Sunday, October 31, 2010

Praying In the Spirit

We are here to continue our discussion on the whole Armour of God. Please give us your opinion. We appreciate it.

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“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication”Ephesians 6:18

Romans 8:18-30: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. NKJV

The Apostle comes here to his last statement with respect to what we as God’s people have to do in this matter of our conflict and struggle against the devil and the principalities and powers against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against the spiritual wickedness in high or in heavenly places.

Our blessed Lord Jesus Himself when he was here in the flesh was engaged in the same conflict. The Bible says that He was “tempted in all points like as we are”. The devil assailed Him, and all these powers were used against Him. And the very fact that we are Christians means that we are inevitably involved in this fight and conflict. Many people begin the Christian life with the notion that now we are Christians all our problems and difficulties are finished. Nothing can be more fatal and nothing is farther from the truth. It all stems from wrong teaching. The New Testament gives the impression that because we are Christians we must expect attacks upon us in a way that we had never known before. But, thank God, we are not only told that we have to wrestle and fight in this way, we are also told how we can be enabled to do so successfully.

What is the meaning of this further and final exhortation? What is the relationship of this “praying always” to what the Apostle has been dealing with so far? The answer is that this is not an additional piece of armour. Some have said that Paul is still dealing with the armour of God and that he is saying, “Now the next piece, the final piece is prayer”. But that is wrong! Remember that the Apostle had followed his analogy and had a Roman soldier fully in focus and he takes the various pieces of armour that were worn by such a soldier, and he names them. We remember he mentions the girdle, the breastplate, the sandals, the shield, the helmet and the sword. He has mentioned six pieces of armour and that is the whole picture as regards the analogy concerning “the whole armour of God”. The Roman soldier has no armour called “praying in the Spirit”.

Some have also suggested that these words are an elaboration of “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”. They suggest that you use “the Sword of the Spirit” by “praying in the Spirit”. It is not.

Surely, praying in the Spirit is something we have to do, and to keep on doing in connection with the use of the whole armour of God, and indeed, with the whole of our position as Christians in conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil. What Paul is saying is this: “take these various parts of the armour and put them on, and put them on carefully, and use them in the way prescribed, but in addition to all that, always, at all times and in every circumstance, keep on praying”. One Hymn puts this fact in this way:

“Put on the Gospel armour
Each piece put on with prayer”
Each piece put on with prayer! Everything we have to do must be done in this spirit and attitude of constant prayer. This means, then, that the armour which is provided for us by God cannot be used except in fellowship and communion with God. The danger is to think that as long as we put on this armour there is no more to be done; all is now well, the armour will in and of itself perfect us. But that is the exact opposite of what the Apostle says. Every piece, excellent though it is in itself, will not suffice us, and will not avail us, unless always and at all times we are in a living relationship to God and receiving strength and power from Him. Let us recapitulate the things we have considered: “Having your loins girt about with truth” – the great and glorious truth about salvation as a whole and in general. “The breastplate of righteousness” – seeing clearly the doctrine of justification by faith only, and proving that we use it, by living a righteous life. “Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” – zealous faith and all the wonderful things that it can do. “Helmet of Salvation”- that blessed hope! And the sword of the Spirit”; and yet according to the Apostle. Having all these things, we may still fail and be utterly defeated.

What the Apostle is saying is this: we cannot fight the devil with orthodox doctrine if we are attempting to do so in our own strength and power. It is possible for a Christian to be perfectly orthodox and yet be defeated and to be living a defeated and a useless life of mere intellectual acquaintance with the truth, though it is absolutely essential, cannot guard us against defeat. The same applies, of course, to a Church or to a group of Churches or a denomination of Churches. It is possible for the devil to cause us to concentrate our attention so closely on one aspect of truth that we entirely forget other aspects. What the Apostle means is that everything must be done in a spiritual manner, brought to life and quickened by the Spirit. If this does not happen, there will be little, if any, benefit. “The letter kills; the Spirit gives life”, and we can turn even the glorious doctrine of salvation into merely another kind of legalism. So there must always be this living quality, this power, this ability to use what God provides for us.

In other words, the Apostle is really repeating to us in these verses what he had told us in verse 10. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” He started with this precept, but he so well knows how we tend to concentrate on the last thing we have heard , that he goes on to tell us about the whole armour of God in details. He also knows that we might tend now to say, Very well, this armour is the one thing that matter and then forget that with which the Apostle started “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might”. So the Apostle now says: “Pray always” – this is the only way to become “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might”. We are utterly dependent upon God and upon the Lord Jesus Christ and we must realize that if we do not remain in constant contact and communion with God, whatever we may have done by way of putting on the armour will avail us nothing. We must ever maintain this essential intimate relationship with God. Let us never forget that in the Christian life prayer is essential.

A Songwriter put this idea in the following words:

“Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath;
The Christian’s native air,
Watchword at the gate of death;
He enters heaven with prayer.”
The place given to prayer in the New Testament is remarkable. See it in the life of our Lord Himself. He spent most of His time in prayer, and so it is not surprising that He should have taught His people that “men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). It is the only alternative to fainting. We must always pray or else we faint.

It is therefore important that we ask ourselves “What is the place of prayer in our lives? Do we realize that without it we faint?” Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life. It is more important than knowledge and understanding. If knowledge does not lead us to prayer, there is something wrong. The value of knowledge is that it gives us such an understanding of the value of prayer that we devote time to prayer, and delight in prayer. If it does not produce these results in our lives, there is something wrong. Perhaps we just stopped at putting on the whole armour of God. This tends to swell knowledge and bring pride and defeat. “Let us pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance”.

“Praying with all prayer” means, partly, prayer in general, everything included under the heading of prayer. But there is a deeper meaning. The Apostle actually means that we should pray always with all forms or kinds of prayer. We should pray in private, we should also pray in public. But there is another kind of division. Sometimes one prays in words – oral prayer! But we need not always use words in order to pray. It can be unexpressed or oral.

The Hymn we referred to earlier has this to say:

Prayer is the Soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed
The notion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Again prayer can sometimes be formal in the sense that it is orderly. Take the order seen in the Lord’s Prayer, for instance. This is true of many other great prayers in the Bible. Our prayers are to be intelligent. But that is not the only form of prayer. Sometimes it is only a groan, a cry from the heart. “The Spirit makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered” It is just a groan or a sigh. Isaiah made a little prayer in Isaiah 62:1: “Oh that you would rend the heavens …” What the Apostle is saying is that we should pray in all ways and in all manners, using all forms and kinds of prayer. Be at it always and in endless ways.

But he specifies a certain type of prayer – supplication. This refers to that very definite part of prayer which we call petition – prayer with regards to special requests and desires. We are to engage in prayer in general, in every form and every type of it, - adoration, worship, praise and thanksgiving. That is also what the same Apostle says to the Philippians “Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”(Philippians 4:6) Let us be free to pray and bring our requests to God.

But Paul put the whole life of the prayer in three words – “in the Spirit”. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” This is the real essence, the very life and spirit of prayer. Earlier in the Epistle we read: “For through Him, we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father”(Ephesians 2:18) He had dealt with the same matter in his Epistle to the Romans in the passage which read: “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities” (Romans 8:23-26) The same idea is found in Philippians where Paul says “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3) We also read a similar thing in Jude “But you, beloved, building up yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”(Jude 20)

Praying in various ways, whether audible or inaudible, or standing or kneeling or whatever is not ultimately the vital element in prayer. Of course they have their place, but above all prayer must be in the Spirit. We can further say that praying in the Spirit is the opposite of cold, heartless, formal prayer. This does not mean emotional prayer; it simply means that the Holy Spirit directs the prayer, creates the prayer within us, and empowers us to offer it and to pray it. “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us” This type of prayer always results in true worship, in adoration, in praise; and in us it is characterized by warmth of spirit and freedom.

It is so important that the Apostle emphasized it. He says: “Pray without ceasing” Pray always. Pray and do not fall asleep “Pray that you may not fall into temptation” so says Jesus Himself. “Men ought always to pray and not to faint”

Surely, this is the greatest of all needs at the present time. Remember, you must have the whole armour of God. Put on the whole armour piece by piece but put on each piece with prayer!

One Hymn verse summarizes it this way:

To keep your amour bright
Attend with constant care
Still walking in your Captain’s sight
And watching unto prayer!
Praying always in the Spirit!

May the Lord Help us!

We have come to the end of the Armour of God Series. Please leave your feedback in the comments section. As always, thank you for reading

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