Pray in the Spirit on All Occasions

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” — Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Prayer is the most fundamental spiritual practice there is. Let me explain by way of analogy. Every human being needs air, water, and food to survive. If we miss even one we will die. From a spiritual perspective, every disciple of Jesus needs three things to grow spiritually: the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and the church. If we miss even one we will not get very far in our journey with Christ. We’ll plateau rather quickly and our faith will be stunted. I’ve found it helpful to think of the Holy Spirit as the breath of God in our spiritual lungs. The Spirit is like oxygen to our souls. Without Him we would be spiritually dead. That’s one reason the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.”

Prayer is the primary vehicle of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

If the Spirit is the oxygen, prayer is the breathing. If we don’t breath, we won’t live. If we don’t pray, we won’t “live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). So, praying in the Spirit on all occasions is essential to following Jesus. But what does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

The best way to explain this is to point out that there is a difference between saying prayers and praying. Prayer is a lot more than reciting something to God or telling God what we want Him to do for us, for others, and for the world. Prayer is intimacy with God. It is communion with the Lord. It is spending time with God–in His presence–listening to Him and sharing your heart with Him. To pray in the Spirit means to interact with the Holy Spirit during your time of prayer. It’s two-way communication (yes, God still speaks directly to His people, more on that later).

In essence, to pray in the Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to direct your prayers.

We may share what’s on our heart with the Lord, but we also ask Him what’s on His heart for us. We ask Him what He wants us to pray, or what He wants to speak into us or through us, and then we listen. Sometimes He brings a verse to mind, sometimes a line from a song. Sometimes He puts a word or phrase in our hearts or brings a face to mind. He may give us a feeling, a sense, a mental image, or a word-picture. There are many ways God speaks, and, to be fair, we don’t always hear clearly. Sometimes it’s difficult to discern God’s voice amongst all the other voices in our thoughts–it takes practice (we’ll talk more about that in a future post). But the point is God still speaks, and praying in the Spirit means praying as a dialogue with God–with a listening ear for the Spirit.

Having barely scratched the surface, let me conclude this post by going back to Paul’s instruction to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions“ (Eph 6:18, emphasis mine). Every time we pray, we should pray in the Spirit. There are many forms or expressions of prayer: intercession, petition, thanksgiving, confession, adoration, and kingdom prayer, just to name a few. The Spirit can speak and direct our prayers in all of them.

I don’t know what your prayer life is like, but I want to encourage you to pray in the Spirit this week. Ask God to speak to you, and then listen (try setting a timer for 10 minutes of listening). Write down anything and everything, anyone and everyone, that comes to mind, and then pray through it. If you practice this consistently, you’ll begin recognizing God’s voice in your prayers. And that will change your life.