One of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal of prayer is praying in the spirit. I liken it to hitting the center of the bullseye. When we pray in the spirit we always hit our target.
The Power of Praying in Tongues
I am going to talk about a topic that gets people all stirred up: speaking in tongues. I am not sure why it causes such a stir since it is clearly taught in the scriptures and Paul tells the Corinthians “do not forbid to speak in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39).
Our interest today is not in the use of tongues and interpretation within a church service, but praying in the spirit (praying in tongues) during personal times of prayer and worship.
1 Corinthians 14 is Paul’s discussion on the use of tongues in a church service. But in instructing his readers about the use of tongues in public he shows us many insights to the workings of tongues in private prayer and worship.
Let’s look at what Paul has to say about this wonderful topic.
We Speak Directly to God
For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
Paul lets us know that when we speak or pray in tongues we are speaking directly to God. It seems that tongues are not designed to be spoken and understood by men. They are directed toward God.
That is why in a church service there must be an interpreter present to interpret the tongue into the known language of the people. The only way for a person to understand the tongue is by another gift of the Spirit: the interpretation of tongues.
When we pray in tongues we do not know what we are actually praying, unless the Lord give us the interpretation. We are speaking in our spirit the mysteries to God. Our spirit is communicating with the Spirit of God.
We Edify Ourselves
“One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself . . .” (1 Corinthians 14:4)
When we pray in the spirit we get edified. The idea is that we are built up spiritually as we pray in tongues. It strengthens us in the inner man.
There are times in my life when I am feel overwhelmed and do not know how to pray. During those time I will get before the Lord and begin to pray in tongues. As I pray the Lord begins to bring peace to my soul and direction to my mind.
I have actually had a person tell me that it is selfish for me to seek to edify myself by praying in tongues. I thought this was very strange because I seek to be edified all the time. I read the word of God to be built up. I go to church and get edified, Even Jude tells us to seek to build ourselves up.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20)
Praying in the Spirit is just one way that the Lord uses to build us in our faith.
Our Spirit Prays
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.(1 Corinthians 14:14)
Paul again underlines the fact that it is our spirit that is praying. It does not require our intellect to speak in tongues. It is not our mind that is praying, but our spirits. We are communicating with God from the essence of our being. In a language that He has given for this specific purpose.
How many times have you been faced with a situation where you did not know how to pray? Praying in the spirit gets around the limitations of our mind and our understanding. It allows us to pray without hindrance. We can freely open our hearts and pray.
We Can Sing in the Spirit
What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)
This insight by Paul lets us know that tongues are not just limited to speaking or prayer. They can be used to worship God in song.
Paul sang with the spirit and with his mind. He used this wonderful gift of God to worship and give thanks to God.
Paul Spoke in Tongues a Lot
I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all. (1 Corinthians 14:18)
Did you hear what Paul just said? He said he spoke in tongues more than the Corinthians.
He was writing this letter because this church was speaking in tongues a lot. They were blurting out in tongues during the church service without an interpretation. It seems like they were out of order in using tongues and so Paul was writing this chapter to bring correction, direction, and order to their use of tongues.
Yet in the middle of this correction he tells them that he speaks in tongues more than all of them. He must have thought that this was an important and valuable part of his walk with God to be speaking, praying and singing in tongues so much.
The apostle Paul was not afraid of tongues in either personal life or corporate gatherings. He just wanted those using the gift in the church to make sure there was an interpretation so all present could be edified.
Forbidden to Forbid
“Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)
Some in the church at Corinth must have wanted to forbid speaking in tongues. Paul knew that speaking in tongues was from God and would not allow the church to shut tongues down. He forbid them to forbid speaking in tongues.
But I Don’t Speak with Tongues
Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “What about me, I don't speak with tongues?” Doesn’t the Bible say that not everyone speaks in tongues?”
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
I’ll give you the short answer. The Bible does say that not everyone is a worker of miracles, operate in gifts of healings, speak in tongues, or interpret tongues. The kind of tongues that not everyone has is the gift of tongues that is used in the church along with the interpretation of tongues.
I believe that praying in the spirit is available to every believer though the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Let me show you why I think this to be true.
What is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?
I wrote a book on the topic called “Spirit Baptism.” Below is a large portion of chapter two of the book explaining what the baptism with the Holy Spirit is.
Now that we have put to rest many of the misconceptions that surround the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, we can consider what it is. The Bible uses many and various terms to communicate what the Baptism is all about. Most of these terms are descriptive in nature. They describe what is happening to a person, but tell very little about what is going on inside a person or the theological nature of the experience. We will allow the Bible to describe what the Baptism is and its purpose.
A Promise from God
And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)
Both of the above verses state that the disciples were to stay in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father. The verse in Luke does not describe what the promise of the Father is, but informs us that it has something to do with being "clothed with power from on high." The passage in Acts, without a doubt, reveals that the promise of the Father is the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Remember now this is what Jesus is calling the experience.
The Father is the One who gave the promise that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh. Jesus is the One who would administer the Spirit Baptism. All four Gospels and the Book of Acts describe John the Baptist as "he who baptized with water" and Jesus as the One who would "baptize with the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5, 11:16).
JESUS TRULY IS THE BAPTIZER WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT! He is the One who poured out the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, at Samaria, on the household of Cornelius, and in Ephesus. He is the same One who will pour out the Holy Spirit upon you today! Jesus proclaimed, "I am sending forth the promise of the Father upon you" (Luke 24:49).
Peter in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, sees the outpouring of the Spirit upon them as the fulfillment of this promise.
"Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you see and hear," (Acts 2:33).
Each person who is Baptized with the Spirit is a recipient of the promise of the Father. Since the Baptism is seen as a promise from God the Father, it should be sought after and cherished like any other promise that God has freely given. The promises of God are true and will surely come to pass in our lives as we seek the Lord. The key word in the last sentence is seek.
Many wonderful promises of God are available to us, but often are not sought after and therefore do not become evident in our lives. Ask God to give you His promise of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit; and continue to ask, seek, and knock until you receive the promise. Remember what Luke quotes Jesus as saying in Luke 11:13, "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" Go ahead, ask!
A Gift from God
Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is also described as a gift. In Acts 2:38 Peter exhorts his hearers to do three things:
- be baptized with water
- receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We have already discussed that Peter was not talking about receiving the Spirit into our hearts and lives at salvation, but the gift of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Peter deals also with this issue later on in the book of Acts.
In Acts chapter ten we see the story of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the Gentiles. This was an incredible revelation to Peter and the Jews that traveled with him. They didn't understand that the Gentiles could be saved, baptized in water, and filled with the Holy Spirit without becoming Jews first. What a great surprise it was for them to find out that the Gentiles could receive the same gift that they had received from the Lord, tongues and all. Read for yourself how the Gentiles received the Spirit and how Peter knew that they had:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” (Acts 10:44-47)
Peter and the Jews with him understood that the Gentiles received the gift of the Spirit the same way they received Him on the day of Pentecost. They knew this because they heard them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
The fact that the Gentiles received the same gift of the Spirit as the 120 was a major part of Peter's defense before the Jerusalem Council. The council was called together to determine whether it was proper for Peter to have eaten with the Gentiles. Peter began to explain the reason for his trip to Cornelius' house and said that as he began to speak:
The Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way? When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:15-18).
The fact that the Gentiles received the Spirit in the same manner as the disciples in the upper room was a confirmation to all present that God accepted the Gentiles into the Family of God.
The word translated as gift in the above passages is dorea. The main focus of this word is upon the free giving of the gift with no strings attached. The gift is given totally by the grace of God and has nothing to do with the qualifications or worthiness of the recipient. The Spirit is given as a gift, like salvation, and cannot be earned in any way. Are you waiting for a special time in your walk to ask the Lord for the Baptism? Are you trying to be good enough to receive Him? Forget it, the Baptism is a gift. Open up your arms and receive Him. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit just like the 120 did.
Being Totally Immersed by the Spirit
The word "immerse," according to Webster, means to "plunge into or as if into a liquid," "to baptize by dipping into water." This is the same word picture that John the Baptist and Jesus were describing when they used the term Baptism with the Spirit. The word "baptism" comes from the Greek word baptizo. From very early times it carried the idea of immersion. One word picture describing baptizo as a sunken ship that is totally submerged beneath the water. Baptizo is a stronger, intensified form of the word bapto which means "to dip," as in the dyeing of material, that is by totally immersing it in the dye. Therefore, the idea of the Baptism with the Spirit is that the believer is totally immersed with the Spirit of God.
Understanding the concept of the word Baptism may give a little insight into some of the other terms used to describe the Baptism.
Being Poured Out or Poured Forth
It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29, also quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-18)
Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. (Acts 2:33)
All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. (Acts 10:45)
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)
Being Filled with or Full of the Holy Spirit
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:4)
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people,” (Acts 4:8)
And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit . . . (Acts 6:5)
But being full of the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed intently into the heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55)
So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:17)
for he [Barnabas] was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)
But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, (Acts 13:9)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Holy Spirit, (Eph. 5:18)
The Spirit Fell or Had Fallen Upon Them
For He [the Holy Spirit] had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:16)
While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. (Acts 10:44)
And as I [Peter] began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. (Acts 11:15)
Receive the Holy Spirit
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
[Peter and John] who came down and prayed for them that they [the Samaritans] might receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:15)
Then they [Peter and John] began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:17)
Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he? (Acts 10:47)
The Spirit Has Come Upon
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Clothed with Power
And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
All of the terms above are used to describe the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Though the words are different, the experience described is the same.
An Enduing with Power
The whole purpose behind the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is to give believers power for service. The same Holy Spirit that worked the miraculous in the life of Jesus and His disciples is the same Holy Spirit who wants to work through us to touch our world today. We are to be Christ's representatives in this world, establishing His will and purpose. This can only be accomplished as we are endued with power from on high.
Jesus commanded His disciples to remain together in Jerusalem until they "received power" or were “clothed with power from on high” (Act 1:8; Luke 24:49). He asked this of men and women who had followed Him for years in His ministry, hearing Him preach, seeing Him heal, watching Him cast out demons. Seventy of them had already been given permission to heal the sick and cast out demons, yet Jesus asked them to remain in Jerusalem until they received power. If these who experienced the power of Jesus first hand needed to receive power for ministry, how much more do we need to ask God for this power?
Receiving the Baptism with the Holy Spirit
So the question is, “How do I receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.?” Chapter six from the book answers that question.
Now we come down to the nitty gritty! At this point of the book you have already decided whether or not you are interested in receiving the Baptism. If you are interested there are a couple of things that must be in place before you can be Baptized. The first deals with the Baptism from God's perspective. The second is from your perspective.
The first prerequisite is to be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. By that I mean you have repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Jesus will not pour out His Spirit upon an unbeliever. First there is repentance, then the Baptism.
Repentance means turning 180 degrees. We come to an agreement with God concerning our own sinfulness and turn from our sin (180 degrees) to the Lord. In turning away from our sin and trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are saved. Without salvation it is impossible to receive the Baptism. Acts 2:38 states, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." The gift of the Holy Spirit is received after repentance has taken place.
It should not be understood from Acts 2:38 that a person must be baptized in water before he can receive the Baptism. This may seem to be the case, but it is not an absolute requirement. The Baptism can take place at any time after repentance has taken place.
The Gentiles in the house of Cornelius received the Baptism immediately upon believing on the Lord and were baptized in water after this took place. "While Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message" (Acts 10:44). Even as Peter was preaching the salvation message about what Christ had done, those listening believed in the Lord and received the Baptism:
for they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” (Acts 10:46-47)
The second prerequisite is a willingness to receive the Baptism. If you do not want the Baptism, God will not force it upon you. He will not ridicule you or look down upon you for not seeking the Baptism. God is not in the business of forcing His blessing upon His children. He gave us a free will so we could exercise choice. God didn't force you to accept Christ as Savior. He left the choice up to you. The same is true concerning the Baptism. If you don't want it, you won't get it. But if you don't want it, you will be robbing yourself of one of the great blessings of God.
Now that we have seen what must take place in the life of the believer before receiving the Baptism, let's look into how it is received and how it is activated in your life.
It is Received by Faith
The Baptism is received in the same way as any other gift from the Lord is received, by faith. You simply take God at His word and ask Him to give you the Baptism. He greatly desires to pour out His Spirit upon you and will not give you a snake or a rock if you ask Him for the Baptism (Luke 11:10-13). When you were saved you accepted the gift of salvation by faith. The Baptism is no different. It must be asked for and received by faith.
Picture in your mind God standing before you with a gift in His hand. Upon this gift is a tag with your name on it, so you know that it is yours. God reaches forth His hand to give you this gift. What are you going to do? You can let Him hold it out to you or you can receive the gift from Him. Your faith is the hand that reaches out and receives the gift from the hand of God. Go ahead, reach out to God and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ask God in faith for the Baptism and receive it in faith.
It is Activated by Faith
Once you have received the gift, you must open it if you are ever going to use what is inside the box. You have the gift in your possession but it is utterly useless unless you open the box, take out the gift, and use it. Just as faith reached out and accepted the gift, your faith must be activated in order to use the benefits of the Baptism. Many of the gifts of the Spirit are verbal in nature and require the use of your voice to become effective. Other gifts will require certain responses or actions from you if they are going to accomplish the Lord's will.
Remember, the Baptism is for the enduing of power for service. The entire focus of the Baptism is to enable you to serve others and defeat the work of the devil. Certainly you will be blessed and encouraged as a byproduct of this work, but the main focus is outward, not inward.
The fruit of the Spirit deals with your inner man. The Baptism deals with the flow of ministry outward. This work of the Spirit has been described as rivers of living water flowing from our innermost being (John 7:38). Allow the power of the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself through your life. Remember the Baptism is just a doorway to a new dimension of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Want to learn more about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit?
Then consider picking up a copy of Spirit Baptism today. In it you will learn:
- Nine common misconceptions that may be hindering you from receiving the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- Why the baptism is available today despite what some people teach about it.
- How the baptism with the Spirit fits into the larger plan of God.
- Four reasons why you should want the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- How you can know you are baptized with the Spirit,
- Whether you have to speak in tongues or not when you receive the Spirit
- About the three types of tongues seen in scripture.
- How long the baptism with the Spirit lasts.
Next week we’ll look at Ephesians 4:22-24 to help us understand the part we play in changing our behaviors to line up with the truth of who we are in Christ. The choices we make will either help or hinder our walk with Christ.
You're Invited to Join Us on the Journey
I am so thankful that you’ve joined us today. If this post has blessed you and you would like to receive more, I want to invite to join us on the journey. Each week there will be a new blog post, audio blog, and encouraging images uploaded to the site. You can sign up for our Weekly Blog Digest and receive an email in your inbox every Friday morning listing all of the materials released for the past seven days.
The goal of Experiencing His Victory is to help you grow in your relationship with God. I have a desire to see you experience everything God has for your life. If you would like to join us on the journey, click on the button below.