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Praying in the Spirit

Praying in the Spirit

To pray in faith, therefore we need the Bible in our hands


‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints’ (Ephesians 6: 18)

In this verse, Paul exhorts his readers to pray always. This is because praying is an especially important aspect of the Christian life. Prayer is a spiritual activity, ‘praying always …in the Spirit’ (v. 18). Here is something particularly important about prayer in the Spirit; it is the secret of effectual prayer and one of the reasons to why we fail to receive answers to our prayers; it is necessary that we pray in the Spirit.

Prayer is not something ‘magical’, but spiritual. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he was well aware that the city of Ephesus had a reputation as a centre of magic and black arts. The Hellenistic world was obsessed with the idea of demons and supernatural powers and the large city of Ephesus was hospitable to sorcerers and soothsayers and all kinds of purveyors of magic.

Thus, his words here bring into focus the true nature of unseen evil forces. He removes the mythical ideas and superstitions of the heathen mind and reveals the truth about them. He must make clear to us the Christian response to such demonic activity and show us the ideal Christian defence in times of attack.

So Paul emphasizes to ‘Put on the whole armour of God, (v. 11) and …praying always…’(v. 18). We are not spectators, but we are personally involved as participants in the battle with Satan and the invisible powers of darkness. When we have on the whole armour then we are ready for the contest with the forces of evil. When we pray, we have entered the battlefield in the strategy of attack. In spiritual warfare, prayer is the line of connection between the soldier and his Commander.

How can we achieve praying in the Spirit? There are things necessary,

(1) Cleansing. Prayer is approaching a holy God who is described as a ‘consuming fire’ (Heb. 12:29). Prayer is entering into the presence of God and coming to the ‘throne of grace’. Thus when we kneel in prayer, Psalm 24:4 is relevant because “who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that has clean hands and a pure heart….”

(2) Humbling. Our prayers can be hindered because of self, pride and other reasons as disobediences and unbelief. Then we are rendered unable to pray in the Spirit for we grieve God. Grieving the Holy Spirit breaks our fellowship with Christ. Obedience is perhaps more important in the Christian life than most of us understand. If we refuse to humble ourselves our prayers will be hidden from God.

(3) Anointing. Prayer in the Spirit needs the Spirit’s anointing. The Holy Spirit knows the mind and the will of God and He will teach us how to pray. The Holy Spirit has come among the Church as another Helper (parakletos) who takes our prayers and deposits them with Christ and Christ bring them to the Father.

Praying in the Spirit is the only way to pray. Other attempts are doomed to failure. Real prayer has to do with hearts that are cleansed by Christ’s blood, minds that are humbled by God’s Word, wills that are influenced by the Holy Spirit and faith in the promises of God. To pray in faith, therefore we need the Bible in our hands, and we need to read it if we want to pray well.

Gurnall (in his book The Christian in Complete Armour) says, “We must ask what God has promised, or we choose ourselves and we subject God’s will to ours, which is a horrible presumption. He who promises must be his own paymaster."

Prayer in the Spirit is three things; prayer made under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18); prayer made under the instruction of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26) and prayer made with the assurance of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (1 John 5:15). This is because the Holy Spirit, quickens the desire, purifies the motive, inspires the will, and assures with faith. Prayer is not a solo effort; God must be in it and we must petition Him in faith.


Rev Ian S McNaughton is presently serving as the Vice-Chairman of Barnabas Fund in the UK.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


For Other Articles by Rev Ian S McNaughton
Suffering in the Book of Job

Other Sermons by Rev Ian S McNaughton