How do we keep going in the Christian life? One of the main routes to discipleship in the long term is just doing the same faith-enhancing things over and over again. They are habits, some of which we’ve caught and some we’ve been taught (or self-taught). A habit is an activity you do often and regularly, sometimes without realising it’s a habit!
“I always buy the same brand of toothpaste”
“as a parent I want to teach my children good study or eating habits”
“He hasn’t been able to kick his smoking habit!
So our habits can sustain or drain us.
Talk about some habits of yours – things which you just do regularly and almost without thinking!
In a separate talk I spoke about two habits which sustain us in our discipleship: feeding on the Bible and resonating worship. Today we’ll reflect on a third: praying in the Spirit. I believe this sustaining habit is just as vital as the feeding our souls on the Bible and worshipping from the heart. I also noticed that Christians I admire almost always have this habit somewhere in their lives – although I sometimes have to dig a little to get them to talk about it!
Praying in the Spirit
“’Tain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” was a classic song by Ella Fitzgerald and it has a surprising resonance with our discipleship. Anyone can say prayers, but praying in the spirit reaches me at a deep level and helps sustain my discipleship.
Read Jude 20-22. In his previous paragraph, Jude has just been warning the Christians of the increasing selfishness and godlessness of secular society (ring any bells?)
In this passage, Jude tells us to do four things. What are they and how does each help us in our walk with God?
Build yourself up; pray in the Spirit; keep yourselves in God’s love; be merciful to the fuzzy faithful.
Read Romans 8:25-27 which is a key passage about praying in the Spirit
Talk about how praying in the spirit is different from mechanical praying.
v23 describes the internal tension we feel because we know we’ve been saved by Christ, but have only experienced part of it so far. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit (the ‘firstfruits’) in our lives that wakes us up to this burden (or ‘groaning’).
V25. I don’t hope for my breakfast after I’ve eaten it! But if I haven’t yet had something I’m looking forward to I’m ‘hoping’ for it. We haven’t yet experienced the full wonder of our salvation – so we hope for it!
V26 the idea of ‘groaning’ implies there is internal communication between us and God that we may not be able to understand cognitively.
Are there moments when more mechanical approach to praying is appropriate?
Read Ephesians 6:10-20
While Paul doesn’t link prayer with a specific part of the Roman soldier’s armour, there is no doubt he includes it in the list of factors which will sustain our discipleship for the long haul – especially when we’re under pressure (as he was).
Look particularly at verses 18-19 and unpack what praying in the Spirit looked like to Paul.
Talk about the different facets of prayer mentioned here and share your own experiences of these things.
Some additional examples of praying in the Spirit can be found in Revelation 1:10 & Revelation 4:2-5; 2 Samuel 23:1-3.
Are there aspects of the type of praying Paul describes that you can use now in your own praying together?
You might like to try out some of the principles you’ve unearthed in today’s discussion.