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Question

 

Dear Gramps,

Could you please explain what “praying in the Spirit, with all our prayer and supplication” is that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:18?  I see from other Christian sources that it means praying in tongues or “speaking with the tongue of angels” and it made me think of 2 Nephi 32… Is it uttering Scripture (God’s promise) or receiving the word of Christ (God’s will, personal Revelation) in our heart?  Thank you.

Radinika

 

Answer

 

Dear Radinika,

“Praying in the Spirit” means that the one praying is in alignment with, and praying in alignment with, the will of God. Prayers, like worship, to that Being who is Spirit and Truth, must be done in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). President Monson has reminded us of the lesson Huckleberry Finn learned about praying in truth: “I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, … but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.” Proper prayer must also be performed in the Spirit, and Paul has taught us what the role of the Spirit is in our supplications. “[T]he 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.” (Romans 8:26). The Spirit’s role in prayer is 1) help us know what we ought to pray for, and 2) make groaning intercessions.

The Spirit will lead us into knowing what we should ask for (“pray” is just an old word for “ask” or “request”) if we will humbly start with the question “What lack I yet?” The Spirit will guide us in seeking self-improvement, and often that improvement includes seeking the betterment of others through service. The Spirit reveals these things, and we can then pray in faith so that our Heavenly Father “will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (2 Nephi 32:9). During our evening prayers, having counseled with the Lord that morning, we then give an accounting of our daily labors and request help in improving or again ask “what lack I yet?”

At times when we pray, we are prompted to express gratitude or praise but find our words and thoughts wholly inadequate to such holy adoration. I have attended a few church meetings when the one speaking delivered a sermon far richer and fuller than her words expressed. I felt this recently while President Uchtdorf was conducting the April 2016 General Conference. Sunday afternoon, Elder Kearon encouraged the saints to exemplify discipleship by assisting refugees as they transition to a new home. President Uchtdorf then arose and announced the congregational hymn. He said nothing of Elder Kearon’s talk, but the emotion choking his words shouted AMEN! to the sermon given. And the Spirit carried to open ears and hearts the proper course of action. The communication was not in the words, but in the sacred groanings of the Spirit. So also when we pray. We can be filled with gratitude, joy, praise, and worship of our Creator and His management of His plan. But we spew out words and thoughts like infants, pointing in the general direction and grunting. The Spirit speaks God’s language, and understanding the desire of our hearts (we just mentioned that He planted them there to begin with), delivers the message with clarity.

For Latter-day Saints, we have a Spirit-filled culture that differs from other religions. While some focus on the gift of tongues as a gift of the Spirit, we tend to look more to revelation (they both have their place). Culturally, some religions will use speaking in tongues as evidence that a person is moved upon by the Spirit while we will look toward emotional expressions (note that in both of these cases the evidence is easily counterfeited and thus the true measure is whether or not the Spirit is also moving upon those teaching and those hearing). “Praying in the Spirit” is not some intellectual mystery – it is exactly what the words parse out to be. Recognition that the supplicant is in such a state comes by recognizing the Spirit – a practice Latter-day Saints are familiar with.

 

Gramps

 

 

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