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Praying in the Spirit: How the Prayer Language Comes

Editor Introduction to How the Prayer Language Comes

The seventh chapter of the Praying in the Spirit Series. Author Robert Graves presents a compelling challenge for all Christians to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Robert W. Graves wrote Praying in the Spirit (Chosen Books) in 1987, when it received great reviews from a number of Pentecostal/charismatic scholars and leaders including John Sherrill, Dr. Vinson Synan, Dr. Gordon Fee, Dr. William Menzies, Dr. Howard Ervin, Dr. Walter Martin, and Dr. Stanley Horton. It is the great privilege of the Pneuma Review to republish it here.


The charismatic experience of tongues that accompanies the baptism in the Spirit has been forgotten by a large portion of the Church, mainly because the Church has forgotten what Spirit baptism is. Let’s look at it first in the light of an analogous experience the Church has not forgotten: water baptism.

Though there are various methods, water baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a distinctive practice of Christianity. The Lord Himself commanded His disciples to go into all the world and baptize believers (Matthew 28:19). Virtually everywhere there are Christians, there are baptized persons.

Wrapped in camel’s hair and desert dust, John the Baptist came calling on his listeners to repent of sin and be baptized. But when Jesus came to John, John’s ministry of water baptism diminished. And John had the distinct privilege of proclaiming what would seem to be a greater baptism. Greater than water baptism, you ask? Greater than the ordinance that every Christian is commanded to undergo? Greater than this distinctive feature of Christianity known on every continent of the world?

Yet these are the words of John the Baptist himself; and all four Gospel writers recorded them (an obvious indication of its importance). The earliest, Mark, inscribed these words of the Baptist to his disciples: “I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (1:8). Luke makes it clear that John believes his ministry will he superseded by Jesus’ and his water baptism surpassed by the baptism of the Messiah: “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come. … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (3:16). Matthew and John repeat this promise (3:11; 1:33).

John did not think that water baptism was enough, nor did Jesus, for He commanded His water-baptized disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and thus empowered for ministry (Acts 1:5-8). And the words of Peter that recommend water baptism (Acts 2:38) are made with one thought in mind: Believers need to receive this gift of the Holy Spirit—a gift subsequent to salvation, available to all, yet missing from the lives of many Christians. Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, tells us that repentance and water baptism make ready the believer to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.


Spirit Baptism is an Observable Event

Have you been baptized in water? How do you know? A seemingly foolish question. First, you had a knowledge of what water baptism was; then you were conscious of the physical experience that matched your mental conception.

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Category: Fall 2000, Spirit

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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