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What is praying in the Spirit?

Answer: Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “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.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Some Christians understand these Scriptures to be referring to praying in tongues, a view which is not supportable scripturally.

The Greek word translated for “pray in the Spirit” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things that the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Perhaps the primary reason praying in the Spirit is linked with tongues is 1 Corinthians 14:15. In the context of discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” 1 Corinthians chapter 14 repeatedly states that when a person speaks in tongues, while he/she knows what he/she is saying, since it is spoken in a language he/she does not know, no one can understand what he/she is saying…unless someone interprets for him/her. In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints if no one understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit and according to His will, not as praying in tongues.

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