This sermon is number 34 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 34: The Holy War Part 7
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let me welcome you to our Bible Reading tonight in the Iron Hall. It's great to see you all with us, I think this is one of the biggest turnouts that I've ever seen. Perhaps it's a fallout from me being away, and all the good speakers that you've been having - maybe you didn't think it was me tonight. Well, I'm back, I'm sorry about that, but it's good to see you all with us this evening. Do come, maybe it's not your practice to come regularly to the Bible Reading, perhaps this is a one-off for you - but please do take our welcome, and come along and hear the word of God. We trust that you will be blessed and built up in your most holy faith through the word of God.
We turn to Ephesians again, and chapter 6 - Ephesians chapter 6 and we'll just read verse 18. I think you're familiar enough with the whole passage, we've spent that long on it - but if you haven't read it before please do read it. It is an account of the armour of God that we have learnt - and this is a very important thing to remember - that it is God's armour, it's not something the Christian works into, or the Christian makes himself. It is God's armour, and we've seen from the prophet Isaiah that God literally wore that armour - and we have been given it to fight the good fight of faith ourselves. This is so important to realise, that every single thing in the Christian life is of grace. The sooner we learn that, the richer we will be.
Everything is from the hand of God, and here tonight we find something else that is from the hand of God. We've been looking at prayer, and in our first study we looked at the first phrase of verse 18: 'Praying always'. We looked at constant prayer, we looked at how constant prayer is a way of life, praying daily, praying throughout the day. Then we looked at how constant prayer is a continual communion, it's something that you can do all the time - it doesn't mean that you're having your quiet time every moment of the day, but you can have your spirit in contact with God every moment of your life. We learnt of how prayerlessness hinders the church.
Then we looked at the second phrase: 'With all prayer'. We spent some time looking at the many facets of prayer, I can't recall them off the top of my head but you know what they are: intercession, confession, singing, listening, praising, adoring, worshipping - all those things: waiting on God, praying scripture, that we learnt about in our last study. Now we come to the next part of this verse: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints'.
The reason why we're taking so much time over this verse is because it's packed full of wealth that God wants us to know. It would be wrong of me to skip over it and miss out everything that God would have us know. What we are looking at this evening is this: supplication in the Spirit. We're looking at 'Spirit-Led Supplication'. It is a part of the armour of God that we all need. We sang in our first hymn: 'I often say my prayers, but do I ever pray?'. Now, that conjures up a wealth of questions in our mind that we need to answer as believers. It's so true, isn't it: we often say prayers, but do we really actively pray? Are we engaged in what the Bible reveals as true prayer? That begs the question: what is prayer? I've been attempting to answer that in weeks gone by, and I believe that verse 18 is a very important part of the whole of God's revelation to define for us what is true prayer.
Now, if the truth were told, our prayers are often simply expressions of what we want. Perhaps, if you want to go onto another plain, a better motive of our prayers may be even desires that are good, and maybe we could push it far enough to say they may even be desires that are spiritual. But if we are honest, many Christians are disillusioned with the subject of prayer. I've heard many people say: 'Why are my prayers never answered? I pray for good things, I pray for things that I think God would have me possess, and it seems that they're never answered. My prayer life is probably a failure. If anything in my Christian life is a failure, my prayer life is a failure'. That sense of failure and defeat is further cemented by some of the books that we read, and some of the teachers that we hear, that make prayer look like some kind of a magic spell whereby, when you pray to God, you get anything that you want.
To address these very real questions we must learn what true asking is, and what it is to pray in the Spirit. For those two things that we'll look at tonight are part of the great mechanics of what prayer is. So, let's look at our first question on your sheet this evening: 'Supplication in the Spirit' - what is supplication? What does this word literally mean? The Greek word is 'daiases' (sp?), and it simply means - one of many Greek words defining prayer within the New Testament, but it simply means: 'to pray requesting, beseeching, begging, supplicating'. To pray requesting, beseeching, begging, supplicating - primarily it is a prayer for a wanting need. You need something from God, so you come to God and you 'daiases', you plead God to give you what you need.
But we need to define it further than that, we need to go into the Old Testament - and you will know that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not Greek, but there is a translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew to the Greek for Greek speakers, so that they could understand the Old Testament, and we get a little bit of light about Greek words from that Old Testament Greek translation - the way that some of the words are used. In that translation, in the book of Esther, if you were to turn to it, and chapter 8 and verse 3 you find that word 'beseech', the word 'to supplicate', with regards to Esther beseeching the King. You read in that verse: 'And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews'. Haman wanted to exterminate - another holocaust of the Jews - and Esther came in before the King, and it says 'besought him with tears'. That is this word 'to supplicate'.
If you go to Hosea and chapter 12 and verse 4 you find the word used, again in the Old Testament, of Jacob the father of Israel. It's used in relation to his wrestling with the angel, and it says this of him: 'Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed' - listen - 'he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us'. The nation of Israel is saying: 'The reason that God has come to us, the reason that Jehovah has spoken to us, is because our father Jacob, in the desert, wrestled with God - he wept and made supplication unto Him, and he found Him in Bethel'. That's this word 'supplication'.
Now, if you go into the New Testament, you find that in the Revised Version it's always rendered 'supplication', or 'supplications'. In the Authorised Version that we have it's translated 'supplication', and also 'prayer', and 'prayers' - a general translation. There are two ways in which it is defined in the New Testament. The first way is requesting and beseeching for oneself, for your needs - if you like, your petitions, the things that you need in your life. In Luke 1 and verse 13 we find that in the life of Zacharias, we read this: 'But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer', thy supplication, 'is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John' - John the Baptist. A specific petition that Zacharias had, Elisabeth conceived, the angel said: 'Thy supplication is heard, thy wife shall bear a son'.
Then there is a definition within the New Testament - the second - that is not petition for oneself, but petition on behalf, or in the behalf, of others. If you turn to Luke chapter 2 and verse 37 this time, Anna, we read of her: 'And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers', supplications, 'night and day'. For others, for the nation of Israel, for Messiah, for salvation to be seen in the nation, she supplicated the throne of grace. Then, perhaps one of the greatest and most poignant in the New Testament - and I want you to turn to this one, Romans chapter 10, the apostle Paul. Romans 10 and verse 1, the hearts cry of Paul for the nation he loved: 'Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer', supplication, 'to God for Israel is, that they might be saved'. On behalf of Israel he was supplicating God, in fact in chapter 9 you can see on behalf of Israel he was willing - verse 1 - to go through hell that they might be saved!
Now what can we say about this word 'supplication'? Well we can say, as we've seen, that it is begging, beseeching, even at times with tears, for oneself and can be on behalf or in behalf of others - but also it is always addressed to God. This word is always addressed to God, it's not in the sense of coming before a King and beseeching, it's the sense of coming before God and crying unto God that your prayers may be answered. Now I hope that you can see, already, the importance of such a phrase as this in the great battle that we are in. The importance of a piece of armour like this, of being able to come into the very presence of God, before God's throne of grace and getting what we need because we ask of Him.
Now generally the word is used for any prayer, but you see specifically this word 'supplication', in the Greek whenever the verb isn't used it always seems to mean prayer for others. So all that illustration about prayers for yourself, push that away, that's not what this word means now in the verse where Paul is speaking. He is specifically talking about prayer for others, so he's talking of begging God, beseeching God in the Spirit, for other people. You find the word used in that sense in 2 Corinthians 9:14 where Paul says: 'And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you' - 'That is my prayer for you, longing after you that God's grace would be seen in your life'. In 2 Timothy 1 verse 3 he says: 'I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of you in my prayers night and day' - that's the sense. Coming before God incessantly, persistently, continually, supplicating, begging, beseeching God for other people.
Paul and the other apostles, if you read the New Testament, highly valued such prayer. They expected great things of such prayer. James tells us that there is great gain when such beseeching God takes place, especially when such beseeching and supplicating is combined and entwined with a life of dynamic faith and holiness. Isn't that what he said in [James] 5 and 16? 'The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much'. If this type of prayer, supplication, is combined with a holy, righteous life, God will hear you and mighty things are possible! The proof of that is in verse 17, he uses the illustration of Elijah who 'was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed', supplicated, 'earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months'. In the same vein the apostle Peter, in his first epistle chapter 3 and verse 12, quoting Psalm 34:16 says the prayer of the righteous is always heard of God - always. He says: 'The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers'.
I think prayer is the most important weapon in the holy warfare that we have been studying. If we neglect it, we neglect everything. But you know I believe something more than its importance in the warfare, I believe that it is one of the most important evidences of true Christian faith in the life of a human being. Now, we were studying last evening of the marks of the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ - it's not just believing, but there has to be a changed, repentant life that hears His voice, that follows Him and that knows that it has eternal life. But, you know, the word of God also testifies that if you are to be sure that you're saved there must be a life of prayer within your soul. Paul said that to Timothy, 1 Timothy 2:1: 'I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men' - first of all! Before you think about anything else you've got to be doing this!
Ultimately the supplicant, what is it? I mean, let's think about this for a moment: the Lord Jesus Christ died, was buried, rose again, went to heaven, sits at the right hand of God - why? To intercede. That is why the word of God says there's one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Now this supplication is almost identical, but it is we who are the mediators, we who are interceding between men and God! If you think about that, that's an awesome responsibility - to be there for God for the needs of others, to express a deep desire that God would take action on the behalf and in the lives of other people. We have been given that responsibility to pray. If you think about it, all of the subject of prayer - whether it is personal prayer, or prayer for others - all the types of prayer, adoration, confession, every single one of them is an act of declaration and confession of dependence upon God. Do you notice that? Everything in prayer expresses: 'Of myself I can do nothing, and I need Thee - and with God I can do everything'. It is again bringing us to that brick wall of realising that in my flesh their dwelleth no good thing.
That is why we need to come, as Paul said in Philippians 4: 'Be careful', anxious, worried, 'for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus'. Isn't it wonderful to know that there is no difficulty, there is no problem in your life that is too small, that is too insignificant, that you can't bring before God? God will never say: 'Take that away from Me, I'm running a universe you know, I haven't time for little things like that' - that is not the God that we have! The God that we have is concerned for the sparrow, the God that we have knows the hairs of our head, and they are numbered. I heard someone saying recently that they thought that verse meant that every single hair was numbered, and they thought to themselves: 'What would God want to number my hairs for? I mean, I don't know how many are there, and I don't really care how many are there until there are so few that I can't see them any more!'. What does that verse mean? Do you know what it means? You can't tell how many hairs are numbered there, and God knows more about you than you know about yourself. God cares so much about you, that things that don't even concern you He knows inside out.
Is that not an inspiration to pray? I don't know, I tell you what it is practically - let me apply this practically to you: what can we do when we are supposed to supplicate in this way? It means this: that definite needs are meant to be requested. You're meant to come to God with definite, specific needs - and when you do that definite, specific benefits will be granted! Pray specifically and God will answer specifically. Now, if you're going to pray specifically, you're going to have to get acquainted with facts. It's no use coming before God and saying: 'Lord, bless the missionaries, bless the pastors, bless every Christian that there is in every country of the world, bless every church today'. We need to pray specifically! We need to get the needs that there are within our fellowship, within our lives, within the lives of others, and we need to spread them before God and supplicate God for concrete situations.
It might be - and I would say that you would have to do this: set aside specific time in your life, in the life of a church, to supplicate God for specific needs. Perhaps today is to stress prayer for your family, tomorrow for the fellowship, tomorrow for the preachers of the Gospel, the next day for missionaries - whatever it may be, to supplicate God. To supplicate Him one: for the universal needs - to pray, as the Lord Jesus instructed us, that He might send labourers into the harvest. We need to pray for that! We need to pray for our national needs, for kings and for all those who are in authority over us. And of course there are our personal needs, and we haven't even time to list all of them - you know them, and I know my own. Look: if our prayers are not being answered, and we are not adhering to the mechanics of prayer, the theology of prayer within the New Testament, what do we expect? We need to do what God tells us to do and put these things into action. As one author said: 'Some things God will not give until we want them enough to ask'.
Do you remember in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus came and faced the blind man in Mark 10 - do you remember what He said to him? 'What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?' - that's supplication. The Lord Jesus Christ who is omnipotent, for He is God, says to us today as believers: 'Look, here I am, I am at your disposal - what would you have that I do for you?' - and we don't come. That's what supplication is, I hope it's been made clear enough for you. But it's not just supplication, if you supplicate the throne of grace that's not enough because look at what it says, verse 18: 'supplication in the Spirit'. It's a specific supplication.
So, what is praying or supplicating in the Spirit? You will know, if you have read and are familiar with the New Testament, that we are instructed to pray to the Father, through Jesus Christ the Son, in the Holy Spirit. To the Father, our Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ the intercessor, the great intercessor of all men - but it's in the Spirit. We find through Paul's epistles and the whole of the word of God that there is a great stress and emphasis, a special importance to that fact: that true prayer, like all of true Christian life, is wrought in the Spirit of God. But what does that mean? Well, to put it in antithesis: it is the opposite of praying in the flesh. Sometimes it's good to define something by what it is not - it's not praying in the flesh. To pray in the flesh, therefore, has the inference to pray without power. So, if to pray in the Spirit is the opposite of praying in the flesh without power, to pray in the Spirit is to pray with power.
We have learnt that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual - therefore in this supplication, and in all prayer, we must rely on the Spirit of God - why? 'For we know not what we should ask', isn't that what Paul says in Romans? We don't know what to ask for, and we don't know how to pray as we ought to pray. Now, I want you to turn with me to Romans chapter 8, because this is the defining chapter, if you like, concerning what praying in the Spirit really is. If you look at verse 26 you'll see that verse that I've just quoted: 'We know not what we should pray for as we ought'. Now, the implication of everything that we're laying down here as a foundation is this: that if we are not praying in the Spirit, we might as well not be praying at all! Now that's so important, I hear people say: 'Well, as long as you pray, that's all that matters' - that is not all that matters! There are only certain types of prayer that God answers, and if I can define it further: there are only certain types of intercourse and communication with God that are prayer!
Therefore we see within the word of God that prayer is not our 'wish list'. When you come into the presence of God with a shopping list of things that you would like, or things that you think would be good for you, or good for the church of Christ, or good for the glory of God - that's not prayer. In the Old Testament, in the book of Exodus and chapter 30, there is the picture of God's tabernacle, the place where God dwelt upon the earth in the desert with Israel. If you went into the tabernacle you would find there a small golden altar standing before the veil into the Holy of Holies. There there would be burnt incense rising up to God - do you know what that is? In the book of Hebrews it's a picture of worship and prayer - that incense burning up to God was to show us that God's prayer is God's prayer, it's not instrumented by man, it doesn't start in man, but it must be according to God's plan. It can't be counterfeited by man - you remember in the book of Numbers what happened to men who tried to counterfeit the incense of God. God struck them down, God opened the ground and swallowed them up - it had to be God's way, or no way at all.
There is the incense as a picture of prayer, but what had to happen to the incense? Well, fire had to come into contact with the incense, didn't it? Fire is a picture of the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit of God is the One who takes our prayers and sets them alight. We must not miss that. He is the one who ignites them with the will of Almighty God, and if we don't pray that way we don't pray at all! What is praying in the Spirit? Octavius Winslow, and I would encourage you to read his writings, said this: 'Prayer is the breathing of God's own Spirit in the heart'. Isn't that beautiful? The breathing of God's own Spirit in the heart - the Greek word for the Holy Spirit, spirit, is 'neuma', it is the same word for breath, and the same word for wind. It is God's breath, God's 'neuma', His Spirit in the heart of a man, for a man to come before God and pray.
So what must we do to pray in the Spirit? Now these points are not down on your sheet, but I want you to write them down as we go through them. There are three ways in which we pray in the Spirit. To pray in the Spirit you must first of all be born of the Spirit. Look at Romans 8 and verse 15, Paul says: 'For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father'. Now if you keep your finger in Romans and turn to Galatians 4 and verse 6, you find a similar verse talking about adoption. Paul, again, says to the Galatians: 'And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father'.
Now in both verses Paul uses the Greek word 'cradso' (sp?), which means 'to cry', to express the relationship that we have as children and sons to our Father God. That cry 'Abba, Father', what is it expressing? It's expressing great freedom, great joy, great confidence, as we come to God - that we're not coming to some almighty despot, or angry, wrathful God that is going to strike us down, but we're coming to gracious, loving heavenly Father. Now why is that? Why does Paul use 'cradso', 'a cry', as we come to our Father? Why is there that freedom, joy, and confidence? What does it spring from? Do you know what it springs from? Our awareness that we are the sons of God - a realisation that I'm God's son! I belong to God! If I can put it in other words: such prayer doesn't originate in any power or any thought that's possessed in man, therefore prayer - the dear Roman Catholics, they think it's meritorious that the more they pray, the quicker they'll get into heaven - it's nothing to do with that! For prayer doesn't even come from you in a sense, prayer is from the grace of God because it's only through the grace of God that we become sons, and it's only as sons that we can 'cradso' to God: 'Abba, Father'!
To Paul prayer is ultimately the indwelling, the energising, Spirit of God. It is the Holy Spirit within us speaking to God by Himself. Now, it's important that you understand this: that God the Spirit in us, is speaking to God Himself, who is the Spirit. Second Corinthians 3 and verse 17, turn with me to that quickly for it's important that we understand these truths, 2 Corinthians 3:17: 'Now the Lord is that Spirit', now mark that, 'the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty'. Now, if you want liberty in prayer - and what greater liberty in prayer is there than to be able to cry 'Abba, Father!'. Now how do you get that? The Spirit of God! In John 4 and verse 23 it says this, the Lord Jesus said: 'The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth'. You see, John understood it, Paul understood it, James understood it, Timothy understood it through the mouth of Paul - that praying is nothing to do with you specifically, in a sense, and if it wasn't for the grace of God, and it wasn't for the Spirit of God implanted into your soul at conversion, you wouldn't be able to pray! The Lord Jesus acknowledged to that woman, in John 4, at the well that this is a new thing!
This is something that the Old Testament saints did not experience, this is a new creation in Christ Jesus, originating only in Christ and only from Christianity. Look at Romans 8, and this proves it, Romans 8 and verse 14 - if you want to pray in the Spirit, you've got to be born of the Spirit: 'For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God'. 'Abba, Father!', the Spirit of God leads them to say that - for no man confesses Jesus as Lord except by the Spirit of God. Thus prayer isn't dependent on your eloquence, on how many verses you can memorise, on how loud you can pray or how softly you can pray - but prayer is dependent upon the efficacy of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon the assurance that He has died, He has risen, He has ascended, He is there in glory for us interceding. Because He has sent His Spirit into our hearts, we have the spirit that cries: 'Abba, Father'. I believe that the assurance of our salvation is evidenced, and indeed increased, by the Spirit producing prayer within us. If you're saved, that means that your prayer life ought to be getting better. In Romans 8 verse 16 we see that: 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God'.
Secondly, to pray in the Spirit you must be born of the Spirit but also you must be living in the Spirit. I could put it like this: being in communion with the Spirit, living in the power of the Spirit. One man defined it like this: 'Let the Spirit be the atmosphere in which you pray'. If you like, this is the 'where' of prayer, the 'place' of prayer. What I mean by that is that you don't pray in a certain temple, you don't need to pray any more in Jerusalem at the temple, or in a tabernacle, you don't need to pray on this mountain or the other mountain, you don't need to pray in church or in a chapel. The 'where' of prayer, the 'place' of prayer, the 'atmosphere' of prayer, is living in the Holy Spirit of God. That's what the Lord Jesus said in John 4 to that same woman, verses 20, 21 and 23. She said to Him: 'Lord, our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship' - now, He didn't say that - 'Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit' - that is with the Spirit's help. Your spirit with the Spirit's help, in harmony with the Spirit's will, as revealed in the Spirit's word in the Scriptures.
Now let's apply this, it's important that we lay this down in our lives. What does it mean, what are the implications of a verse like this? That we must be praying in the Spirit, and in order to pray in the Spirit we need to live in the Spirit - do you know what it means? A fleshly believer can't pray! Now, don't try and twist out of that, that's what the teaching of the word of God is. It means this: if you have a grudge against somebody your prayers will only hit the ceiling - they mightn't even hit the ceiling! If you don't love your brother and sister in Christ, if there's a problem between you and your wife or husband, your prayers are hindered! The word of God says it. It means if you have a grudge and can't forgive another person that you are not - and in fact cannot - pray in the Spirit. It means if you have a selfish motive as you come to God, whether it's for your own glory - this is a thing I grapple with! Am I wanting souls saved so that everybody thinks David Legge's great? For God will not answer that prayer! What is my motive, what is the reason? Is it for my glory? Is it for my luxury, so that my life will be better? The message is this: you cannot pray in the Spirit if you are not walking in the Spirit! Yes, prayer changes things, but the message of this verse is that - more than that - prayer changes the man who prays, because it's the Spirit who works within him!
Prayer, therefore, is more than a means for me to see God doing miracles on my behalf because I pray - but more than that, it's seeing God doing a miracle in me, wrought by the Spirit! Now let me tease that out a little bit as we look at the third thing it is to pray in the Spirit. Thirdly, to pray in the Spirit - one: you must be born of the Spirit; two: you must be living in the Spirit; three: you must be in agreement with the Spirit. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Now some commentators say that means praying from the heart, it doesn't. Neither does it mean praying inwardly, without using words. It means this: praying under the influence of the Holy Spirit, praying in agreement with Him. You remember in chapter 5 of Ephesians, you don't need to turn to it, verse 18: 'Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled', in other words translated, 'be continually under the control [of the Spirit]'. You're under the control wine when you're intoxicated, aren't you? That's the comparison: as you're under control of wine, be under the continual control of the Holy Spirit.
That's what we're talking about here: to pray in the Holy Spirit is to be continually under His control in your prayers, with His assistance. In fact it is His office, revealed in the word of God, it's His role to reveal truth to us, to teach us and to show us how to pray day by day. Now here's the key, Romans 8 - turn to Romans 8. Now, that clock says ten to nine, and my watch says five to nine - so I'm going to believe the clock, if you don't mind! Romans chapter 8 (it'll probably be fixed by the next service!) and verse 26, now look at this: 'In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we should: but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words'. Isn't that beautiful? By the way, never call the Spirit 'it' - 'Himself', He is the Person of the Trinity. Now, that's important, for that verse tells you and I that it is the Spirit who prays. He is the one who prays, we do not pray alone, we pray connected with the Spirit of God. The Spirit prays for us, but more than that: the Spirit prays as He is joined to us - the Spirit is in us, and He therefore is praying in us for us! Literally He is infusing His prayers into our prayers, so that we pray in the Spirit.
Now folks, for that to happen there are two supernatural things that take place to make us pray in the Spirit. One: first of all He tells us how to pray, He tells us what to pray for. If He didn't assist us in prayer, do you know what we would be doing, perhaps what we are doing? Our prayers would be left to our own whims, our own desires, our human reason and our intuition. But when He is praying in us and for us, He moves us to a higher level. He leads us - how does He lead us? Through the sword of the Spirit! Through the word of God. He inspired it, didn't He? I mean how do we miss this sometimes? How do the charismatics miss it, and they have to have a revelation or a prophecy, or somebody speaking in tongues? He has inspired His will that we might pray by His will, and His will is found in His word. When we look into His word we find there how to pray, the Spirit leads us into all truth, we find the mind of God. Praying in the Spirit is according to the will of God, look at verse 27 of Romans 8. Now look: 'He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints' - look - 'according to the will of God'.
Now I think this is, perhaps, one of the greatest fruits that is in the life of a believer by grace. Do you know what it is? A sinful, depraved, sinful-willed man on his knees saying: 'Thy will be done'. If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is. That's praying in the Spirit, but the second thing that has to happen is this: it provides an energy, it provides a power for prayer, the Spirit provides a real sense of energy for tired bones and muscles, for a weak heart, for a depressed mind, because the Spirit elevates a person up to praying. Verse 26, look at it again: 'In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness: for we do not know how to pray' - you know those times when you can't pray? In fact, you know those times when you've run out of words because your heart is so broken, and you're maybe lying on the ground crying your heart out to God? Well, when that happens the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words - things too deep to be expressed in mortal language, the desires, the groans, the yearnings of our hearts. Even those unintelligible longings that may not be defined, can be understood by the Spirit because He has, perhaps, inspired them! He is winging those home to God as prayers, as motions of the Spirit.
In Genesis 21 and verse 17, you remember Ishmael was left by his mother sitting in the wilderness - and this isn't a direct equivalence, but I think it illustrates it. The word of God says that the Lord heard the voice of the lad. You notice it doesn't say He heard what he was saying, or He heard what he asked for - no. He probably didn't ask for anything, he probably was only crying - but the Lord heard the voice. In Psalm 28 and verse 2 it says this, the Psalmist cries: 'Hear the voice of my supplications' - the voice of my supplications, not just what I am saying in my supplication, but the Spirit is able to convey to the Father the very holy desire that, perhaps, we can't even put into words. Why? Because the Spirit of God is interacting with our spirit in prayer! As Guy King put it well: 'Praying in Him, praying in the Spirit, means having Him praying in us'. Do you get it? It's being born of the Spirit, living in the Spirit, and being in agreement with the Spirit - and that will lead, do you know what? To unselfish prayer, praying according to the will of God - not your will, but God's will.
There's a lot of selfish prayer, and it's very fervent and very spirited, but perhaps it's never answered - maybe it's not answered in your life. Is this answering the questions that we began with? Is it? Why our prayers, perhaps, are not answered? As James said: 'Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not' - why? 'Because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts'. Do you want to get your prayers answered? Pray in the will of God! Pray according to the Spirit of God! Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, you're born of the Spirit - and, if you want, you can pray in the Spirit!
Bunyan said this, and anybody who wants to take this quotation, I think this is a marvellous quotation of what true prayer is. Listen: 'Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate, pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ' - note that, one: 'through Christ'; two: 'in the strength and assurance, assistance, of the Holy Spirit'; three: 'for such things as God has promised, and according to the word of God'; four: 'for the good of the church'; five: 'with submission in faith to the will of God'. The Psalmist said in Psalm 37 and verse 4: 'Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart'. Do you know what that means? If you lose yourself in God, His desires will become your desires, and when you pray for His desires you'll get them.
Jude said, and I say to you in closing, build up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. Let us pray, and let me ask you: are you sure that you're born of the Spirit? Are you sure? Please be sure! Are you living by the Spirit, Christian? Forget about prayer if you're not! Are we in agreement, praying according to the word of God? Father, help us - oh, help us - to supplicate Your throne in the Holy Ghost, and thus to see Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirty-fourth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Holy War Part 7: Spirit-Led Supplication" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]