“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 6:18, NKJV).
“Christ, our Mediator, and the Holy Spirit are constantly interceding in man’s behalf, but the Spirit pleads not for us as does Christ who presents His blood, shed from the foundation of the world; the Spirit works upon our hearts, drawing out prayers and penitence, praise and thanksgiving. The gratitude which flows from our lips is the result of the Spirit striking the cords of the soul in holy memories, awakening the music of the heart” (Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 1077-78).
Prayer is challenging. We cannot see God, and most of us seldom, if ever, hear God. We cannot touch Him, and it sometimes seems like answers are hard to come by. We also have many questions about how prayer works, or why it doesn’t seem to work.
I remember praying as a young man and growing frustrated. I would often get drowsy (praying with head bowed and eyes closed), and sometimes my mind wandered to a list of things I needed to do instead of talking with the Lord. Songs like “Sweet Hour of Prayer” were a mystery to me. “How can anyone pray for an hour? I can hardly pray for 15 minutes. In fact, one survey shows that the average time pastors spend in prayer is around 7-10 minutes each day! I felt guilty. Of all things that a pastor should be committed to, prayer is the most important of all.
While thoroughly studying the subject of the Holy Spirit, I came across this text: “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26, NLT). I did not fully understand this verse at the time, but it was clear the Holy Spirit would help me with prayer. That one thought alone began to transform my prayer life. God had promised to help me pray, so I began to claim that promise with all my heart. When I got drowsy, I claimed the promise. When my mind wandered, I claimed the promise. Gradually the quality of my prayers and the quantity of time I spent in prayer improved. Also, as I spent more time in prayer, personal challenges improved or went away, and miracles began to happen. I can’t explain why, but it seems to be true: the time spent in prayer is just as important as the quality of what we say.
Even though prayer is still a challenge sometimes, I find that the time goes by more quickly, and I don’t have trouble with sleepiness or mental wandering. I know God hears my prayers, and I know He will answer in His own good time and way. So, biblically speaking, to pray in the Spirit means to put forth human effort to improve our time in prayer while trusting the Holy Spirit to inspire and empower us.
Some practical ideas to improve your prayer life:
Bible Texts to Pray About
Sweet Hour of Prayer (Hymn #478); Prayer is the Key to Heaven; O Holy Dove of God Descending (Hymn #270); When You Pray; Every Praise; Showers of Blessing (Hymn #195).