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Praying in the Spirit: Now That You’ve Spoken in Tongues


We may pray in tongues when we have no idea of what we should be praying. “… [T]he Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray [proseuchomai], but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the Saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27). When the doctors themselves are baffled, how then do we pray? When a loved one’s arrival is long overdue, how then do we pray? When an important and difficult decision must be made and there is no clear direction, how then do we pray? Romans 8:26-27 assures us that we need not feel helpless just because we do not know what to pray, for the language of the Spirit will intercede for us. The Spirit who knows our hearts and knows our situations and knows the will of God cannot pray amiss! Praise God!


In relating all of these verses to praying in tongues, I am not claiming that they were written originally with tongues in mind. But I am saying the apostle Paul made this connection when he wrote under divine inspiration the tongues may be used for prayer, praise, or thanksgiving (see 1 Cor. 14:14-17). Here, Paul uses the same terms he used to describe his communication to God in his learned language.

By surveying the many ways in which the Christian may address God with a prayer language, I hope that I have opened new doors for Pentecostals and charismatics who had thought their experience was to be a rare and singular one. I urge you to make the same resolution that the apostle Paul made: to pray with your spirit and with your mind (1 Cor. 14: 15).


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Category: Spirit, Winter 2001

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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