A distraught and desperate father made his way through pressing crowds to bring his possessed son to Jesus’ disciples for deliverance. They seemed powerless to help. They had yet to know that spiritual warfare requires a prayer life that knows how to fight. Little then did they realize the importance of a prayer life that could meet this challenge.
Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit Mark 9:17
When Jesus arrived on the scene, His instructed the helpless nine:
This kind can come out only by prayer Mark 9:29.
There are 8 different New Testament words for prayer and scholarship teaches us that these are all the same prayer, They have varied translation: request, petition, supplication, prayer, .. and even a vow. but
…on the distinction between these words…when all has been said, it will still to a great extent remain true that they will set forth, not different kinds of prayer, but prayer contemplated from different sides and under different aspects.1
Our word here for prayer calls our attention to the spiritual warfare for the souls of men. Scholarship calls our word here: “a pious conversation”2…with God. And we are quick to add: in the New Testament is found, too frequently to be ignored, the phrase: in the Spirit. Whether we are seeking God on our own behalf or that of another (after an Old Testament use.)4 this aspect of our prayer life recognizes that prayer is not a matter of words nor is it simply an emotional outlet. Prayer is a spiritual reality we enter into because here we meet with God.
Our christian walk and our faith are the spiritual side of this life and we are not paranoid in knowing that there is armed against us a spiritual opposition.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12
And it is because the battle is spiritual, our prayer life must be spiritually empowered. Our prayer for one another is the primary weapon we wield against the foe, the devil.
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.
“Praying in the Spirit” is an oft used phrase in a number of epistles which indicates it was already theologically significant.5
The injunction to pray in the Spirit, according to the Apostle Paul, follows on his description of the armor of a believer against assaults of evil. Dr. J Vernon McGee referred to this as “lay[ing] hold of God for spiritual resources.” Spiritual warfare requires spiritual praying to have an effective offensive strategy against all that challenges our faith. Paul recognized “the sufferings of this present time” [Romans 8:18] were not to be passed off as just the price of discipleship. Suffering impacts faith and it needs to share in our victory with faith.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings – Philippians 3:10
Let us also glory in our sufferings, … because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, – Romans 5:3,5
The connection between suffering and empowered ministry is “laying hold of God” in prayer.
There are times perhaps prayer may begin as words we stumble over, burdens we cannot begin to carry. We are hurting souls whose pain is beyond the reach of all that we think we knew about life. Life’s circumstances seem out of control—but not God’s. Our cry has no language. In desperation we may collapse in tears. The heart is overwhelmed. We recognize that we need to meet with God. We need to talk to Him, We must pray in the Spirit.
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 [meets with God] for us through wordless groans. – Romans 8:26.
One more thing from the Beatitudes: Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in response to persecution on the day He gave them the secret to their happiness as believers.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray [meet with God] for [the benefit of or with regard to ] those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.
This who persecute us are the same who verbally abuse us, ridicule and insult us. It is not clear if Jesus enjoined us to prayer for them or simply because of them but does it matter? We are meeting with God to revitalize our resolute commitment to follow Jesus. And this, too, should be our prayer.
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. – Acts 4:29
2 Gerhard Kittel. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1974). Vol II p 807.
3 The Hebrew Word for prayer [וָֽאֶתְפַּלֵּ֛ל] the the reflexive means intercessory prayer Deuteronomy 9:20 And the LORD was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. Brothers and sisters, pray for us. – I Thessalonians 5:25.
4 Jude 1:20 praying in the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals see this as a form of speaking in tongues but “wordless groans” is also a possible description.
I Corinthians 14:15 I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.