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Praying with the Spirit
Dr Barry Chant
As part of the “Ministry of the Spirit” class at Tabor College, students are invited to commit themselves to pray with the spirit1 for ten minutes a day for five days a week for one semester. There have been some remarkable testimonies. Here is a brief report on a few of them (names have been changed) – Andrew said, 'At the beginning I found the devotional time very difficult. Between putting it off until later and completely forgetting, then feeling guilty because I knew God deserved all the praise I could ever give him plus much more. But half way through the term I was baptised in the Spirit. I am greatly encouraged and strengthened. My confidence and faith has increased.' Sally wrote, 'I have been spurred on by speaking in tongues in my daily life and have seen the fruits. Each time, this experience 'centred' me. It focused me back to Jesus and to his power. Although I was baptised in the Spirit around fifteen years ago, in most recent years, I admit that I have not practised speaking in tongues as often as I used to. I have been in awe at how immediately I can see God in each situation as I pray in tongues and how self-centredness evaporates and God-centeredness takes over. I have again been reminded that the 'connection' to heaven is astounding (as when I first had this experience) and I want to keep this zeal.' Jane told how she had many blocks to overcome and could not do the exercise until her fears were resolved. 'The days I least felt like praying in tongues,' she said, 'were the times I most needed it and from this I learned the value of discipline and not giving in to moods or emotions.' She had entered a 'new dimension in growth.' Maureen was a practical person. She would put a timer next to her bed at night set for ten minutes and prayed with the spirit for this time. She lost the problems she had previously experienced with disturbed sleep. Kay found she would often feel prompted by the Spirit to pray in her mind for a particular person, situation or event. Then she found that during the day she was 'drawn to the Spirit's voice.' Because it was now more clear she was able to listen, discern and act upon it. Many students reported a greater peace and contentment as a result. Michael claimed that the amount of joy and peace he felt were proportional to the time he spent praying in tongues. The problem was that, as with any prayer, ten minutes was inadequate. „It is only after half an hour,' he reported, 'that I can start feeling really close to God.' Lorraine noted that on a few occasions, especially when she did not feel like praying, she had a sense of God's love, majesty and greatness. She struggled to find the words to describe how she
felt. „When times have been tough,‟ she said, 'just praising God, even when I do not know what I am saying or I don't know what to say, has given me a sense of peace and knowledge that God is in control of every situation.' Even those who had been walking in the Spirit for many years found the exercise challenging. Ben had been praying in tongues for over a decade and did not think he would find the exercise difficult or unusual. He enjoyed praying in tongues and had used it a great deal in his personal prayer life but without any deliberate or intentional setting aside of time just to pray in tongues. But, „within the first few days of beginning this prayer exercise, I found myself confronted with a terrible thing: my own lack of prayerfulness. It came as a shock to me to realise that deliberately setting aside ten minutes to pray in tongues was far more difficult than I imagined it would be. I've had to humble myself before the Lord and call upon him in a new and fresh way.' The discipline of praying regularly with the Spirit was illustrated by Andrew's comment that initially he found the exercise difficult because he thought that much of what he was doing was 'in the flesh.' However looking back he wrote, „I can see the benefits and I intend on continuing in my own devotions. It was like putting my faith into action as I spoke aloud and I was able to sense the presence of God in my life in a more tangible way.‟ Surprising and profound Beverley felt uncomfortable and embarrassed when she first began to speak in tongues. She admitted this to God and told him she was willing to do it anyway. Since then, she reported, 'the value of praying with the spirit has been both surprising and profound.' The results included peace, calmness, spiritual insight, spiritual growth, greater intimacy with Jesus, more effective prayer and a positive change in her general temperament, after a bout of sickness. Colin was delighted with the benefits, 'Firstly,' he said without any qualification, 'it revolutionised my prayer life.‟ He found a greater appreciation of the character and nature of God and saw intercessions for others being answered in a significant way. He gained new insights into Scripture, witnessed more effectively and became bolder in exercising other spiritual gifts. Lorene reported 'an overwhelming feeling of contentment' - the Lord was so close she felt as if she could reach out and touch him. Interestingly, while she was praying with the spirit, she found her mind actually became clearer and her praying more purposeful. Matt stated that God's loving kindness was more real to him and that praying in tongues strengthened him in times of spiritual warfare. Gary realised he had been used to feeding his flesh, but not his spirit. This exercise redressed the balance and while he prayed in tongues, God opened his eyes relating to his lifestyle. He also felt a greater compassion for the needy. Morris recalled how he had always found it hard to join in with singing with the spirit in his church, but now he could do so enthusiastically. He no longer felt 'left out.' Ivan struggled with the normal doubts - 'is it just me making it up?' - and distractions, but when he actually undertook this exercise, 'somehow' his will was under control and he was better able
to resist the temptation to think of other things. What he described as a „threadbare‟ Christian life was being lifted to a better level. For Keith, the exercise was easy - he normally prayed in tongues for an hour a day anyway. His ongoing testimony was that through this prayer, he could 'refocus his heart through God's heart.' Also, in his ministry to the poor and the sick he found the practice of praying in tongues a source of strength. So too did Jamie. Struggling with the need of a friend suffering with terminal cancer, he wrote, 'At times I have had no idea what to pray or what to say to his family. Speaking in tongues takes care of the prayers that I cannot aptly express in my own language and provides me with Godly wisdom to say appropriate things to his family during this terrible time.' Initially, Judy found the exercise a tough one. 'What seemed like ten minutes,' she said, 'was in fact only one or two.' But by the end of the assignment, she found the ten minutes stretching into twenty or thirty. The greatest benefit was a 'much closer relationship' with the Lord Jesus Christ and a deeper sense of worship. Sue admitted that since being baptised in the Spirit two years previously, she had been too analytical in her approach to tongues and she didn‟t understand the priceless value of the gift.' When she began the exercise, she was beset with doubts and cried out to God for reassurance. She heard, almost audibly, the words, 'The righteous shall live by faith.‟ The doubts broke and she experienced a sense of release and „wonderful peace.‟ Peace not Hype 'I have known the presence of God as never before. It was peace I needed, not emotional hype,' wrote Edith. 'The benefits of praying with the spirit are beyond my understanding and often my awareness. Sometimes I need a push - thank you for pushing.' Karen testified to increasing confidence; Sally grew less anxious and headaches lessened; Ian became 'more spiritual in the right sense of the word.' Brett found his ability to worship enhanced; God began to reveal things to Cynthia about her personal life while she prayed; Martin wrote, 'It sent my spirit soaring' and increased his passion for Jesus. Vadi discovered an exciting ability to pray in more languages than she had done previously. And she became more peaceful when she spoke in tongues while driving. 'It is hard to be angry at other drivers when you are praying with the spirit,' she said. Diana wrote, 'I have noticed subtle changes in some of my attitudes and perceptions.' She also began to pray in tongues in a wider variety of situations, especially at times when prayer seemed difficult. 'I feel more strongly than ever of the value of tongues,' she said.
In 1 Corinthians 14:14-16, Paul points out that when he prays in tongues his spirit prays. He clearly uses the phrase 'pray with the / my spirit' as a synonym for 'pray in tongues.' Students are also given the option of praying aloud in their own language.
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