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Praying in the Spirit: How the Prayer Language Comes

Although faith, love, or joy may be a result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, these are characteristics that may go unnoticed initially, especially by others. These long-range evidences are certainly important, but the Bible indicates that there is immediate, observable evidence to confirm that Spirit baptism has taken place. What is the immediate confirmation in the mind of the believer, and what is the evidence—the “wet clothes” of water baptism—to convince the believing community?

We have an important clue in the reaction of Simon to his Samaritan neighbors who received the Holy Spirit. This story demonstrates the presence of an immediate, observable phenomenon that accompanies and verifies the Spirit baptism event (Acts 8:18). Here was a man who was considered to be more than mere man. As an accomplished and respected sorcerer, they called him “the divine power known as the Great Power” (Acts 8: 10). It was said that Simon amazed the people, but when Philip came into that city with the power of almighty God, it was Simon who was amazed. It was said that the people followed Simon; now it was Simon who followed Philip. So great were the signs and miracles Philip exhibited that even Simon the magician believed and was baptized.

Yet apparently something was missing. The people believed; the people were baptized in water. Wasn’t that enough? When Peter and John arrived in Samaria they found out that the people “had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (8:16). The Holy Spirit had not come upon them. Though they had “received” the Holy Spirit as a salvation event, they had not “received” the Holy Spirit as a vocational event.

We do not win; we do not earn. We simply believe.

When Peter and John discovered that the Spirit had not fallen upon them (and how did they know unless something observable or perceptible was missing?), they laid hands on them and prayed for them and the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. How did anyone know that they received the Holy Spirit? Something happened to them! And it was so powerful, so spectacular that Simon actually saw it and tried to buy this power from the apostles.

Since Luke writes that exorcisms, healings, miracles, and great joy (Acts 8:7-8,13) occurred during Philip’s ministry and Simon was privy to all these, it is safe to assume that what Simon saw was something other than these phenomena.

What was the evidence? An examination of all passages in which the immediate, observable evidence of Spirit baptism is described yields one common denominator: glossolalia, that is. speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues … declaring the wonders of God” (Acts 2:4, 11). The “gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God” (Acts 10:45). The “Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

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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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