Praying in the Spirit

Title: Praying in the Spirit

Bible Book: Jude 1 : 20-21

Author: J. Mike Minnix

Subject: Prayer; Praying in the Spirit


Praying in the Spirit

J. Mike Minnix

Jude 1:20-21 - "20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

 I am in the habit of asking the servers in restaurants if there is anything I can pray for in their behalf. It is a way of opening up a conversation about the Lord. One day not long ago, I asked a server if she had a prayer request. She answered, “Yes, please pray that I will win the lottery.” Then she broke out in laughter - apparently others had asked her the same thing and she was used to. But, honestly, prayer is not a laughing matter.

Sadly many of us actually pray like the lady who asked that I pray for her to win the lottery. We pray for everything to go just the way we want it to be and thus reveal just how selfish our prayers really are. Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to ask Him for those things we need; however, to pray in the Spirit means much more than looking to God as some divine Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy.

Some of us pray in a pattern similar to the words of a song from a number of years ago:

 “Oh, Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz;

My friends all have Porsches and I must make amends.” (Janis Joplin)

We need to re-study what prayer is really all about. We cannot do that in one message, but I trust our look at God’s Word today will help us learn how to ‘Pray in the Spirit’ in ways much better than we have in the past.

  • Prayer is the greatest Christian privilege.
  • Prayer is the greatest Christian ministry.
  • And, too often, Prayer is the greatest Christian failure.

Most of us likely say, if we are totally honest, that we are dissatisfied with our prayer life. Others of us would say, “I am ashamed of my prayer life.”

An evangelist said some time ago that the devil must surely urge his demon forces to keep us from praying. The devil might well say to them, “Boys, keep them from praying. If you keep them from praying, we win every time. If they pray, the Lord wins every time. Whatever you do, keep them from praying.”

The New Testament church moved forward on its knees. They prayed ten days before the Spirit fell at Pentecost and kept praying faithfully after the birth of the Church. The Book of Acts, which describes the birth and growth of the Church, is filled with accounts of the praying church. Today we are weak because we pray so little, and it must be disappointing for the Lord to see this terrible mistake on our part. In fact, it is likely a marvel to the devil that we do not pray, since he knows he is defeated if Christians spend time in prayer.

It is likely that prayer is difficult for us because we live so much of our time in the flesh and so little of it in the Spirit - that surely keeps a believer from praying in the Spirit. Today I want us to look at this subject of praying in the Spirit and I trust many of us will make a commitment this very day to develop our prayer life according to God’s Word and God's will.

In our text today we are told to “pray in the Spirit.” What does that mean and how can we obey the imperative found here?

I. Praying in the Spirit Speaks of Conflict

Since we are commanded to pray in the Spirit, it stands to reason that there must be some other type or kind of praying. One must be able to pray “out of the Spirit” since one is commanded to pray "in the Spirit.” Indeed, this is true. We are told to pray in the Spirit because there are forces at work to keep us from such praying as we should and as steadily as we ought. If the devil can't keep us from praying, he will work to keep us from praying properly and continuously.

To understand praying in the Spirit, we must understand the impediments and hindrances to such praying.

A. Self

The first hindrance we need to observe regarding praying in the Spirit is the obstacle of self or the flesh.

  • Our flesh hates prayer
  • Our flesh is at war with the Spirit
  • Our flesh loves to be entertained
  • Our flesh desires to be actively engaged in worldly pastimes
  • Our flesh enjoys being pampered

Look at Romans 8:7 …

" ... the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.”

The words, “sinful mind,” are taken from one Greek word in the text which means “flesh.” Your flesh, your sinful nature, cannot please God. In fact, your sinful nature is at war with the Spirit. That is what the word “hostile” means. In other words, our flesh, our sinful nature, hates to pray and is even hostile to the very idea of it. Anyone who seeks to pray in the Spirit knows this is true, for you deal wtith this battle.

In James 4:3-8 we read ...

"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Wow! That is some clear bold statement regarding coming near to God. We can see here that The flesh loves the world and hates prayer. You cannot possibly pray in the Spirit unless you turn off the world and make the flesh, the sinful nature, submit to the Spirit of God that dwells in you. One problem we have, as James related clearly, is our pride, the kind of pride that restrains our hearts from confessing our sin and coming to the Lord for cleansing. The Spirit within us urges us to spend time talking to God, but our wordly pleasures and selfish pride tamps down the Spirit's promptings so that flesh can be satisfied. Our flesh knows if we pray we will deny its desires, so the flesh fights against praying in the Spirit. The flesh only accepts little, empty, repitious prayers that do not engage in spiritual warfare against the enemy.

So our first problem in praying in the Spirit is "self" or flesh. Note also we must deal with ...

B. Satan

Another enemy of prayer is Satan. The devil does not want you to pray and he will have you do anything but pray. Even in our churches, he will have us busy with everything and anything but prayer.

Look at Ephesians 6:18 and its context ...

"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.”

Paul wrote to the Ephesians telling them to pray in the Spirit. Now, look at the context of this passage by looking at the preceding verses in Ephesians 6:10-17 ...

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This entire passage deals with the subject of resisting the devil and putting on the whole armor of God in order to stand against him.”

The text which exhorts us to “pray in the Spirit” comes at the end of this passage. In other words, to fight the good fight and resist the devil, you will have to pray in the Spirit. Be sure, the devil will fight you with every tool at his disposal to keep you from praying - especially praying in the Spirit. Praying properly is a part of our spiritual warfare, and sadly too many of us are AWOL when it comes to this issue.

Just how does the devil seek to keep us from praying?

  • The devil will cause you to feel IMPOTENT when you pray.
  • The devil will seek to make you feel that God is INACCESSABLE when you pray.
  • The Devil will attempt to make you feel that you are too IGNORANT to pray.

Yet God has told us in Romans 8:26 that the Spirit will help us in our weaknesses. Paul even said, “WE know not what we should pray for…” Note that the mighty apostle used the word, “WE.” He admitted that he, too, sometimes did not know EXACTLY what he was to pray for and was dependent on the Spirit's aid in praying properly. Listen carefully! When we pray through - when we pray faithfully - the Holy Spirit will step in to fully connect our prayers to God's will and purpose. That is part of what it means to pray in the spirit.

I am reminded of the story of Moonshiners in the church. The preacher knew about their sinful ways. The old man came to the preacher and asked him to pray for his son Zeke 

In Hebrews we are told to come boldly to the throne of grace. Don’t let the devil tell you that you do not deserve to pray. The Spirit helps you to overcome every obstacle to prayer but one - your will! You must be willing to get alone with God and overcome the old nature which abhors prayer. The will to pray - that is your part. When you get into prayer with devotion and sincerety, the Lord will empower you through the Holy Spirit.

Now note something important with regard to praying in the Spirit.

II. Praying in the Spirit speaks of Comprehensiveness

By this I mean that praying in the Spirit contains consistent and complete prayer. Look at Ephesians 6:18 and note that Paul said we are to pray in the Spirit on “all occasions, with all kinds of prayers.” What does he mean by the phrase? “All kinds of prayers."

Look with me at 1 Timothy 2:1 and note how Paul addressed all kinds of prayers. Here he mentioned to Timothy that four types of prayer should be made. He said we are to talk to God with Requests, Prayers, Intercession and Thanksgiving. Let me take these in slightly different order so that I might give you an acrostic which will aide in your memory regarding these four kinds of prayer. Think of the word: TRIP.


It is a real TRIP when we pray in the Spirit with ALL kinds of prayers. It is a journey to the throne room of God. So, let this acrostic help you remember these different kinds of prayer.

  • The “T” stands for THANKSGIVING
  • The “R” speaks of REQUESTS
  • The “I” speaks of INTERCESSION
  • The “P” speaks of PRAISE

In THANKSGIVING we are reminded of God's goodness, and that does something to our faith - it reminds us that God is good, that He has answered our prayers in the past and that nothing is too hard for Him. When prayer seems difficult start thanking God by recalling the many blessings He had given you. 

In REQUESTS we acknowledge that God does things in our behalf. Making a request is revealing that you trust God to meet a need in your own life, family, or ministry. James said that we, " ... have not because we ask not ... ," so we must not be hesitant to make our requests known to God.

In INTERCESSION God does something through us, for when we intercede for others we are lifting them up to the Lord. Prayer is part of our work for God and not just our communicating with God. Intercession places us with one hand on a need in the life of others and the other hand in the hand of God.

Finally, PRAISE adores the Lord and lifts Him up in our hearts and minds. Praise is different from thanksgiving, for praise lifts God up for who He is and not just what He has done. He deserves our praise. Satan hates it when we praise God, because He knows that praise causes the Lord to show up and show out in the midst of His people.

A. T - Thanksgiving

So let's think about the first issue for a moment - Thanksgiving.

The T refers to giving God thanks and showing appreciation for all that God has done, is doing and will do. Oh, how we need to have the Spirit of God help us thank the Heavenly Father.

David spoke of needing God’s help in offering praise. Look at Psalm 51:15 ...

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.”

David was confessing sin in this Psalm and he was anticipating that God was going to forgive him and help him get back to the gratitude he was supposed to practice. If David, the great songwriter of the Old Testament needed help in forming thanks to God, how much more do you and I need that help?

Every child of God has reason(s) to give thanks to God. Just begin to think of all He has done and is doing for you and it will be natural for you to give Him thanks. Think of only what He has promised to do for us, and that will lead us to thank Him. To pray in the Spirit involves thanksgiving to God.

B. R – Requests

The R speaks of requests which we make concerning ourselves. You may pray for guidance in decisions, financial assistance, employment, emotional difficulties, spiritual power, wisdom, healing, strength for your tasks, opportunities to witness, and many others issues. Not to bring requests before God is to intimate that you are fully self-sufficient - that it is to say that we anticipate doing everything on our own. Believe me, that is a dangerous attitude and a hazardous habit. The enemy of God and His people must love it when we fail to make requests to God, for the enemy knows just how weak we are. To  pray in the Spirit means that we acknowledge our need of God's blessings and help.

C. I -Intercession

The "I" in the word TRIP stand for intercession. Intercession means praying for others. Paul shared that we must pray for others, and part of our reason for getting into the presence of God is to lift up to God concerns we have for others. These people will include family, friends, co-workers, fellow church members, church leaders (including your Pastor and staff), government leaders, and even our enemies.

If we pray in the Spirit, we will not always feel like praying for other, for in our flesh and selfishness we will seldom be moved in our hearts to pray for someone else. The flesh, the old nature, doesn't desire to concentrate on the needs others, and even when that concern is admitted. The old nature will most likely make us feel good about ourselves for simply feeling concerned. If the feeling of concern for others does send us to God in prayer, it often does not find its end in prayer alone, for such praying can lead to God using us to be part of the answer for meeting the need of those for whom we are praying.

Always remember that Jesus intercedes for us before the throne of the Father, so we are becoming more like our Savior when we intercede before the throne of God for others.

D. P - Praise

Finally, the P in the word TRIP stands for praise. As I said a moment ago, the Lord deserves our praise. When we praise God we are merely warming up for heaven. In Revelation 5 we read that we will bring into song in the presence of the Lord singing, "Worthy is the Lamb." Thousands and thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand saints will break into glorious praise before the Lord in heaven one day in the future. We will shake the rafters of the heavenly temple with adoration for our Lord. We ought to be praising Him through prayer in the here and now, and not just waiting till the sweet bye and bye to glorify Him.

We can say that prayer can be described as communion with God. It is a desire to get into the presence of the Lord. Look at Galatians 4:6 ...

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Note that it is the Spirit which cries out, “Abba, Father.” Jesus spent time in prayer because He yielded to the Spirit. Be assured that the Spirit of God desires to bring you into the presence of the Father in the same way.

Part of our prayer life is to be the desire to get into the presence of God and to fellowship with Him. If you don’t feel this desire, do not be surprised. The old nature wars against the new nature and the old nature will never free you to feel this love of God’s presence as much as you should. We do not feel our way into a Spiritual prayer life; we pray our way into a Spiritual prayer life.

Now let's consider another important element of praying in the Spirit.

III. Praying in the Spirit speaks of Conquest

Everybody likes to be a winner. When the team we "pull" for wins a game, we jump and say, "We won! We won!" We? What did WE do about winning a game we are watching on television? We just watched in the bleachers or the arena, or on television, and we did not contribute one play or one action toward the win. Yet we like to say, "We won!" Why do we do that? We do that because everyone likes to be on the winning side.

Be assured of this, God wants you to be a winner in the kingdom life. One way He has provided for us to win in the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil is through prayer - through praying in the Spirit.

A. Prayer Submits to His Lordship

To pray in the Spirit is to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. Romans 8:26, as we have noted, tells us that God helps us in our weaknesses. We are weak. Paul included himself in this statement of weakness. He did not say, “Your weaknesses,” he said, “Our weaknesses.” Actually, however, your weaknesses are to your advantage. Your weakness can make you strong. Look at 2 Corinthians 12:9 ...

“My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Your weakness is God’s opportunity to demonstrate His power. God desires to deliver us from our self-sufficiency.

What assistance does the Holy Spirit give us? In Romans we are told that God helps us in weakness. The word "help" is the same word found in the passage about Mary and Martha. Martha asked Jesus to demand that Mary get up from listening to Him and help her with the work in the kitchen. The request for help refers to seeking assistance in a task you cannot do alone. In weakness or fatigue we often ask someone to help us. The Bible states that the Holy Spirit is in our lives to assist us in the things we cannot do without God's help. The Holy Spirit takes hold of the situation during prayer and helps the believer pray. After prayer, He helps you go forth to live your life in the way God desires.

But this word goes even further. The word "help" has a double prefix. It states that the Holy Spirit helps us pray, but there are times when He also prays in our behalf. This seems impossible, but it is not. Here is what it means. The Spirit prays instead of us, but never without us. Don't miss this. It is a beautiful, divine partnership of praying in the Spirit that makes this so special. The Spirit of God knows you better than you know yourself and knows the situation you are in better than you can ever understand it. When we pray in the Spirit, we are yielding to the One who can lift up to the Father the needs, problems and situations about which we are never totally and fully aware. Amazing, isn't it? Yes it is, but it is true.

The Holy Spirit inspires our prayers, guides our prayers, energizes our prayers, and the Holy Spirit sustains our prayers.

Pray in the Spirit! The Spirit cannot pray for you without your help, and you cannot pray without the help of the Holy Spirit. Somewhere I read that the Holy Spirit desires to think through your mind, weep through your eyes, speak through your lips, and groan through your emotions.

God commands us to pray because He knows that it is in prayer that we gain the victory. Look at Luke 18:1 ...

"Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”

Note 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ...

“Pray without ceasing.”

Read James 4:2 ...

"You have not because you ask not.”

Check out that John 16:24 tells us to pray and be happy!

B. Prayer Stirs our Love

Praying in the spirit stirs our love. Look at Romans 8:28. Look at Jude 20-22. True prayer in the Spirit keeps us in the love of God. Look what the Spirit pours into our hearts as described in Romans 5:1, 5. His love has been poured out into our hearts. When we yield to the Spirit of God, the love of God issues forth from our hearts.

  • We can love the lost when we pray in the Spirit. 

  • We can love our enemies when we pray in the Spirit.

  • We can love Christians who have fallen into sin when we pray in the Spirit.

All of this is true, because to pray in the Spirit is to be filled with the Love of God. After all, God is love. Most of us are seeking to be loved, while God is seeking to show us how to love Him and others.


The flesh wars against the Spirit. This is nowhere more evident than in the arena of Prayer. We need a new commitment to pray in the Spirit.

  • This is God’s will.
  • This is where peace is found.
  • This is where the devil is defeated.
  • This is where revival is experienced.
  • This is the mightiest ministry the Master ever manifested in His people.

Let us renew our prayer life today. Dear children of God, Pray In The Spirit!

Someone well said,

“Pray and believe and you will receive.

Pray and doubt and you will do without.”

This is true. To pray in the Spirit is not to pray a selfish prayer, but to pray in God’s will. Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Do you pray when you should, in the manner that you should, and in the Spirit that you should? Would you join me today in making a new commitment to Pray in the Spirit? Let us obey the Lord and ‘Pray In The Spirit' starting anew today.

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