This is the second post in a series on Fighting the Spiritual Battle in Prayer. The following posts will share three characteristics of warfare prayer. This post shares the first: Prayer in the Spirit.
“…Praying at all times in the spirit.” (Ephesians 6:18)
If the spiritual battle is against spiritual enemies, we need help from God’s Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (emphasis mine). The power comes from God and not from ourselves.
What then is prayer in the Spirit? The Bible doesn’t give us an exact definition. I used to think that it was something complicated like a spiritual rubrics cube—if I can only get my spiritual life and prayers to be a certain way, then I’ll pray in the Spirit with special power. Now I think that prayer in the Spirit is actually a lot simpler.
I like the definition of theologian J.I. Packer:
“Prayer in the Spirit is prayer from the heart, springing from awareness of God, of self, of others, of needs, and of Christ. Whether it comes forth verbalized, as in the prayers and praises recorded in Scripture, or unverbalized… is immaterial…He (or she) whose heart seeks God through Christ prays in the Spirit.”
If we agree with Packer’s definition, we don’t need to worry so much if we’re praying in the Spirit or not, as if a special indicator light would flash when we finally connect with the Spirit of God in prayer. We only need to pray, trust that God hears us, and alight our hearts with His purposes in Christ. Sometimes we will sense the Spirit’s help and presence, other times no. What’s most important is that we dedicate ourselves to God in prayer.
I have two applications for this point, the first is especially relevant for those who desire to be prayer warriors.
1. We need to bring our swords into battle. Our sword, of course, is what Ephesians 6:17 says: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. If you want to pray in the Spirit, you need to use the sword of the Spirit in prayer.
Know your Bible and pray the Bible. More specifically, pray the prayers of the Bible. Paul, the writer of Ephesians, is a great mentor in prayer. I recommend that you study and pray the two spirit-inspired prayers Paul included in Ephesians: Ephesians 1:15–23 and 3:14-21. Paul basically prayed for the Ephesians to have a deeper understanding and experience of the Gospel—something we all need in increasing measure. Also, study the Psalms and how they communicate with God about the good the bad and the ugly of life.
2. Give time to prayer. Many of us want to pray in the Spirit but we don’t take enough time in prayer to do it.
Sometimes in the mornings, I pray for a little bit and then I realize that my mind has been somewhere else most of the time in prayer. Other times our small group might spend so much time talking that we don’t take time to cry out to the Lord together in prayer.
Many times when we start to pray, we aren’t praying in the Spirit. More time would allow us to focus ourselves and in faith respond to the Word of God in prayer, and as we do that the Spirit will help us more and more.
The Puritans used to say we need to pray until we pray—meaning that we can stop praying before the Spirit begins to help us.
We need time to start the motor of prayer to connect with God and pray in His Spirit. When the motor is running, we will see that God will help us with His Spirit to pray for things that we never would have prayed for without His help. This isn’t some mechanical formula to say ‘just spend 15 minutes in prayer and then the Spirit will come’—no, it doesn’t work like that. But we do need to work hard in prayer and take time seeking the face of our God.
If you believe in Christ, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you and is always ready to help you to pray.
Will you pray accordingly?