But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.Jude 1:20-21
One way to build ourselves up and keep ourselves in God’s love is to pray in the Spirit. Paul mentions to the Ephesians that praying in the Spirit is one of our spiritual weapons as we put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:18).
What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
I believe praying in the Spirit means that we are submitting to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we pray. It is going beyond a list of petitions and into a kind of praying that hears from and connects to the Holy Spirit. This includes praying in tongues and normal intercession. Both can be forms of praying in the Spirit.
When teaching the Corinthian church about tongues, Paul writes:
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit… Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves…1 Corinthians 14:2, 4
So we know that there is a self-edification, a building up, that happens when a person is praying to God in tongues. It has a way of supernaturally strengthening the spirit of the one praying. I have experienced this firsthand.
Do you know that feeling of connection and intimacy that you have with the Lord after a great worship service, a great sermon, a long prayer walk in the woods, or time in solitude with the Lord on the beach? Most of the time it takes time for our minds to calm and our spirits to begin to connect with the Lord. But after a while, there is a intimacy we feel with Jesus. We begin to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Now imagine it took about half an hour to go from “normal life” to that sense of real intimacy with the Lord. What happens with tongues is that it takes you to that place of intimacy in 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes. This is why it is listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:10. It’s a great tool to have.
Tongues quickly draws you into the supernatural Presence of God, which is why it is so edifying for the person who is praying in tongues. It’s also really useful when you need to pray for someone, and you need to connect with the Lord to hear from Him, but you don’t have an hour to soak in His Presence.
But this isn’t the only way to pray in the Spirit. Paul encourages the Corinthian Christians to pray in tongues and to pray with their mind.
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.1 Corinthians 14:14-15
So when we pray in the Spirit by praying in tongues, it is as if our spirit partners with the Holy Spirit and takes the lead. We don’t understand what we are praying, but there is a building up happening in our soul and spirit. When we pray in the Spirit by praying with our mind, it is as if our mind partners with the Holy Spirit and our thoughts are led by the Spirit.
Jude advises us that if we want to keep our faith strong and keep ourselves in God’s love, then we need to regularly be praying in the Spirit.