What’d They Say Anyway? (ATP)
How do you know you’re really praying in the spirit and not just babbling out of your own flesh?
This is a question that perhaps everyone who has ever been filled with the Holy Spirit has asked at some point. This is probably because most people assume that if it comes from the spirit, then it must come on you automatically. That is partly why 1 Corinthians 14:14 says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.”
Being filled with God’s Holy Spirit does not mean that when you pray in the spirit, He is speaking through you. The Holy Spirit empowers us to pray, but He will not make us do it. The act of praying in the spirit is not praying from God’s Spirit but rather praying from ours. Notice what the verse above says, “if I pray…”. If I pray is the action on my part.
If I gave you a book written in French and asked you to read it aloud, you could probably do so . Yet, unless you knew French, you would not understand it. Praying in the spirit is the same. Our spirit prays, but our minds do not understand. I’ll get back to that in a moment. Ephesians 6:18 says, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—“. Again we see here the instruction is for us to pray, meaning we must put forth the effort. We see over and over in the Word that it is of our effort to put forth the words.
So how do we know it’s not gibberish? The truth is, we can only know this by faith. As with all things with God, there is always an element of faith attached. What happens when we pray in tongues is the Holy Spirit hooks up with us, and guides us as we pray. Remember the Holy Spirit guides us by that still inward witness. Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As we develop our prayer life things begin to make more sense. Not that you will understand every tongue, but you will begin to sense the Holy Spirit guiding and directing you. Eventually as you pray in the spirit, understandable words will bubble up for you to speak or revelation of something will come. This is what we call praying things out.
Some people erringly claim that in Acts when they spoke in other tongues they simply spoke in another language they did not know. If however, you read scripture carefully you will see this is not the case. What happened was, to those who were open to God, the Spirit interpreted the tongue in their own language. This was a sign to those who didn’t yet know the Spirit. Some who stood by (the critical ones) only heard gibberish and thought it was drunkenness. That happens today when unbelievers hear tongues.
Now, what I wanted to get back to was this, 1 Corinthians 14:13 instructs us, “Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret.” Though the Bible says tongues seems unfruitful to our minds, we should ask God to interpret as the Spirit wills. We must remember, God wants us to know His will. If we only pray in unknown tongues and never understand, we cannot know anything. As I said before, when you pray in the spirit words will seem to surface. Start speaking those words out. You may only get one word and it may repeat but that is ok. As you speak it out you begin speaking out mysteries. You may not know in the moment what that is for or you may. There has been many times where I have prayed in the spirit and gotten nothing in that moment, then later, as I went about my business, clarity or direction came. Those were things I prayed out and they were connected to the time spent praying.
Remember, once we are saved or filled with the spirit, the things that come after we choose to walk out by faith. As we do God brings more to us. I am more blessed today than when I was first saved because faith has brought me further in God. Praying is no different. When I was a child I prayed now I lay me down to sleep and today I pray out the very mysteries of God. As we grow in God and faith, His ways become more solidified in us. Faith is a muscle that needs to be worked out. As we do we develop into exactly what God intended us to be. This is where we will be fruitful in everything we do!