Prayer beyond our understanding.
I would like you to take note of verse 14 regarding supernatural communication with God.
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” 1 Corinthians 14:14
Once again, the Amplified Bible translation says, “My spirit (by the Holy Spirit within me prays…“. Keep in mind that it is not the Holy Spirit praying. He assists you in praying by giving you words in your spirit.
Paul tells us that God has provided a way for our spiritual selves to pray beyond our understanding. Our understanding has nothing to do with praying in the Spirit. Is this type of prayer necessary? Certainly, because God has made supernatural arrangements for it!
Someone once asked me, “What’s the point of praying when you have no idea what you’re saying?” I replied, “But I am not talking to myself; I am talking to God!” Once again, we see that the Holy Spirit is the one who helps us pray in tongues, but it is we who are praying. Keeping this in mind, let’s look again at 1 Corinthians 14:2.
“Indeed, one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”
What does Paul mean by “in the Spirit”? In this verse, we know he is talking about speaking in tongues. But we don’t have to interpret what Paul meant. The Bible defines what he means by that phrase, just as Paul himself does!
Let’s go back to the letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians, where he said, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). If praying in the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 14:2 refers to praying in tongues, we have every reason to conclude that praying in the Spirit by the Spirit in Ephesians 6:18 also refers to praying in tongues.
Now let’s return to 1 Corinthians 14 to better understand what Paul means by the expression “in the Spirit.”
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” 1 Corinthians 14:14-15
Note the expression “with my spirit” in verse 15. Most prayers that people offer are mental prayers and have little to do with the Holy Spirit. But Paul says here that he prayed in both ways, with the spirit and with his understanding.
As a young denominational pastor before being filled with the Holy Spirit, I came across these different scriptures on praying in the spirit and praying in the Spirit. I asked various ministers of the denomination, “What does it mean to pray in the spirit or pray in the Spirit?” Some ministers responded that it simply meant praying with a bit more “spizzerinktum” (Do you know what they meant? They meant praying with a bit more energy or fervor).
Sometimes, we would sing a hymn from the church hymnbook, and the song leader would say, “Now let’s sing the next verse with spirit and understanding.” But all he meant was, “Let’s sing the next verse with a bit more energy, a bit more zeal, fervor!”
But that is not at all what this passage in 1 Corinthians 14 is about. If your spirit prayed in English, your spirit would understand what you said. Therefore, your spirit would not be unfruitful. But Paul is clearly talking about praying in tongues in this case because he says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays…” (v. 14).
Paul wrote these two letters, one to the Corinthians and the other to the Ephesians. In both letters, he uses the expression “in the spirit.” And in 1 Corinthians (14:15), he also uses the expression “with the spirit.” Following Paul’s writings, whenever he uses these terms, it becomes evident that he is referring to praying in tongues or at least implying praying in tongues. Of course, one can also pray “in the Spirit” through the spirit of prophecy. Prayer through the spirit of prophecy happens when the Holy Spirit takes hold of you while you pray in tongues, and you begin to pray inspirationally in your known language.
I have experienced praying with my understanding in English for an hour or more through the spirit of prophecy. I knew what I was saying, but my spirit had nothing to do with it. The words simply flowed from my spirit.
Examples of this kind of prayer can be found in the book of Psalms. The prayers of David, Moses, and other psalmists were spoken by the Spirit of God. No one spoke in tongues under the Old Covenant. As we have seen earlier, tongues and the interpretation of tongues are exclusive to the New Covenant. Yet, these men prayed “in the Spirit” or by the Holy Spirit in the spirit of prophecy.
When you pray through the spirit of prophecy, your language is connected to your spirit, and you pray under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in your own language, but your understanding has nothing to do with it. Your prayers are not something you imagine on your own. Instead, they come from your spirit, entirely inspired by the Holy Spirit. It’s not a mental prayer or a prayer with understanding, even though you understand what you are saying. It’s another way of praying in the Spirit. Let’s return to what Paul said in Ephesians 6:18 and notice one more thing:
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18
When we pray in tongues, we can not only edify ourselves but also fulfill God’s command to pray for all the saints. It’s impossible to pray for all the saints with our understanding because, naturally, we don’t know all the saints. But God has provided this supernatural means of communication, beyond our understanding, to enable us to do so.
This text is an excerpt from the book “The Power of Speaking in Tongues: Everything you want to know about Speaking in Tongues” written by Kenneth Erwin Hagin.
We invite you to read the following article “Receive power in the inner man” .