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Praying in the Spirit: Some Marvelous Effects of Praying in the Spirit

In what way does praying in the Spirit, that is, in tongues, edify a Christian? From personal experience and from the recorded experiences of others, I can say that the use of this personal prayer language has turned worried, fearful, depressed, bored, and doubting Christians into Christians filled with peace, joy, boldness, excitement, and faith. Throughout this worldwide outpouring of God’s Spirit, people testify to a deeper level of communion with God, to a greater sense of God’s presence and God’s guidance, to a greater power to overcome temptation, and to the dissolution of fear of being used by God. These are specifically effects of praying to God privately or devotionally, yet it is easy to see how such effects would be helpful not only to the individual but to the local church and the Church universal.

“In Pentecostal and charismatic churches the value of the gift of tongues in corporate worship has been inestimable as time after time the Spirit has penetrated man’s world of worship to awaken congregations to a plane of existence beyond this world.”

As God would have it, the effect of communing with Him at this level is not limited to what critics might call an emotional massage. Many Pentecostals and charismatics have found that after speaking to God with this language of the soul, they have been able to express praise, worship, petition, and intercession much more clearly in their learned languages. According to Paul, this is how it should be, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Others testify that only by praying in tongues can they pray without human limitations such as ignorance of a need. Paul tells us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, 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).

Not only do these Scriptures tell us that when we pray in tongues, we pray for those urgent needs unknown to the mind, but they tell us that our prayers are “in accordance with God’s will.” This dissolves another human limitation, for so many times we waste our efforts praying for things that are not in accordance with God’s will. No wonder that some charismatics have stated that when they pray in tongues, they pray with an ability and an authority that is not their own—“the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4).

“These Scriptures tell us that when we pray in tongues, we pray for those urgent needs unknown to the mind, but they also tell us that our prayers are ‘in accordance with God’s will.’”

A third value of praying in the Spirit is that it propels the speaker toward God. This may manifest itself in the believer’s desire to triumph over temptation or seek out fellowship with other believers. But, to me, the most exciting effect occurs in those who testify that praying in the Spirit has created in them an insatiable hunger for and delight in the Scriptures. Some have testified that after their charismatic experience, the Word of God seemed to leap off its pages into their hearts and minds.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 1999

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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