Thursday, July 19, 2012
How Should We Pray?
Outside of my home church, I have a circle of friends who don't share my faith. But when we're together, they request me to pray for the food or for someone sick.
“How you pray is something I hope I can do, too,” my friend B told me after one prayer, “but I can't compose it the way you can.”
“I don't know how to pray, period,” added M. “I have thoughts, but not the right words—like Grace has.”
Uh-oh. If my friends think I have the right words and say well-composed prayers, then I have not been praying the way I should—not when I pray aloud anyway.
I have been taught and I have always known that praying is not having the right words, phraseology, or syntax. Prayers need not be eloquent and well-composed; they should come from the heart.
How then should we pray?
There are many answers in the Scriptures. Let me quote those that are closest to my understanding:
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:20)
“. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 26-27)
We all really do not know what we ought to pray for. But the Spirit helps us, keeps our hearts and minds in tune with the will of God.
So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
When Jesus went back to heaven, He left His Spirit in every believer's heart. Therefore, praying in the spirit refers not to a particular method of praying—but to a total attitude. Prayer is not an adjunct to our lives; it's fundamental in our relationship with God’s word, God’s Spirit, God’s gift of faith.
Unlike a hotline that is used only when there's an emergency, prayer should be on 24/7, waiting to hear from God's spirit at all times. It’s an open line to God.
Praying in the Spirit is being so in touch with God that you pray what God puts in your heart. Prayer is not about getting things from the Giver; it’s about aligning ourselves with His will. So when the answer comes, whatever if may be, we are ready to accept it.
My friend Ernie said it best, “Praying in the spirit means you are so focused on God that the only thing that matters is what matters to Him.”
In Gethsemane, before He was arrested and made to suffer on the cross, Jesus pleaded to God, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
When we pray in the spirit, we don't worry about our words, our syntax, or whatever else we worry about when we lead in a group, because the Spirit will lead us if we allow Him to. And then we experience the presence of God in a powerful way.
Praying in the Spirit, in sum, is letting God lead in our prayers at all times.
Lord, by Your grace, may our every prayer be led by the Your Spirit.