What Is Praying in the Spirit?

Praying in the Spirit is prayer with divine help. It’s trusting in faith and relying on God to hear, understand, and act. Praying in the Spirit is a gift to be received through faith in Christ Jesus.

Scripture about Praying in the Spirit

  • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).
  • “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20).
  • “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Meaning of Praying in Spirit

According to John Gill’s commentary, prayer, “when performed aright, is performed ‘in the Spirit’; with the heart, soul, and spirit engaged in it. It is put up with a true heart, and a right spirit, and without hypocrisy; in a spiritual way, and with fervency, and under the influence, and by the assistance of the Spirit of God.”

Praying in the Spirit is distinct from praying in tongues.

Some teach that praying in the Spirit is synonymous with praying in tongues. But as tongues is a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), not a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), not every Christian can speak in tongues. Yet, Paul instructs Christians to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions,” (Ephesians 6:18). Therefore, we can know that praying in the Spirit is distinct from praying in tongues.

Praying in the Spirit is relying on the Spirit in prayer.

“The beginning of understanding what it means to pray in the Spirit is accepting Paul’s words: ‘We do not know what we ought to pray for….’ (Romans 8:26),” Alan Wright said.

The context around this verse portrays an intimate relationship with God through prayer, patiently trusting God to hear, understand, and act:

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:25-28).

Prayer “is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 16-18), not to burden his people with rules and rituals, but for relationship with him. And while “praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 16-18) is a command of God, the Spirit of God himself enables and empowers his people to pray.

Praying the Spirit is praying secure in your position as an heir of God.

In Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus describes religious hypocrites who prayed in public places to be seen by other people, rather than praying in the Spirit before God. He talks about the pagans who pray also, but in a ritualistic way with specific, repeated words. Jesus told his disciples to pray differently, being confident that God sees them and knows what they need even before they ask.

“Only inasmuch as you know that God is your Father can you pray with intimacy rather than with religious ritual. Part of what it means to pray in the Spirit, therefore, is to pray with the help of the Holy Spirit who is constantly reminding you of your position as heir of God. You’re God’s child and, as such, you’re a co-heir with Christ. You can pray with the power of a child of God to a perfect Father,” Wright said.

Praying in the Spirit is valuable and possible for every Christian.

Dr. Michael Milton discussed praying in the Spirit in his Crosswalk article.

“Praying in the Spirit is an indispensable part of the Christian life,” he said. “Opinions admittedly vary about the exact meaning of praying in the Spirit. There are assorted theological claims about how to ‘achieve’ prayer in the Spirit as if the admonition is a skill to be acquired. It is not. It is a gift to be received, a life to be lived… Prayer with divine help is praying in the Spirit.”

He went on to explain:

“‘Praying in the Spirit’ is altogether a divine activity that one appropriates through faith in Jesus Christ and in His finished work on the cross… To pray in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit (‘in Spirit and in truth,’ John 4:24) is to come before the Lord according to His appointed means—that is through the One whom the Spirit magnifies, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-27), depending on His revealed Word and pleading as a lesser creature to our glorious Creator.”

Photo Credit: Pexels/Matheus Bertelli


This article is part of Christianity.com's prayer answers including famous, topical prayers and information about the power of prayer. Find more related articles in the collection of prayers below:

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