Praying in the Spirit: Resting or Wrestling?

Several years ago I was making hospital visits with a friend of mine. We were to visit three elderly ladies who were located on the 4th, 5th, and 6th floors of the same hospital. One lady’s husband had recently died. We walked into her room on the 4th floor, and she was not available. We then went up one flight and into the next lady’s room. In a moment of confusion, I greeted her with, “I am so sorry your husband died.” She sat up in bed and cried out, “WHAT?! I just saw my husband earlier this morning!” My friend, standing beside me, was frantically, but quietly, trying to tell me, “Tim, this is the wrong lady!” I was confused and embarrassed, and, fortunately, the hospitalized, non-widow did not have a heart attack.

I have the same reaction as that lady to some of the commands in Scripture? WHAT?! I mean, “love your wife as Christ loves the Church.” WHAT?! “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, and mind?” WHAT?! “Forgive your brother from the heart.” WHAT?! I do not know how to even come close to any of these. Then there is the kicker that I have struggled with for years in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20, “pray at all times in the Spirit.” WHAT?! Great command, but what does it mean, and how do you do it?

I have heard some teach that it means praying in tongues. Others have said it means praying Scripture promises. Still others have taught you listen for that “still small voice and pray as He directs.”

Colossians 4:12 may give us some insight. In this verse you can see the biblical tension of resting in prayer and wrestling in prayer as you follow the Spirit’s lead. The Apostle Paul describes Epaphras as a bond-slave of Jesus Christ who is “always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers . . . ” The Greek word for “laboring earnestly” means “to fervently agonize, battle, wage war.” It is a picture of intense wrestling. The Greek word for “prayer” used here is the most common word for prayer in the New Testament. The word suggests the idea of a small child crawling up into his father’s lap to make a request. It is a picture of resting. So was Epaphras always resting or wrestling in prayer?

I believe he did both. At times he wrestled with all his might as Jacob wrestled all night with the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32:24-30. At other times he rested as David describes in Psalm 131:2, “my soul is like a weaned child within me.” There is no formula for prayer. There is no equation for prayer. There is no “right” way to pray except with three basic requirements: pray in Jesus’s name (Jn16:24), pray for His glory (Jn 14:13), and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:16). The result: you will be “praying in the Spirit.”

Prayer is about an intimate relationship with your Abba Father, through His beautiful Son, in the power and leading of the Spirit. At times, He will lead you to battle in prayer. At times, He will cause you to worship in overflowing praise and, at other times, with great thanksgiving to God. At still others, you will experience the dark night of the soul in anguishing prayer. But all prayer must lead to surrender and rest. That is what our Lord did at Gethsemene (Lk 22:39-46). He wrestled in prayer. He was in anguish in prayer. He surrendered to His Father in prayer. He was set free to do His Father’s most unfathomable will: go to the Cross at Calvary.

So what? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to pray and lead you in prayer. He will. Remember you are free to follow Him and pour out your heart to your Abba Father knowing the Holy Spirit will conform your prayers to the Father’s will. And, as you wrestle and rest and everything-in-between in prayer, know your Heavenly Father delights in the prayers of His saints just like a new Daddy loves to hear the cooing of his newborn baby. And He never gets confused because your name is written on the palms of His hands (Is 49:16).

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