In my most recent article, I shared what I believe is one of the most important aspects in regards to prayer – being led by the Spirit.
For the Christian who is called to walk in the Spirit (i.e. Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:4), we should look to see the Spirit active in all aspects of our lives, even in our praying. I pointed out that it is the Spirit of God who knows the will of God, and He also loves to step in and intercede on our behalf when we know not what to pray (Romans 8:26-27). I suppose that, along with Christ, the Holy Spirit has the most fruitful prayer ministry. Such truth stirs me to see Him more active in my prayer life.
But in this article, I wanted to take some time and clear up possible confusion or feelings that I have somehow set aside other kinds of prayer.
When I, or we, speak of Spirit-directed prayer, I suppose what can come to our minds is spontaneous prayer. And that’s not a wrong idea. Matter of fact, with most of the Spirit’s activity, there is a spontaneity, at least from our human perspective. Along with the Father and Son, the Spirit is well-aware of the bigger plan of what they are looking to accomplish in seeing God’s glory fill the earth (i.e. Habakkuk 2:14). Nothing ever catches these three off-guard.
But from our human standpoint, I think it quite easy to recognise the Spirit’s work as spontaneous, almost as if He is Lord over the ‘all of a suddens’. We are not always ready for nor do we normally plan for His workings – with the activity of His gifts, His power, His regenerating life, His directing of our prayers, etc.
Yet, I also want to note that, from our perspective, not everything the Spirit does has to be seen spontaneous, even in our praying. The greatest example is found in places like the Psalms. Though we consider the Psalms the song-book of the Bible, and it is, it also stands as a book of prayers. Many of the Psalms were to be prayed aloud by the congregation in varying settings. They had first been written by David and many others, but were written for the benefit of the community of God’s people in the coming generations. They were a kind of liturgy for the saints of old.
The word liturgy should not scare us. It simply refers to the order or form of our corporate worship gatherings. And, lest we misunderstand, even the most Pentecostal of churches have order to their corporate gatherings – prayer, song, song, singing in tongues, song, prayer, song, sermon, offering, song (or something similar).
Yes, the Psalms were originally written as directed by the Spirit, probably some of them spontaneously coming from an overflowing heart of praise or pain. So there is still the impromptu-ness of these prayers. But in the generations that followed, there would have been a planned reading aloud of those songs and prayers. And I believe this to be a beautiful thing. Shoot, I benefit from reading aloud these prayers, both individually and corporately.
So, I definitely wanted to clarify that, with regards to the direction of the Spirit in our prayings, this does not always refer to the ‘all of a sudden’ and the unplanned.
Another example centres around walking in the fruit of the Spirit. This is not always unplanned for me. I awake in the morning [most of the time] wanting to live as Christ lived, which includes living out those nine fruits mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Yet, at the same time, I can find myself not necessarily contemplating the fruit of the Spirit, but an opportunity presents itself for me to show the patience and kindness of God. Both are Spirit-directed, but one was planned and one was impromptu. Neither one is better and both are Spirit-directed.
Therefore, by no means do I want to negate nor set aside our prepared and planned prayers, or any aspect of God’s planned activity in our lives. Such would over-simplify things and over-spiritualise our life in God. It can’t be done. Both have their beauty.
But, however we know the leading, direction and guidance of the Spirit of God Himself – planned or unplanned – we are called to know this leading, direction and guidance. We are called to keep our hearts, ears and eyes attune to the One who indwells and empowers God’s people. It’s not easy nor is it safe, but it’s good and right.