454. Spiritual Warfare. “Praying in the Spirit.” Eph 6:18. Core Teaching Stage 4. Topic 5

Ephesians 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

What is prayer? Simply put, prayer is conversing with God. Not just talking to the Lord but listening. The latter is easy as it is being quiet before God. The former is easy as well as it is expressing what is on one’s heart. Prayer is “an address (such as a petition) to God in word or thought.

Jesus expected his disciples to pray, even teaching them how to do so when one of his disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke11:1. 


In spiritual warfare, one has to put on the whole amour of God, but one also has to be always constant in prayer. If we use Paul’s use of “flesh” for human (natural), and “spirit” for the things of the Spirit (the supernatural), it means praying as one is led by the Spirit and not praying just from human or fleshly wisdom or from human understanding. This shows our need to rely on the Spirit in prayer and gives a deeper dimension to prayer. 


Luke 11:1-13. ‘He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Jesus taught them what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. He went on to add,  9  “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. …13  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” The other gospels have “good things” instead of Holy Spirit. Luke may be stressing the means of prayer, the need to pray with the Spirit’s help, while the other gospel writers focussed on the result of such prayer. It’s the Holy Spirit-inspired prayer that brings the “good things” (as God sees them) for our needs. 


Romans 8:26-27. Paul wrote in Rom 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” It is the experience of many believers that there are times when they have found it difficult to find the words to pray. They discovered that God has helped them as they found themselves praying with groans or sounds or with words not in their own natural tongue. It’s as though the indwelling Holy Spirit gave them the impetus and the sounds to pray in that way. Such prayer is powerful for it originates in the Holy Spirit.

Paul went on to describe what happens when people pray in that way. (Rom 8:27)  “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” When God hears such prayers He searches our human hearts which are yielded to Him and recognizes the sounds we have made that originated in the mind of the Spirit. The wonderful thing is that what the Spirit prays through us is in accordance with the will of God.

It may be helpful to look more closely at the words used in verse 26.

  • Help = sunantilambano – to help at the side of, to help in attaining. 
  • Weakness = asthenia = to lack strength, illness, frailness, inability. 
  • Pray = proseuchomai =always used of prayer to God. 
  • Intercedes = huperentunchano = to make a petition on behalf of another. Also in Rom 8:27, in the form of entygchanō huper to intercede on behalf of the saints.
  • Groans = stenagmos is used of Jesus praying in Mk 7:34 as He looked to heaven and sighed before saying “Be opened” to a deaf, mute man. See also 2 Cor 5:2-4 for the groaning of believers longing to be clothed with their heavenly dwelling.

1 CORINTHIANS 12:1-3. The gift of the Spirit enables us to declare that “Jesus is Lord!” 

I Corinthians 12:4-13, 

The Spirit gives a variety of gifts, ministries and workings but it is same Spirit at work who manifests Himself through all these things v.7. “and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

  • Tongues and the interpretation of tongues are included among the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor 12:11, “to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”


  • Those speaking in tongues speak to God not men, and utter mysteries, 1 Cor 14:2. “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”
  • The one who speaks in tongues edifies himself. 1Co 14:4  “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.” “Builds up” is from [oikodomeō], meaning to found, to establish, to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness, to grow in wisdom and piety
  • However if tongues are interpreted it means that Church is also edified, 1Co 14:5  “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” Here the same word [oikodomeō] is used of congregational spiritual growth.
  • The willingness to interpret tongues should be a goal for the believer 1Co 14:12 “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret.”
  • Paul saw the need to pray in tongues AND to think of what to pray in one’s native tongue, 1Co 14:14 “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15  What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”

Some people have felt there is a contradiction in this passage in 1Corinthians 14. For example, they point to 1Co 14:5 “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy.” Then they contrast that with 1Co 14:27 “ If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.” However there is no contradiction, for in verse 5 Paul is stating that he wants all believers to be willing to pray in tongues, but in verse 27 he is thinking about public worship where the emphasis is on the edification of the people.  When tongues are exercised in public worship they should be accompanied by interpretation and even then, there should be only three at a maximum.

The same applies to prophecy in public worship. Only three people are to prophesy. 

Paul’s principle is that tongues are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and thus valuable in prayer. They are certainly to be used in private devotions as a means of building oneself up. But they are also to be used in public worship when interpretation is available, to build up or edify the whole congregation. 


(Jude 1:20-21) “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” The main command here is, “keep yourselves in the love of God” where “keep” is an aorist imperative command. The means to keeping ourselves in the love of God is expressed by two present tense participles,  “building” and “praying.” So the verse could be translated as  ”21 keep yourselves in the love of God, while building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”

4]. NOTES:- 

  • “Build up “= epoikodomeo= used in Eph 2:20 and Col 2:7 for being established on Christ.  
  • Eph 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” AND Col 2:7 “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
  • In Acts 20:32 the word for “building up’ is [oikodomeo.] Act 20:32 “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
  • This [oikodomeō] is also used in 1 Cor 14:4, 5, 17 for the edification of believers individually and corporately. 1Co 14:4 “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5  Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” 
  • In 1 Cor 14:16-17, Paul teaches that praying in the Spirit is helpful for an individual, but it does not edify another person who is present who doesn’t understand what has been prayed. “Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?“17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.”
  • We are reminded that all true prayer originates in God Himself and is released in us as we become open to the Spirit as we commune with God.
  • We need to be inspired by the Holy Spirit Who can open our minds so that we can come to know more of the mind, purpose and will of God.
  • In that way, as we are led by the Spirit we can pray according to the will of God and get the answers He longs to give to us as His children. 
  • As we commune with God, the Spirit is able to motivate us to pray, to give us the words (in tongues or our ordinary language to pray. (Often praying in tongues allows us to know more clearly how to be able to pray in our own language with a greater understanding of God’s will. ) 

So we can see why “praying at all times in the Spirit” is associated with the armour of God we are to clothe ourselves with. It allows us to come to a greater understanding of the will of God so that our prayers become more powerful by allowing more of the will of God to be accomplished through us. 

Blog No.454 posted on Thursday 12 January 2023.

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Glorification, Healing, Holy Spirit, Judgement, Justification, Mental Health, New Covenant, Prayer, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare, TOPICS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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