2-2 Prayer In The Spirit
In Ps. 109:4, David says "I am prayer"- translated in
most English versions to the intent that "I make prayer". Who we are as
persons is effectively our prayer and plea to God. This conception of
prayer explains why often weeping, crying, waiting, meditating etc. are
spoken of as "prayer" , although there was no specific verbalizing of
requests (Ps. 5:1,2; 6:8; 18:1,2,3,6; 40:1; 42:8; 64:1 Heb.; 65:1,2;
66:17-20; Zech. 8:22). The association between prayer and weeping is
especially common: 1 Sam. 1:10; Ps. 39:12; 55:1,2; Jn. 11:41,42; Heb.
5:7, especially in the Lord's life and the Messianic Psalms. " The Lord
hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my
supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer" (Ps. 6:8,9) crystallizes
the point. Desire is also seen as effectively praying for
something (Rom. 10:1; Col. 1:9; 2 Cor. 9:14). Weeping, desiring,
waiting, meditating etc. are all acts of the mind, or 'spirit' in
Biblical terminology. There is therefore a big association between our
spirit or state of mind, and prayer. The spirit (disposition) of Christ
which we have received leads us to pray " Abba, Father" (Rom.
8:15; Gal. 4:6). " Praying in the holy spirit" (Jude 20) is to be seen
in this context. Prayer is part of the atmosphere of
spiritual life, not something hived off and separate- it is an
expression of our spirit. Thus there are verses which speak of many
daily prayers as being just one prayer (Ps. 86:3,6; 88:1,2); prayer is
a way / spirit of life, not something specific which occurs for a
matter of minutes each day. The commands to " pray without ceasing"
simply can't be literally obeyed (1 Thess. 5:17). " Watch and pray always"
in the last days likewise connects prayer with watchfulness,
which is an attitude of mind rather than something done on specific
occasions. This is not to say that prayer in no sense refers
to formal, specific prayer. Evidently it does, but it is only a verbal
crystallization of our general spirit of life.
Rom. 8 speaks of the importance of being spiritually
minded, and then goes on to say that our spirit, our deep inner mind,
is transferred to God by Christ, called by His title " the Lord the
spirit" , without specifically spoken words. This is surely
proof enough that the Lord does not mediate our prayers as an
interpreter would, from one language to another, matching lexical items
from one language with those from another. " We know not what to pray
for" , so the Lord Jesus reads our inner spirit, and transfers this on
a deep mental level, without words, to the Father. The whole process of
mediation takes place within the Lord's mind, with the sort of
groanings He had as He begged the Father to raise Lazarus (Rom. 8:26
cp. Jn. 11:38), and as on the cross He prayed with strong crying and
tears for our redemption (Heb. 5:5 cp. Is. 53:12). The Lord Jesus is
the same yesterday and today. That same passion and intensity of
pleading really is there. This is why the state of our mind, our
spirit, is so vitally important; because it is this which the Lord
Jesus interprets to the Father. Because God responds to our spirit, our
overall situation, sometimes He does things which seem to be an answer
of prayers which were not properly believed in by the person who
prayed. Examples include: Gen. 30:16,17; Ex. 14:10,11 cp. Neh. 9:9; Ps.
31:22; Lk. 1:13. Hezekiah simply opened up his situation before God in
prayer, not asking for anything apart from God to look back over
Hezekiah's life and recognize that he had had a heart for God (2 Kings
20:3). But then God responds by telling Hezekiah that He has heard his
prayer for healing (2 Kings 20:5). God perceived the unexpressed
essence of prayer, as Jesus perceived the unspoken desire of Martha and
Mary for the immediate resurrection of Lazarus. Belief and unbelief can
quite comfortably co-exist in a man (Mk. 9:24; Jn. 12:39-43). These
prayers were answered because God saw the overall situation, He read
the spirit of those who prayed and responded appropriately, even if
their faith in their specific, vocalized prayers was weak. Perhaps in
similar vein, James 4:6 appears to teach that God will hear the prayers
of the humble man when a proud man is praying at the same time; faith
is not mentioned here. The situation even of wicked people is
seen as a kind of prayer ascending to God- "Forget not the voice of
Your enemies: the tumult of those that rise up against You ascends
continually" (Ps. 74:23).
So far we have seen that our innermost desires, our
complaints, our situations, our deeply concealed attitudes, are read by
God as if they are prayers, and answered accordingly. He sees us as
asking for things which we perhaps can't even visualize (e.g. Ps.
106:44 cp. Is. 64:3), or having confidence in prayer which we certainly
don't feel. How God saw Hezekiah's attitude to Sennacherib is a clear
example. Yet God not only sees the thoughts and attitudes of His
children like this. He describes Himself as " hearkening" to the
mocking of Moab (Zeph. 2:8); and God hearkening is the language of
responding to prayer. The wicked afflicting the poor, for example,
leads to God hearing the cry of the poor (Job 34:28). The implication
is that the nature of the situation, not just the fervency of their
specific prayers, makes God respond. Hezekiah reflected that " it may
be that the Lord...will hear the words of Rabshakeh" (Is. 37:4). He
therefore sees the attitudes of the world as some kind of communication
with Him, and He 'hearkens' to this and responds. This explains why so
many powerful prayers do not make specific requests for help; rather do
they show an opening up of the heart / spirit of the believer to God,
and a putting of the situation before God, with the faith that God will
read the situation as a request for Him to act; but the believer does
not suggest to God in concrete terms how He might respond to
the situation. Thus David often puts his situation before God, and
calls that his prayer- although he doesn't explicitly request anything
(e.g. Ps. 3:1-4; 142:1,2). The way God reads a situation as a prayer
helps explain a difficult phenomena: i.e., why God appears to answer
prayers which lack real faith (Gen. 30:16-18; Neh. 9:9 cp. Ex.
14:10,11; Ps. 31:22; Lk. 1:13). Presumably the Father reads
circumstances as prayers, even though the believer's faith in their
actual verbalized request may be weak. Job almost sarcastically asked
God to show him where he had sinned, and for what God was punishing him
(Job 13:23); and God heard this, because He looked below the surface of
Job's words and saw the real essence of his request.
The God Who Knows
Putting the situation before God is not only a method of
prayer to be employed when we face specific crises. It is a general
principle to be followed in our daily relationship with the Father.
Thus rather than praying for forgiveness in bald, brief terms,
spiritual men confessed their sins to God, they opened their spirit to
Him, and this was seen by God as them asking for forgiveness (e.g. Ps.
119:26). Daniel confessed Israel's sins, and God responded by saying
that His answer to the prayer was to restore Jerusalem (Dan. 9:18-25).
Again, his request was deep within his heart rather than specific.
David likewise meditated on the Messianic Kingdom, and this was
effectively praying for it to come (Ps. 72:20). In all this there is a
kind of spiritual culture, for want of a better way of putting it; not
an animal blurting out of the painfully apparent to the God who knows
our need before we ask it, not a child-like demand for the obvious, as
if our crudely expressed demand is the first the Father will know of
Men like David, Hezekiah and Daniel appreciated that God
knew already. In a sense, all that will happen has happened; so prayer
is an opening up of ourselves to God, a service of God (Dan.
6:16; Lk. 2:37), for His glory and for our benefit, rather than a means
of communicating information to Him. Therefore they opened themselves
up to Him, expressing their understanding that He knew the situation,
and didn't present a long list of concrete requests to Him. Their
relationship with Him went far beyond that kind of surface level. What