PRAYING WITH THE SPIRIT

I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).

Prayer with the spirit stems from the human spirit, rather than the understanding, in other words, praying in tongues.

Paul told the Corinthians that he prayed with the spirit more than all of them (1 Corinthians 14:18).

It is not difficult to create a mental image of him sitting in his street-side workshop stitching tent material or trudging the dusty highways of the ancient world or facing a brisk ocean breeze at the bows of a Mediterranean sailing vessel.

What else is he doing? Quietly praying with the spirit, communing with God in deepening fellowship as he is spiritually built up and strengthened (1 Corinthians 14:4a).

Prayer in tongues is a way in which the pneuma (spirit) prays. He is plainly referring to the human spirit here because he uses the adjective ‘my’ in reference to ‘spirit’.

He indicates a determined approach to this. ‘I will pray with the spirit,’ he says. This is an act of decision, an expression of will.

Naturally he will use his mind’s language; he will use his spirit’s language as well.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

PRAYING WITH THE UNDERSTANDING

The essence of praying with the understanding is just that–praying with the understanding. In other words, praying thoughtfully and intelligently.

There are wonderful prayers recorded in Scripture that still inspire us today, thousands of years later.

These include the song of Moses after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1-18), the prayer of Hannah after the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), the Psalms, the prayer of Habbakuk (Habakkuk 3:1-19), the prayers of Jesus (Matthew 26:39; John 17:1-26) and the prayers of Paul (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-210.

There are also prayers such as the one attributed to Francis of Assisi –

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is sadness, joy.

Or Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer–

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Praying with the understanding usually means composing your own prayers using your own thoughts. But it can also mean praying the prayers of others when it helps.

And, of course, many prayers have been set to music–we call them hymns.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

PRAYER IS THE ACT OF A CHILD

Prayer is like the act of a child talking with its parent. It needs to be trusting, genuine, sincere and personal.

Sometimes we feel inadequate to express ourselves appropriately, but God is more interested in the substance than the style.

While there have been many beautiful prayers composed and recorded over the centuries that are still used in Christian worship services today, the simple baby-talk of a little child or the desperate moan of a dying cancer victim may resound just as loudly in heaven.

I once heard a man tell how he had been so addicted to alcohol that he was reduced to the dreadful extremity of spreading boot polish on bread to satisfy his endless craving.

One night in a state of dereliction and despair he stumbled into a church. He saw the joy on the faces of the people, and prayed the only way he knew how: ‘Righto, sport, you’ve done it for them, do it for me.’

He was saved and delivered from alcohol that night and never drank again.

Prayer in our own language comes from the heart and needs to express the yearnings of the heart.

The best place to begin, as Jesus said, is with the words, ‘Our Father.’

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

One of my favourite songs as a teenager was —

I keep in touch with Jesus, and he keeps touch with me

and so we walk together in perfect harmony.

There’s not a day that passes, there’s not an hour goes by,

but that we have sweet fellowship, my precious Lord and I.

(Margaret W Brown and Howard L Brown, 1942.)

 

The song had a touch of jazz about it that I enjoyed, but it was also a positive affirmation of the regular harmony and fellowship that exists between Jesus and us. He is very near and through daily walking with him we can enjoy that nearness to the full.

The Christian life is depicted in the Bible as a journey in which we walk together with Christ (Psalm 89:15; Isaiah 35:8-10; 43:2; Colossians 2:6) and the Scriptures frequently talk of our ongoing fellowship with the Lord (1 John 1:3).

The truth is that being in fellowship, not being out of fellowship, is the norm.

We have God’s assurance of his abiding presence in our lives. Jesus said he would be with us forever (Matthew 28:20).

  • This union and communion with Christ is indescribable.
  • It triumphs in the face of difficulty and discouragement.
  • It celebrates in the midst of joy and success.
  • It is the ongoing privilege of the people of God.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

A CHANGED LIFE

Ken, an up-and-coming youth leader in his local church met a couple who told him they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit. As with the Ephesian believers, the initial sign of the Spirit’s coming had been speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6).

Ken began searching for the same divine enduement. One night, as he fervently and earnestly sought the Lord in prayer, the Holy Spirit came upon him.

From that time, his life changed. He never again argued for an entertainment program for the church youth. Rather, he began to exhort them to a commitment to Christ that would transform their lives and introduce them to the supranatural power of God.

That took place over half a century ago. In the years since that time, Ken has led hundreds of people to Christ, established several churches, written numerous books and established a global Bible training program with 150,000 enrolled students.

He is honoured internationally as an author, teacher, preacher and Christian statesman.

I have no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s coming upon him that changed his life. And I guess I ought to know. Ken is my older brother. And I am one whose life was redirected because of what happened to him.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Ken was an up-and-coming youth leader in his church. At 19 years of age, he felt that God was calling him to the ministry and he was eager to do all he could for the church.

He was concerned that his local congregation was not holding the young people as well as they might. When they could be at youth meetings, some of them were going dancing. Ken had an idea. Why not hold dances at the church?

So he made the suggestion. Some took it up, but others opposed it. A special meeting was held to discuss the proposal.

‘If we are going to hold our young people,’ said Ken, ‘we have to make allowances for their interests. If we had regular dances here, they wouldn’t be going elsewhere.’

Others argued that it wasn’t the church’s role to entertain. The young people needed to be better motivated.

The matter was unresolved. Then something happened to change Ken’s life. He met some young people from another congregation who seemed to have no motivation problem at all. They loved the Lord and they loved the church, with all its faults. Eventually, he found their secret.

A year earlier they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:4). Now they were living with the impulse of divine energy.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

WE NEED HIS POWER

‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ (Acts 19:1-7).

The resultant coming of the Holy Spirit was a seal upon what the Ephesian believers had just done in committing themselves to Jesus Christ. First they believed, then they were baptised and then the Spirit came upon them, authenticating their experience.

We might ask the same question today. ‘Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?’

It is an important issue. Many of us are trying to live in the image of God without the power of the Spirit. I have the greatest admiration for those who succeed.

But the truth is that God has given us his Spirit to enable us to live confident lives.

In this sense, the coming of the Spirit is not just a seal–it is also a dynamic, empowering experience, as indicated by other New Testament analogies such as power (Acts 1:8), effusion (Acts 2:17), fire (Matthew 3:11-12) and execution (Romans 8:13).

In talking about self-mastery, Paul wrote, ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:7).

This powerful, loving Spirit is the One we all need all the time.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

CHASING THE DRAGON

One of the most stirring missionary reports published in recent years is Jackie Pullinger’s Chasing the Dragon. It tells the moving, exciting story of a young English woman who was rejected by missionary councils and went alone and unsupported to the slums of Hong Kong.

Two things really stand out. One is the reinvigorating strength that Jackie Pullinger gained through regular prayer in the Spirit–often ‘on the run’, for there was no other time–and the other is the power of love.

What endeared her to the hearts of the slum people and teenage gang members was the fact that she was prepared to identify herself with them and to be one with them, although it took a long time to convince them she really did intend to go on living among them.

Eventually, Pullinger broke through–but only after years of hardship, dedication, and pain.

There was only one way to prove that she really loved those people–and that was to stay with them, weep with them, laugh with them, pray with them and eat with them.

Only through love–and through that love penetrating the barriers that had hitherto effectively shut out the gospel–could such a ministry work.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

OUR GUARANTEE Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13).

The word ‘seal’ is an interesting one. A seal is a mark of authenticity. Some months after I graduated from university, having passed my final examinations, I was presented with a testamur on which was the University seal.

The degree was mine before I received the certificate. I had done all the necessary work and I had the results to prove it. But the testamur–and the seal–authenticated it.

This is like our experience in Christ. The moment we believe in Jesus Christ, we are genuine citizens of the kingdom of God and members of the family of God.

No doubt about it. God has done everything necessary to ensure that. It’s not even like a university course. There are no examinations, no assignments, although unquestionably we now belong to God (Colossians 1:13).

When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, it is like receiving a degree testamur. He ‘seals’ what has already been done and authenticates it for all to see.

This does not make us any more Christian. That would be impossible. But it does confirm what we are.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

LOVE GIVES US THE CONFIDENCE TO SERVE

Love is a great boost to self-confidence. In one of his best-known statements, John writes,

‘There is no fear in love’ (1 John 4:18).

This means that we have confidence before God. We can approach him boldly and without shame, because we know that his love has covered our sins through the death of Christ on the cross and that our love for him has brought us near to him.

But it also means that we have confidence towards others. The reason is simple. When we love others we are more concerned about them and their needs than we are about our own.

You may have grumbling, difficult, hard-to-get-on-with neighbours. Your natural instinct may be to avoid them altogether.

But if you reach out to them in love, you may begin to understand why they are like they are. And your love will overcome your fear of conflict.

An old black gospel song says —

You may talk about me as much as you please,

I’ll talk about you down on my knees.

When we pray for those who use us wrongly, love for them begins to grow and then we have confidence to approach them and extend grace to them.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.

THE GREATER OUR LOVE, THE GREATER OUR FAITH

Love is a powerful quality. We are more likely to receive answers to prayer when we love. This applies to our ability to forgive one another.

Have faith in God… I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. … And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:22-25)

Failure to forgive, or failure to be loving, will cut off the effectiveness of prayer. Faith works through love (Galatians 5:6).

The greater our love, the greater our faith.

We need to consider this passage closely. It may be that we would see the Lord working more powerfully in our lives if we were to treat each other better.

This is not to say that answers to prayer are rewards for good deeds. Not at all. God answers our prayers because he loves us.

But wrong attitudes are destructive to faith. Bitterness, envy and resentment work against faith and hence, against answered prayer.

To read more on this topic see Living in the Image of God, Barry Chant (Miranda: Tabor, 2012 available in eBook and Paperback) from which this edited extract is taken.