a discipline—though indeed if it takes that, we ought to do it.
5. We’re never on our own for this, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Turn to Philippians 2:13.
“For it is ______ that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
Who is doing the “work” here? ____________.
When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you’ll want to pray. So if you don’t have a desire to pray, admit it. The carnal mind is enmity with God. The first ministry of the Holy Spirit is to aid you in praying in the Spirit. How does this happen? He is the “Spirit of Adoption.”
6. You are already in Romans 8. Look at verse 15:
“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear” (we’re no longer slaves), “but you have received the Spirit of _______________.”
The Spirit of adoption is the Holy Spirit, who puts us in God’s family. When you receive the Spirit of adoption, God becomes your Father. And then what happens? “Whereby we cry, Abba, ______________.” (end of v. 15)
7. Another verse says exactly the same thing, just in another place, Galatians 4:6.
“And because you are _______, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying ________, ____________.”
| A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION AND OUR ABBA FATHER
When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit in you recognizes God as your Father, and it is the natural thing for the Spirit-filled person to say, “Father, Abba Father”—to worship Him and praise Him. Did Jesus love to pray? Yes. Was it natural for Jesus to pray? Yes. Who is the Holy Spirit? The Spirit of God’s Son. If the Holy Spirit is in your heart and in control of your life, then what will happen? You will have the nature of Jesus. You will be like Jesus. Just as it was normal and natural for Jesus to pray to God the Father and say “Abba, Father,” it will be normal and natural for you. You will want to pray.
If the Holy Spirit is in control of your life, you will be like Him. When you are yielded to the Spirit, it is as normal as breathing.
The Holy Spirit Animates Our Bodies
When you pray, do you get sleepy, groggy, can’t concentrate? Your mind goes out the door and around the world? The devil teams up with our flesh to keep us from praying. Our flesh is weak. We need help. When you come to the end of your strength and appropriate His strength, what happens?
8. Romans 8:11:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also _________________ your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
The Holy Spirit refreshes your body to give vitality and energy to do the will of God (v. 26). I know that from personal experience.
9. Do you remember what happened with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane? Turn back to Matthew 26:40-41. Jesus had asked His disciples to watch and pray.
“And He cometh unto the disciples, and…”
What did Jesus find? _____________________________________________________
The reason they were asleep at such a crucial time is that they were in the flesh, not in the Spirit. In times when my mind wanders and I get groggy and distracted, I know from personal experience that when I yield myself to the Holy Spirit, I get energized.
The Holy Spirit is willing to help you to pray in these times. He will refresh our bodies. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (weaknesses).”
10. We should accept and confess our weakness. Don’t deny it. First, it’s a fact. The Bible declares our weakness, our infirmity. Second, it’s an asset. You say, “No, my weakness is a liability.” No! Your weakness is an asset.
Turn to 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee; for My ______________ is made perfect in _______________.’”
What did God tell the apostle Paul about weakness? ____________________________
When you come to the end of your strength, if you will appropriate His strength, you’ll understand how He will not only activate your will, but He will animate your body. Our God’s plan is to deliver us from self-sufficiency and cast ourselves upon His sufficiency. He makes us perpetually weak that we might be perpetually strong.
The Holy Spirit Adapts Our Requests
When you’re praying in the Spirit, who is praying? You or the Holy Spirit in you? The answer is yes. The Holy Spirit is praying together with you.
- You cannot do it without Him.
- He will not do it without you.
He wants to think through our minds, speak through our lips, and weep through our eyes. What a partnership! What a privilege to pray with the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we just don’t know what to pray for as we ought.
“Likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” (Romans 8:26)
But look back at verse 14:
“But as many as are ______ by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
We don’t know what to ask for, but the Holy Spirit knows, and He adapts our prayers.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO
Some things we all know we should pray for: our families, our pastor, our government and leaders. But there are many things I don’t know whether I ought to pray for or not. And we can’t pray for everything. If we tried to pray for everything, we’d end up not praying for anything. Prayer, rather than being a mighty river, would become a stagnant swamp! In order for prayer to be effective, it must be elective!
But even when we know what to pray for, sometimes we don’t know what to pray specifically.
When the apostle Paul was still the unsaved “Saul,” making havoc, he was the persecutor of the church. He was having Christians put to death. I imagine the early church said, “That man is the arch enemy of the church. God, strike him dead!” But God didn’t strike him dead; God struck him alive. God made him the great apostle Paul.
We don’t know what to pray for sometimes as we ought. But the Holy Spirit is active in the adaptation of our requests saying, “Here is what your child is asking for. But here’s what he needs.”
The Holy Spirit in prayer becomes like the transformer up on the electric wires near your house, transforming the voltage into what you need inside. The Holy Spirit is that transformer. He takes our prayers, and God sees our heart, and sometimes we know not what we should ask for as we ought, “but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.”
Just pray! God knows your heart. Pray with a clean heart. Pray with a right spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the one who will adapt your prayers.
11. Romans 8:27:
“And He that searcheth the hearts,” (Who is that? _________) “knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,” of course He does, “because He,” the Spirit, “maketh intercession for the saints according to (what?) _____ ______ ____ _______.”
The Holy Spirit knows what we need. I may not always get what I ask for, but that doesn’t mean my prayer is not answered. If God doesn’t give you what you asked for, He’ll give you something better than you asked, when you’re praying in the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Gives Us Access to the Father
12. Who brings us into God’s presence? Turn to Ephesians 2:18.
For through Him we both have access by _____ __________ to the Father.
The Holy Spirit brings you into God’s presence.
Have you ever felt like God is a billion light years away; you’re just praying at God rather than to God? When you’re in the Spirit, God is in you, and you’re praying in the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not simply sending prayer missiles to Heaven; it is talking with a friend.
The Holy Spirit Articulates Our Words
Lastly, the Holy Spirit undertakes when we have no words.
Words are just trucks to carry thoughts. Sometimes the thought is too heavy for any truck. There are things that are so deep, so big, so heavy, so imponderable that we don’t know how to put them into words. That’s when we need to be praying in the Spirit.
Still “Digging Deeper” in our original passage, Romans 8:26-27, note that
“But the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
That means sighs that are too deep for words.
13. Who is doing the groaning/sighing here? ______________________
The Holy Spirit merges with our human spirit.
14. In verses 26 and 27, there is one thing that God says twice. What is it that He wants to be sure we do not miss? _______________________________________ __________________________________________________
A CLOSER LOOK AT “GROANINGS”
When you pray, the Holy Spirit enters into that agony. And as Jesus wept in Gethsemane, in your darkest, deepest hours, the Holy Spirit of God merges with your spirit in wordless prayer, “groanings too deep to be uttered.” If you’ve never been there, you don’t know anything about prayer. But the time will come when you’ll get there. You won’t know what to do. You won’t know what to say. But the dear Holy Spirit will blend with your spirit and will help you. God knows what it means, even when you can’t put it into words.
14. Refer to question 11 again. When the Holy Spirit makes intercession, what is it according to? __________________________________________
What is the will of God? One of the most glorious verses in all the Bible resides right next door, Romans 8:28.
If you have not memorized it, today would be a good time to do so.
Write out that verse here:
15. Look at the next verse, 29. What is God doing in your life? What is the goal? ____________________________________________________________
Sometimes you pray and you weep, you ask, and it seems like nothing is happening. You think, “God didn’t hear my prayer.” Yes, He did. God is working all things together for good.
KEY POINTS TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS STUDY:
- God’s plan for you is not to make you healthy and wealthy and happy. God’s plan is to make you holy and to make you like the Lord Jesus, to be conformed to the image of His Son.
- You may be asking for one thing, but the Holy Spirit is giving another to make you more and more like Jesus. That’s what it’s all about.
- Prayer is not making God a heavenly bellhop to wait on you and give you your whims. Prayer is God’s plan to make you like Jesus.
- The devil doesn’t want you to pray. The devil will do all that he can do to keep you from praying. All of the artillery of Hell is leveled against you when you pray. Why? Because if you pray, you can beat him every time.
- If you pray in the flesh, you’re no match for Satan. But when you pray in the Spirit, “if God be for you, who can be against you?”
- You have a Father to pray to. You have a Savior to pray through. You have a Spirit to pray in. Let’s be about our Father’s business, praying in the Spirit.