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Fervent Prayer and Praying in the Spirit

Dave Black provides an extract from his forthcoming book on the Seven Marks of a New Testament Church. In it, he refers to praying in the Spirit, noting that some exegetes say this refers to praying in tongues. He doesn’t deny that possibility but says it is broader than that.

While I believe that praying in tongues is praying in the Spirit, “praying in the Spirit” is not a category of prayer, in that one might pray “in” and “out” of the Spirit in some way. Rather, it describes something that should be a characteristic of all prayer. There are those who elevate or diminish praying in tongues. On the one hand nobody, even the person praying, necessarily knows what a prayer in tongues is about. Is it not better that people hear the prayer? On the other hand, prayer in the Spirit is most definitely not under the conscious control of the one praying. Is it not better to be fully under the control of the Spirit of God?

Actually prayer, and any spiritual discipline can be verbal or non-verbal. I find I hear most from the Lord when I’m reading Scripture. But often it is not the words, or at least not consciously the words, that bring peace or direction. Sometimes I just study and come to some decision or other that I needed to. Sometimes I merely feel my anxiety relieved, even though I may not have been reading. This morning I was helped to a place of peace (I was worrying about something I had no business worrying about) while reading Leviticus 23 in Hebrew. I cannot think of anything in that text that related to my situation.

I would suggest that bringing the words of one’s prayer, when those words are spoken aloud and consciously, under the power of the Spirit is more difficult. It is definitely worth doing. But you won’t do it yourself. You can only hope and wait for the Holy Spirit to do it. And obey when He does!

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  1. Is it not better that people hear the prayer?

    Surely what matters is that God hears the prayer. Now if the prayer happens to be in a public meeting, and is intended as leading others in prayer, then indeed it is good that those others hear and understand the prayer – as Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 14. But that is, or should be, a rather specialized category of prayer. Yet you seem to write as if this is true of all prayer. But, surely, most prayer is for an audience of One, which in most circumstances invalidates your argument against tongues.

  2. I don’t disagree, Peter. I was kind of rehashing conversations I’ve had, with the “shouldn’t people be able to understand?” “shouldn’t it be under the spirit’s control?” So no, I don’t think that should apply to all prayer.

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