"Dedicated to strengthening and encouraging the Body of Christ."

Praying In The Holy Spirit

By R. A. Torrey (1856 – 1928)

      “With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

    The three words to which I wish to call your especial attention are these, “in the Spirit.”  We find the same thought in the Epistle of Jude, verses twenty and twenty-one, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”  In those words, “praying in the Holy Spirit,” and “praying in the Holy Ghost,” we find one of the two greatest secrets of prevailing prayer.  The other of the two greatest secrets of prevailing prayer is found in the words of our Lord Jesus in John 14:13-14, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in My name, that will I do.”  “Praying in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and “Praying in the Holy Ghost” are the two great secrets of prevailing prayer.

    If anyone should ask me, “What is the great secret of holy living,” I would say at once, “Living in the Holy Spirit.”  If anyone should ask me, “What is the great secret of effective service for Jesus Christ,” I should reply at once, “Serving in the Holy Spirit.”  If anyone should ask me, “What is the one greatest secret of profitable Bible study?”  I would reply, “Studying in the Holy Spirit.”  And if anyone should ask me what was the one great all-inclusive secret of prevailing prayer, I should reply, “Praying in the Holy Spirit.”  It is the prayer that the Holy Spirit inspires that God the Father answers.

    What does it mean to pray in the Holy Ghost?  To pray “in the Holy Ghost,” or to “pray in the Holy Spirit,” means to pray as the Holy Spirit, our ever present, indwelling Friend, Counselor, and Guide, the “other Comforter,” whom our Lord Jesus Himself promised us when He Himself left this world (John 14:15-17, 26), and who has taken the place of our Lord during His absence from us, inspires us and guides us to pray.

Characteristics of Praying in the Spirit

    What are the characteristics of the prayer that is “in the Holy Spirit,” the characteristics of the praying which the Holy Spirit inspires?

    The first characteristic of the prayer that is in the Holy Spirit is intense earnestness.   This we see in Romans 8:26, “And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity:  for we know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

    The prayer that prevails with God is the prayer into which we throw our whole heart, the prayer of intense earnestness; and it is the Holy Spirit who inspires us to that intense earnestness in prayer.  Oh, how cold and formal we are in many of our prayers.  How little intense longing there is in our souls to obtain the thing that we ask.  We pray even for the salvation of the lost with much indifference, though we ought to realize that if our prayers are not heard they are going to spend eternity in hell.  But men and women whose prayer life is under the control of the Holy Spirit, pray with intense earnestness; they cry mightily to God; there is a great burden of prayer in their hearts; they pray sometimes with groanings which cannot be uttered.

    Mr. Finney tells us about a man named Abel Clary.  He says of him, “He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer.  The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony.  I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him.  He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.”  Abel Clary was of great assistance to Mr. Finney, simply by praying, in his work in Rochester, New York, where a revival sprang up the report of which resulted in revivals all over the country, and which, it is said, brought one hundred thousand souls to Christ in a year.

    …Oh, that we had people in our church who knew how to pray like that.  I believe the greatest need of the Church of Jesus Christ in America today, and the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, is men and women who pray in the Holy Spirit, with the intense earnestness that He gives, and He alone gives.

    The second characteristic of praying in the Holy Spirit is intelligent praying, perfect wisdom in our praying, praying for things that are according to the will of God.  This comes out in the next verse, Romans 8:27, “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” 

    The third characteristic of the praying that is really “praying in the Holy Spirit,” is complete assurance that God has heard and answered our prayer.  It is the prayer that the Holy Spirit inspires that is really “the prayer of faith,” and the one who so prays knows that he is praying “according to the will of God” and has assurance without a shadow of doubt that God has heard and answered his prayer.

    The fourth characteristic of praying that is really “praying in the Holy Spirit” is determination in our praying, the determination to get what we ask from God, a persistence in asking until we do get it.  This comes out clearly in Ephesians 6:18, listen again:  “with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”  What a marvelous setting forth, by a piling up of words of deepest significance, the determination and perseverance in prayer that comes from the Holy Spirit having control of our prayer life.

The Foundation for Praying in the Spirit

    We come now to the intensely practical question and the immediately important question, “How may we pray in the Holy Spirit?”  That is, how can we make sure that the Spirit of God is guiding us in our prayer, make sure that our prayers are not merely the promptings of our own selfish desires but the sure leadings of the Spirit of God within us?  The answer to this all important question is very plainly set forth in the Word of God.

    First of all, if we are to pray in the Spirit, we must surrender our wills and ourselves absolutely and unreservedly to God.  This comes out in many places in Scripture.  For example, it comes out in Acts 5:32, where we read:  “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”  Here we are plainly taught that God gives the Holy Spirit “to them that obey Him,” and to them only; and the heart of obedience is in the will, the surrender of the will and the surrender of one’s self to God.  Unless we make this absolute surrender God cannot take control of our prayer life any more than any other part of our life.  Our surrender to Him must extend to our praying as well as to the other spheres of our activities.

    In the second place, if we would pray in the Holy Spirit, we must scrupulously obey God in every department of our lives.  Disobedience at any point of our life grieves the Holy Spirit and makes it impossible for Him to control us in our actions, and it is just as impossible for Him to take control of our prayer life as it is to take charge of any other part of our life.

    In order to obey God we must study the Word of God every day of our lives to find out what the will of God is, and then whenever we find it do it every time.  If we refuse to do it at any point the Holy Spirit cannot keep control of our prayer life, and we cannot “pray in the Holy Spirit.”  That comes out very clearly in our Lord Jesus’ wonderful promise to answer prayer found in John 14:13-14, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask anything in My name, that will I do.”  And then Jesus went on to say, and by saying it clearly shows the connection between daily obedience and that power in prayer that comes through praying in the Holy Spirit, “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him:  ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you” (vv. 15-17).

    In the third place, if we would pray in the Holy Spirit, we must realize and keep in mind our own utter inability to pray aright, and our entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit, if we are to pray wisely and prevailingly.  Oh, if there is any time when we need to feel our utter dependence upon the Comforter, the ever present Friend and Helper and Counselor, the Holy Spirit, it is when we pray.  We need to feel deeply our dependence upon Him in our living, in our daily warfare with the world, the flesh and the devil; we need to feel our dependence upon Him in our service for Christ, realizing that it is “not by might nor by power” (not by any natural gifts or abilities of our own), but “by [His] Spirit,” that we are to accomplish anything for God in this world (Zech. 4:6);  we need to feel our dependence upon Him in our Bible study, realizing that He is the only perfect interpreter of the Word, and that He is ready to interpret the Word to us as we study.  But above all we need to feel our dependence upon Him when we pray.  We will do well if we always bear in mind the inspired words of Paul as found in Romans 8:26, “…We know not how to pray as we ought….”  If Paul, that mighty servant of Jesus Christ, that inspired apostle, that wonderful man of prayer, knew not how to pray as he ought, certainly we do not.  But we should also keep in mind the words that immediately follow in that same verse, and the following verse, “but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  Oh, when you go to God in prayer, realize that you do not know how to pray as you ought, and bring before yourself and keep before yourself your utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit in every word of prayer.

    In the fourth place, if we would pray in the Holy Spirit, we must definitely ask God to guide us by His Holy Spirit as we pray.  Tell God that you do not know how to pray as you ought, and ask Him to guide you by His Spirit as you pray, and He will.

    In the fifth place, if we would pray in the Holy Spirit, we must count upon God’s answering our prayer to send His Holy Spirit to teach us to pray.  We can unhesitatingly count upon God sending Him because in the passage just read, Romans 8:26-27, He has definitely promised to do so.

    In the sixth place, if we would pray in the Holy Spirit, we must keep getting filled with the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s inspired exhortation in Ephesians 5:18, “be filled with the Spirit,” or to translate more literally, “be getting filled with the Holy Spirit” (it is a continuous process, as is indicated by the tense of the Greek verb here used), has the most intimate connection with our prayer life.  If we are filled with the Spirit we will be guided by the Spirit in our prayers as well as in everything else.  A Spirit-filled man will always be a prayerful man, and his prayers will be in the Holy Spirit. 

    Finally, if we would pray in the Spirit, we must study the Word of God daily and earnestly.  The written Word of God is the visible instrument through which the invisible Spirit of God works; so if you would keep filled with that Spirit you must keep full of the Word.  This comes out very clearly in the passage to which we have just referred, Ephesians 5:18-19, “…Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  Now listen carefully to Colossians 3:16, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”  We see here that Paul in Colossians attributes to being filled with the Word exactly the same thing that he attributes to being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-19 and these two Epistles were written at just about the same time.  We must never lose sight of the tremendously important fact that the invisible Spirit of God does His work through the visible written Word of God.  If we keep ourselves in harmony with the mind of God by a constant daily study of the Word of God, and by scrupulous obedience to the Word of God, the instrument through which the Holy Spirit constantly works, then the Holy Spirit will guide us in our prayers; and only then.  If we keep ourselves full of the Holy Spirit’s truth contained in the written Word, the Holy Spirit is far more likely to pray through us.  From this point of view then, there is deepest significance in our Lord’s own words found in John 6:63, “…The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.”  Prevailing prayer always goes hand in hand with persistent and obedient study of the Word of God.

Mighty Praying

    We must see to it that we pray not out from our own selfish (and it may be foolish) desires, but under the impulse and inspiration and guidance and control of the Holy Spirit; that we “pray in the Holy Spirit,” that we let Him pray through us and so we pray in the wisdom and earnestness and intensity and never wearying persistence and resistless power of prayer that He imparts.

    Then our prayer will be the mightiest power on earth; for all God has, and all God is, is at the disposal of that kind of praying.  That kind of praying can accomplish anything that God Himself can accomplish.  That kind of praying partakes of the omnipotence of the God with whom that kind of praying puts us in perfect connection.

    – Taken from The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power by R. A. Torrey.

Search