What is “praying in the Spirit” in Jude 1:20?
First, I should comment on what praying in the Spirit is not. We live in a day when people clamor for ecstatic experiences, experiences that many presume this verse is referring to.
Recently I saw an article that described what is going on in some religious circles. People are raising their hands in the air, becoming ‘drunk in the Spirit,’ laughing, weeping, crying out, shaking, leaping, and jerking.
The article rightly called attention to Jonathan Edwards, who was one of God’s instruments in the “Great Awakening” of the 1700s. He would say that the proper marks of the Spirit’s moving are manifested by some of the following criteria, not by the above phenomena.
• Does the work raise the believers’ esteem of Jesus?
• Does it operate against the interest of Satan’s kingdom?
• Does it cause in men a greater regard for the Scriptures?
• Does it make men more sensitive to the fact that God exists and that He is a great and a sin-hating God?
• Does the spirit at work operate as a spirit of love to God and man?
These questions test whether or not certain experiences are truly of the Spirit.
Praying in the Spirit is not some far-out ecstatic experience (which can become a point of pride or something that causes one believer to say to another believer, “I have s6mething you don’t have”). Rather it is simply allowing God to speak to us before we open our hearts and voices, and then it is praying in accordance with God’s will and Word.
Romans 8:26 tells us that we don’t know how we ought to pray, “but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The disciples recognized their inability when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray.
We have a tendency to come to God with a “Christmas wish list” of our wants. Praying in the Spirit is far more than that. We must approach God only as we wait on Him and as we let the Spirit show us what to pray. Praying in the Spirit also contrasts with the mechanical prayers that we pray out of habit or from a feeling of necessity. Such prayers lack power. A couple of final observations:
First, note that Jude deals with false teachers. They didn’t pray to God, for they were devoid of spiritual life. In contrast, the believers to whom Jude was writing could pray in the Spirit. In other words, they could pray as the Spirit led. Second, note the beautiful reference to the Trinity in verses 20 and 21: We are to pray in the Spirit, keep ourselves in God’s love, and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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