Marks Of Praying In The Spirit
By Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
The main part of praying in the Spirit must lie not merely in the Spirit’s power, or in the Spirit’s teaching us the matter, but in the Spirit’s assisting us in the manner. There is but one manner of praying which the Lord accepts. You know what it is; I will briefly describe its attributes.
He that cometh to God must remember that He is “a Spirit, and that they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:24). The very first essential of prayer is to pray in truth, and we do not pray in truth unless the Spirit of God leads our vain minds into the sincerity and reality of devotion. To pray in truth, is this – it is not to use the empty expression of prayer, but to mean what we say; it is for the heart to agonize with God and heave with strong desires. And where will you obtain such a manner of prayer except in the spiritual man, when moved by the Holy Spirit? Only the spiritual man can sigh and long, and cry in his inmost heart, and in the chamber of his soul before God, and he will not do it except as the Spirit of truth leadeth him in sincerity into the secret of heart-prayer.
Praying in the Holy Spirit is praying in fervency. Cold prayers, my brethren, ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer; it is essential that it be red-hot. Real prayer is burnt as with hot iron into a man’s soul, and then comes forth from the man’s soul like coals of juniper which have a most vehement heat. Such prayers none but the Holy Spirit can give. …There is a way of praying with power in which a man seems to get hold of the posts of heaven’s gate, as Samson grasped the pillars of the temple, and appears as though he would pull all down upon himself sooner than miss the blessing. It is a brave thing for the heart to vow, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26). That is praying in the Holy Spirit. May we be tutored in the art of offering effectual fervent prayer!
Next to that, it is essential in prayer that we should pray perseveringly. Any man can run fast at a spurt, but to keep it up mile after mile, there is the battle. And so, certain hot spirits can pray very fervently once now and then, but to continue in prayer – who shall do this except the Spirit of God sustaineth him? Mortal spirits flag and tire. The course of mere fleshly devotion is as the course of a snail which melts as it crawls. Carnal minds go onward and their devotion grows small by degrees and miserably less, as they cry out, “What a weariness it is!” But when the Holy Spirit fills a man and leads him into prayer, he gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent even when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed the more vehemently does he use the knocker, till he thunders in his prayer; and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that if he grasps him with a death-grip he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God’s sight is tearful and yet unconquerable importunity. Jesus delights to be laid hold of by one who says, “I cannot take No for an answer, this blessing I must have, for Thou hast promised it and Thou hast taught me to ask for it, and I will not believe that Thou canst belie Thyself.” Surely we must have the Holy Spirit to help us thus to pray.
Praying in the Spirit we shall be sure to pray in a holy frame of mind. Brethren and sisters, do you ever get distracted in your minds? “Ah,” you say, “I wonder when I am not.” But when the Holy Spirit cometh, He takes a scourge of small cords and drives these buyers and sellers out of the temple and leaves it clear for God, and then you can come with a holy, devout frame of mind, fixed and settled in your great object of approach to God. This is to approach Him in the Spirit. Oh, for more of this blessed undisturbed devotion!
I could not, however, finish the description of praying in the Spirit if I did not say that it means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. He is the Spirit that convinces of sin, and so bows us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We must pray before God like the humble publican, or we shall never go forth justified as he was. We shall never sing “Gloria in excelsis” except we pray to God De profundis; out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never see the glory in the highest.
Moreover, true prayer must be a prayer full of faith. The effectual fervent prayer of a man prevails only as he believes in God, and the Holy Spirit is the Author of faith in us, and nurtures and strengthens it so that we pray believing God’s promise. Oh, that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Spirit’s power is shed abroad in our hearts!