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For if I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying, but I don’t understand what I am saying. Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.1 Corinthians 14:14-15 NLT
Jesus gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, yet when the Spirit comes, He is loaded with packages! He desires to release much more in us and through us than we could ever imagine. These gifts are given for delivery, not for accumulation. We receive them to pass them on to others.Jack Hayford
Recently, we visited a new restaurant for my wife’s birthday lunch. I was taken by the sign on the door warning patrons that this was not a “fast food” restaurant. You may have to wait for your food! It informed us that high quality food takes time to prepare, and it should be prepared fresh. The meal turned out to be very good, and the time was well worth the investment. An added benefit was the precious interlude we had to sit and talk, which used to be the best part of most meals. Fast is not always better.
In making life more “convenient,” I fear we often strip it of its most fulfilling parts. We streamline the process and remove the artistry. When it comes to the things of God, I know this to be true. A lot of modern “church” is as much empty calories as a McDonald’s French fry. It looks OK and it smells a little like the real thing, but it leaves you weaker for now, craving another fix tomorrow, and growing more sickly in the long run. This is especially true in the area of prayer. Our lives are crammed with “urgent” issues that demand our immediate attention. In scrambling to do the urgent, we scurry right on by the important. As with good food, there are some things that can’t be done quickly and well. It’s always one or the other.
We’ve been discussing praying for the sick. We looked at James 5:14-16, and we noted some techniques to use when we pray “over” someone who is struggling to receive their healing. We can lay hands on them, speak the Name of Jesus over them, and use our faith to speak the promises aloud, expecting results. We also found that we should persevere in prayer, praying in the Spirit.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 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 6:17-18 NKJV
Paul tells us to pray constantly (always), using more than one kind of prayer (all prayer), and to do so “in the Spirit.” This is not a quick “confession” and a “Thank You, Jesus.” The New Living Translation says it this way, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” Praying with all prayer involves doing something called “praying in the Spirit.” This is to be done on a continual basis. It’s time we start learning (or being reminded of) the importance of making intercession, laboring in prayer like Epaphras from Colossae, that the will of God might be performed in the lives of other believers. No more fast food.
One foundational element for praying this kind of persevering prayer is understanding what it means to “pray in the Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, Paul gave us 3 important facts:
- Praying with the Spirit means praying in tongues. We may sometimes pray other prayers in our own language prompted or empowered by the Spirit, but prayer in other tongues is always “praying in the Spirit.”
- When I pray in tongues, my mind doesn’t understand. We can ask for, and often receive, interpretation (and we should do this in public meetings), but we can pray this way at length without having to understand or be particularly well-spoken.
- I can pray in tongues as an act of my will, just like I can pray in English. This means I can do it whenever and wherever I choose. I don’t need an emotion, all I need is willingness. I can do it “at all times.”
Why is “praying in the Spirit” a good strategy in praying for the sick person who is having trouble receiving their healing? Let’s review a few facts:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.Romans 8:26-27 ESV
- When I pray for someone else, I don’t know everything. I can’t see another person’s heart. There may be issues of knowledge, of revelation, of personal lifestyle, or of faith that need to be adjusted before they are in position to receive their healing. God knows these things, but He needs someone with authority to pray and ask Him to intervene.
- When I pray in another tongue, I am praying the will of God for that person. Think about it. God needs me to pray His will in the earth. In this situation, He wants me to pray to correct or heal the things in the sick person that only He knows about. By giving me the words, by praying in tongues, He uses my mouth and the authority He gave me through Adam, to pray His will into the life I am praying for. I don’t have to know anything. All He needs is my obedience. Genius!!!
- My prayer in tongues is working, even when I don’t understand it. My job is to give voice to the words He gives me and persevere until there is a resolution of the situation. 1 Corinthians 14: 2 says, “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (ESV)” These are not mysteries to God, but to me and others who might hear me. He knows what I’m praying, and it is effectual.
There are also many benefits to praying in tongues that accrue to me when I pray. I build myself up (1 Corinthians 14:4). I build on the foundation of my saving faith in Christ, and enable myself to stay in the love of God (Jude 1:20-21). Proverbs 20:27 tells me that my spirit is the place where the light of the Lord shines to illuminate the hidden things in my heart. I may be praying about things in my own future, dreams and desires that I am not even aware of yet. What a marvelous gift! It doesn’t require my intelligence in order to work.
One thing we often overlook about praying in tongues is that it assigns angels to carry out missions on our behalf. It may be for me, or I may be praying for the person who is sick and needs healing. Notice 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (ESV)” The implication is that sometimes my tongues are in the language of angels. Why is that important? Because angels are dispatched on assignment by the spoken word:
“Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! ”Psalms 103:20 ESV
These angels are ministering spirits who minister for those of us who are heirs of salvation. (Hebrews 1:14) Angels are active in arranging circumstances for the benefit of God’s people. In Psalm 91, the Psalmist says that you will be safe from evil and plague because “he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalms 91:11 ESV)” Angels have a function in healing and health. They protect you from attack and arrange circumstances to bring you into position to receive what you need to be healed. Be sure to give them their orders: pray in the Spirit!
Here’s the Point: Praying in tongues is a powerful tool in the fight against sickness and disease in the family of faith. By becoming comfortable with the exercise of this precious ability and using it on a regular basis, we put ourselves in a position to be of increased benefit. Doing this is not easy. Our flesh resists. Our busy lifestyle expands to crowd out the real things of the Spirit. We substitute technology or ritual for faith and perseverance. Persevering in prayer requires more than reciting memorized verses over and over, or begging and crying while repeating the same plaintive requests. Prayer in the Spirit gives us the capacity to pray the will of God in the very words He gives us. It’s our entry into intentional participation in the realm of the Spirit.
(For more information about being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues, click here.)
Next Steps: I believe we’ll soon have the opportunity to explain to Jesus how we used the gifts He provided (2 Corinthians 5:10). Let’s have a good report to give Him. Take time in the days ahead to increase your prayer in tongues. Use it in the car, on your walk, locked in your bedroom, or lying quietly on your bed. Get used to praying in the Spirit. Let it become as natural as breathing. We can do this!
Remember this: When we are praying for the sick, damage has already been done. God will show us ways to try and correct it, but that’s not God’s best. Recall 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. We are going to learn to pray in a way that gets the devil off the saints and keeps him off. First, we’re going to learn intercession to get the sick healed, but we won’t stop there. Were going to another realm, where we can see from the Spirit’s perspective how to keep the healthy, healthy.