Question on Praying in the Spirit


  1. What does Paul mean by praying in the Spirit? Eph 6:18 mentions it. Jude mentions it V.20
  2. Is Praying in the Spirit related to a prayer language 1 Cor 14:14? “For if I pray in a tongue (other language) my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful”.
  3. If it is related to prayer language, and it is a gift of the Spirit, can all believers pray in the Spirit or in a prayer language?

Thank you brother

Many blessings!


First of all, a distinction must be made in these texts between our spirits, and The Holy Spirit who inspires the prayer. Too often those constructing pneumatologies (doctrines of The Holy Spirit) emphasizing these passages fail to factor this central point into the equation.

Secondly, Ephesians 6 & Jude 20 and 1 Cor. 14 are not the same and must not be confused.  In Corinthians it is “TOW PNEUMATI” = ‘With the spirit’, while in Ephesians and Jude it is “EN PNEUMATI” = ‘in the spirit’.

They are speaking of two different (how-be-it related) things. The Greek prepositions supported by the context makes this clear. Ephesians 6 and Jude moreover make no mention of tongues.

Praying “in the spirit” may or may not involve a prayer language. All prayer uttered through the intercessory ministry of The Holy Spirit in our spirits is “in the spirit”.

It is possible to pray in the spirit only in tongues (1 Cor. 14: 14) where we are not intellectually cognizant of what The Spirit who searches the depths of God is inspiring us to pray in a given situation. This is why Paul says “with our spirit” as there is no intellectual cognizance (“with the mind”) of what is being prayed without interpretation (or translation of a human language – which is another related but different issue I would not want to get into by e mail).

In the next verse 15 for instance , Paul makes it clear that we can pray with the spirit and with the mind also.

The false dichotomy that praying in tongues is praying “in the spirit” or “with the spirit”, while praying  with cognizance is not in the spirit is erroneous and is basically the  misconception of the doctrinally ignorant fringe of ultra Pentecostalism and hyper charismatic extremism, much the same as there is doctrinal ignorance on the  opposite end of the theological spectrum among cessationists. Such brethren on both poles may be sincere and of honest intention, but they are mistaken.

A valid dichotomy can be drawn from scripture however where liturgical or ritual prayers can degenerate into a ceremonial religious formalism where people are  passively repeating the words but are not spiritually engaged. This is not however to suggest that all liturgical prayer is wrong resulting in a dead formalism devoid  of The Holy Spirit; this may or may not be the case. There is certainly warrant for The Lord’s Prayer (better labeled ‘The Disciples Prayer’), and Jesus Himself

incorporated references to liturgical Psalms of ascent in His festal discourses and also made reference to the Hebrew confession of Faith known as the Shma

(“Here O Israel…”) and directed Moses and Moses to ritually pray the Aaronic Benediction from Numbers 6 over the sons of Israel.

What we are reminded f by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 however is that ‘charismatic’ prayer practiced wrongly and out of God’s order can degenerate into something  just as carnal and pseudo spiritual on one extreme as dead religious formalism on the other.

I trust this helps.

In Jesus,

J. Jacob Prasch

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