1 Corinthians 14:14-15
14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
NOTE: I understand that many who read this blog may not believe in the gift of tongues as I do, but I am going to cover this from my perspective and hopefully you will see why we of Pentecostal circles put so much stock in this gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:8-11). I pray you’ll bear with me with an open mind.
Paul states that he will use both of these methods to pray – with the understanding and with the spirit. Praying with the understanding means I am praying with my own words about a situation that I am knowledgeable about. Praying with the spirit means that I am praying about something that I don’t have the details about. Let me explain further.
Johnny comes up to me and asks me to pray with him about a medical test he is going to have done tomorrow. He tells me he is a little worried because if the test comes back a certain way, he may have to have further tests to determine what’s next. He does not want to give me any further details at this time.
In this case, I can pray with my understanding because there is a specific purpose for the prayer. I know he is going for a test, and that he wants the right result so he will not have to face future tests. I pray words that go along with that request. I take his hand and lead him in prayer, and he is grateful for my prayers.
The next day, as he is going in for the test, I will pray at my home for him, but this time, I will add a different element and pray with my understanding on those things I know about, but allow the spirit to lead me in prayer about the specifics, since I do not know the specifics of the test or what they are looking for. Here is the way Romans 8:26-27 puts it:
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
I am not sure what I should exactly pray for. Now, don’t get me wrong, the spirit leads when I pray with my understanding also, but that prayer can only go as far as my knowledge will take it. The Spirit knows every detail of what Johnny is going through, what they are looking for, what the symptoms are, and how to bring about a good solution. When I allow the Spirit to speak through me with “groanings that cannot be uttered”, I am praying God’s perfect will for that person, because it is the Spirit that is speaking. The groanings, in our belief, are called tongues – our prayer language so to say. They come out when we open our mouth, and we lose our tongue to speak a heavenly language in prayer.
The big difference between the two is that praying with out understanding is reactionary. We react to the situation we have been made aware of and pray accordingly. Praying with tongues is taking action. We are looking ahead and taking action on something we have not been made aware of. Utilizing both of these methods gives Johnny all I have in prayer, and that will bring about an answer every time. Ephesians 6:18 says this:
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Always bringing prayer before God. We discussed this in Chapter 4 on when we should pray. Prayer is the last item listed as part of our spiritual armor. It protects us from principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph 6:12). This is spiritual warfare, and our prayer language is the most powerful weapon we have in this battle. I rely on it!
Prayer and supplication. The prayer is public, private, in church, or for family. Supplication is seeking in earnest prayer, beseeching God, pleading with Him. These need to be brought before God with persistence, not just one time. We have an obligation to pray with all we have once we have been asked. It is what holds our brothers and sisters up in their time of need. Let us pray with both the Spirit and with our understanding to get the best results.
Pray Humbly or Boldly.
Both of these are very acceptable and necessary. We should always come to God with humility, recognizing Him as far superior than us. But there are times that we need to come boldly before the throne of God. It is knowing when that is the key here.
First, let’s look at the humility side. Micah 6:8 is one of the verses in the Bible that none of us should ever ignore:
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
The word “requires” here means that God asks for it, or demands it. It is a word that makes this as close to a commandment as could be. Seek Justice, love mercy and walk humbly before your God. There is no room for pride before God, no room for unmerciful acts, no room for injustice. To effectively come to God, we need to do all we can to comply with this wonderful verse. It should be a driving force behind our lives.
I have tried walking proudly with God, and He allowed me to do so, but in the end, he had to bring me down to my knees and realize that was not the way to please Him. To please God, humility needs to reign in my life, and especially in my prayer life. I am in no position to demand anything from God! He has provided so much for me already that I cannot begin to make a list. He is so merciful and yet He still tells me “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Exodus 33:19). He has no obligation to grant my requests, and yet He does so often. We must walk in that same mercy. H desires for us to show that mercy to those around us
You might say to me, “It says in His word that if we ask, He will do it, and God always keeps His promises!”. I would ask you – are you walking fully in every commandment and instruction in righteousness? Are you perfect as He asks you to be (Matt 5:48)? Are you holy as He is holy? (1 Peter 1:16). If not, and I doubt any of us are, He could strike us dead now if He wanted to and be fully justified! But He is merciful. If He decides to tell me to wait on that prayer request, I, in all humility, should accept that response without question or hesitation.
Matt 6:3 tells us this:
3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
We should never boast about our giving. We should just do it and forget about it. Then he goes on to say we should pray in the closet, not where everyone can see us. This takes us out of the place where we boast about the prayers we have had answered – that just stirs up pride. When we pray in secret, the Father will reward us for our obedience, and reward us openly – I believe that means He will grant our requests.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Humility – always! We all have the measure of faith. Some of us just place it in different places. We discussed this earlier in our study. Our faith is built up by reading the word and by going through trials ourselves. Humility makes us realize we need more faith to be more effective, so we continue to seek growth in the kingdom.
Strive for humility in your prayer life. This is the preferred attitude of prayer. We are closer to God when we are humble before Him. Practice humility with all you have.
But then there is boldness needed at times. Hebrews 4:16 tells us this:
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
This verse is often used to justify demanding things of God. But notice the wording here very carefully. We can come boldly, but it is a throne of grace, not a treasure house of riches for us. Grace that was provide on the cross. Grace that was given freely to us all already. What are we looking for? Mercy! What does God say about Mercy – He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. It is His choice! Not ours.
And the last part really brings it home. Yes, we can come boldly to God with our request, but the request should not be for anything but grace in a time of need. It is not to make us rich, or build up our business. We come boldly, with all humility, looking for mercy and hoping for grace to be bestowed on us in our current situation. It is not about demanding anything.
Eph 3:12 says this:
12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
We are only allowed this boldness and this access by our faith in Christ. Because of Him, we can approach God with confidence because He has secured our access to the throne. But when should we use this boldness we have been granted?
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
In effect, Jesus grants us power of attorney here. If we ask in His name, He will do it. That is why we can be bold. Because He has granted us that permission. He is our mediator (1 Tim 2:5)
2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
When we pray for the lost, we can pray with boldness, because we know that God is not willing that any should perish.
38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
When we pray for God to send laborers for the harvest, we can pray boldly, because God has prepared the harvest for us, and wants the harvest to come in. Take special note that we do not pray for the laborers We pray that God will send the laborers to do the work.
17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
God has promised an outpouring of His Spirt, that we will have dreamers and visionaries. We can pray boldly for these days to come, and that a great revival will sweep the land.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
We can pray boldly that God will transform our minds, but we must truly desire it with all our hearts, and we must enable the process by being in the word on a regular basis. He desires for us to prove what the good, acceptable and perfect will of God is.
In all this boldness, we must remember that our boldness must be flanked with humility. God honors humility in us, so when we come before Him with the access and confidence Christ has given us, and we approach Him with our bold requests, we also understand that His mercy and grace are what grants those requests. If we forget that humility, we can easily start to think it is our prayers and our demands that are accomplishing these prayers being answered. That is very dangerous ground, my friend!
Here I thought this post would be shorter. I guess I got going a little long winded. Thanks for staying with me! In our next chapter, we will look at how we pray as far as posture goes – what should our position be before God when we pray? Join us as we continue our prayer journey.