Pray in the Spirit (Ephesians Sermon 51 of 54)
September 18, 2016 | Andrew Davis
The Holy Spirit, Prayer, Prayers of Christ
Well, this morning we come to one of the final phrases in the passage on spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:18, “praying in the Spirit,” or “pray in the Spirit.” And as I've been saying, week by week on spiritual warfare, the greatest challenge for us is to believe that it's actually even happening that we actually are at war. There's a war going on spiritually we can't see it with our eyes, but it's real. I believe most Christians greatly underestimate the severity of this war and we also greatly underestimate our responsibilities, these commands that are given here in Ephesians, to be ready to fight, to prepare for the fight. We tend to look at the world through our own eyes. We tend to assess dangers based on what we see from our own physical, fleshly perspective and our prayerlessness in particular is key evidence of our self-reliance and our complacency, the fact that we don't pray in the Spirit about spiritual warfare shows that we are essentially on our own, we think we're fine, we don't need any help. Prayerlessness is a clue to our self-reliance.
Now, this is not a new problem, Jesus' apostles struggled with the same thing, they had to be trained to no longer rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead. They had to be trained that way. It doesn't come naturally. Now, a key example occurs for us in Mark 9, Jesus went up on the mountain, With three of his disciples, Peter, John and James and they went up and there he had that experience with them, he was transfigured, and made glorious before them, but he left nine apostles, not on the mountain to carry on ministry. Now by that time, he had given them the authority to drive out demons and perform signs and wonders to perform healings. They had that power. They'd already done it, but then a specific man came to them with a specific problem, a son, and the disciples failed to drive the demon out from that boy. When Jesus comes down off the mountain, he comes into a scene of tumult of arguing and conflict. Lots of arguing, lots of conflict. The teachers of law arguing with his disciples, Jesus found out what had happened, a man had brought his son to the disciples, the son was demon-possessed, he had been demon possessed from childhood, and the demon often threw the boy into the fire or into the water. The boy's life was constantly threatened by the demon. And he was very distraught, because at that moment, the boy was down on the ground frothing at the mouth. Then the father said, a devastating thing, “I brought him to your disciples but they were unable to drive him out. Now if you can do anything Jesus please help.” “If you can,” said Jesus, “All things are possible to him who believes.” So they had a low opinion of Jesus based on what the disciples had done or hadn't done. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, came out of the boy throwing him down, so violently everybody thought the boy was dead, but he wasn't, he was healed, and Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was healed, he was made well.
Now, later on the disciples came privately to Jesus. Don't you imagine, it was private? And they said, “Why couldn't we drive it out? What went wrong?" And Jesus said, “This kind only comes out by prayer". Wow. So what does that tell you about the disciples? It means they hadn't prayed. They were prayerless. They tried to drive out a demon in their own strength, by their own techniques, by their advanced skills and driving out demons. Can I ask you a question? What kind of demon doesn't come out except by prayer? Is there any demon that's going to fear our piety, and our godliness, and our spiritual technique and run from us? Never! So the disciples struggle with prayerles-ness in spiritual warfare, just like we do. Same thing, prayerlessness is a sure sign we are underestimating the power of Satan and demons, and we are over estimating our own strength, prayerlessness, we are told in Ephesians 6:10, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” So we come to the topic of prayer, as the kind of the unification and the final step of spiritual warfare, praying in the Spirit is essential to victory in spiritual warfare.
I. Prayer and Spiritual Warfare
Praying in the Spirit Essential to Victory in Spiritual Warfare
Now, Paul has been training the Ephesian Christians, getting them ready to fight an invisible foe. Look again at verses 11-13, “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand, stand firm then with the belt of truth, buckled around your waist” and he goes on from there. So how does prayer relate to the whole armor of God? How do we understand prayer and all this? What prayer is clearly treated differently than all the other elements.
How Prayer Relates to the “Whole Armor of God”
Paul goes through six elements in a kind of an analogy, to teach them the full armor of God. The prior is treated differently now, all the other elements of the spiritual armor, actually were named as some physical thing that you would see on the body of, maybe, a Roman soldier like the belt, and the breastplate, and the shoes, and the helmet, and the sword, and the shield they're things you could imagine actually being put on the body. And they corresponded to a part of the body, but they were named spiritually, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness. It's been an analogy etcetera. But prayer's just handled differently here. We're not told to put it on. It's not linked to any piece of armor. It's just handled differently. So I think what's happening is in conjunction with all of the armor that we've been talking about, you're going to deal with each one of them by prayer in the Spirit. You really could look to the very previous one, verse 17, The sword of the Spirit, you should take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying in the Spirit. So there's a harmonization of taking up the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit with praying in the Spirit. But I think it extends to the entire thing as we saw earlier that beautiful hymn. “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone, the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own, put on the Gospel armor. Each piece, put on with prayer.” I think that's it. Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there. So each piece you're going to be praying in the Spirit. I think that's how it works.
II. Pray in the Spirit: The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness
Essential to Genuine Prayer: The Ministry of the Spirit
Now, let's talk about praying in the Spirit. I want to zero in on this particular phrase, and the rest of the time I'm going to be talking to you today, I'm just zeroing it on that one thing. Now, you may think we're never going to finish Ephesians, “We're down to three words at a time, pastor, are we ever going to finish?” Rest assured we're going to finish. Today, we're going to just talk about praying in the Spirit, next week, we're going to extend to talk about intercessory prayer, and all of the things Paul says about it, in verse 18, and then we're going to extend to praying for the spread of the Gospel and with that our look at Ephesians will end.
But let's look now at praying in the Spirit, essential to genuine prayer is the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit, The Spirit is given to assist us in prayer. In Romans 8:26-27, it says, “In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We don't know what to pray for, 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.” That's just so beautiful, isn't it? But what does the text say? It says the Spirit helps us in our weakness in prayer, we are weak in prayer, all of you, I think, can say amen to that. Does anyone want to say, “I actually am very strong in prayer.” I don't think anyone would say that. We all feel weak in prayer, we're not good at praying and we need help. How are we week? Well, we don't know what to pray for. And we don't know how to pray, and we don't stay with prayer, we don't persevere in it and we don't pray fervently or passionately or in faith, there's just so much weakness to our prayer life. Very weak. So the essence of the call to spiritual warfare however, is a call to be strong, to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, so the Spirit has come to make us strong in prayer, and we need that help don't we? And isn't is it beautiful how it says there in Romans 8 that the Spirit is interceding for us? The Spirit is praying for us, according to the will of God, and it's beautiful because just in a few verses later, there in Romans 8, it says that Jesus is doing the same thing. In Romans, 8:34, "Christ Jesus, who died more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us." So, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, and the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit are both interceding to God for us, praying for us. So when we enter into prayer, especially spiritual warfare prayer, we are entering into a fervent prayer time that's already going on. The Son and the Spirit are already praying for us, according to the will of God and that's a beautiful thing. And what a mighty resource for victory, we have in the Spirit.
What is it to Pray “In the Spirit”?
Well, what does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Well, first of all to be in the Spirit, in this case, it's not the same as being indwelt with the Spirit. You can be indwelt with the spirit and not pray in the Spirit. I actually think many of our prayers are not prayers in the spirit, though we are constantly indwelt by the Spirit. What do I mean by that? Well, I believe when you come to faith in Christ, when you believe in Jesus as your savior, at that moment, the Holy Spirit enters into you, it says in John 14:17, “The Spirit of truth lives with you and will be in you.” How beautiful is that? So if you're a Christian, if you're a child of God, you have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God It says in Romans 8:9, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." So conversely, if you do belong to Christ, you do have the indwelling spirit. But that doesn't mean that every time you pray you're praying in the Spirit. I actually don't think that's true. I think we can pray many rote prayers, we can pray cold prayers, we can pray kind of machine-like prayers. My daughter was talking to me, I was raised Roman Catholic, and she asked me about the rosary and I was raised praying the rosary, and it's just these beads, and you pray 10 Hail Marys. I'm forgetting my Catholic training now. Alright, so it's 10 hail Mary's and then in our Father, 10 Hail Mary’s. You work your way around this chain, but it just gets to be like a machine. And you see the same thing in Buddhist prayer sometimes there's this prayer wheel spinning and there's just this machine-like praying. Christians can do that too.
I talked to her this morning. I said, wouldn't it be cool if you could just record your prayers on your smartphone, and just hit play and then go back and get some sleep while your smartphone did your praying for you? But that's obviously ridiculous, but some people pray like that, it's like it's a recording. They're not really thinking about who they're talking to or what they're saying. So that's a problem. Praying in the Spirit, I think means to be controlled by the Spirit. Empowered, indwelt. I would say filled with the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit. It says in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery instead be being filled with the Spirit.” So I think that's what it means. It means to be controlled and I would go beyond that. I think ultimately to pray in the Spirit, means to be lifted up above your immediate circumstances, so that you are actually in some sense, elevated by the Spirit in perspective and in feeling. You're actually almost lifted up and you could have a sense of almost being lifted up out of yourself and praying in the spiritual realm. I think it can get to that level.
You remember that earlier in Ephesians 3, you can look back, if you want, in Ephesians 3:16-19 there Paul talks about his own prayer life for the Ephesians, and there he said, "I pray that out of his glorious riches, he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith and I pray that you being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide, and long, and high, and deep is the love of Christ.” Remember that? The infinite dimensions of the love of Christ. You could almost sense the length and width and height and depth like you're almost traveling in your mind to the expanses of God's love for you in Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge, that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God that's praying in the Spirit, when you are filled to the measure the infinite measure the fullness of God.
So we would learn to that time, remember that some brothers and sisters have had experiences of spiritual ecstasy almost of being so elevated by the Spirit that they actually didn't even know if they were alive or dead, or awake or asleep. Remember Jonathan Edwards, laying on the ground for one hour and had a vision of Christ in the heavens and his greatness on the throne of God. Remember that? And his wife Sarah another time she felt herself to be like a dust speck floating in a beam of light. She didn't know if she was awake or sleep, alive or dead. She just knew that she was filled with joy and pleasure. Filled with the Spirit. So I think you can pray like that but there are ordinary levels of praying in the Spirit, too. You don't have to reach ecstatic levels, but there are ordinary levels to pray in the Spirit. I think then it, means to pray for the right things in the right way. We could just keep it simple. You're praying for the right things and you're praying in the right way, your demeanor.
The right things have to do with the work of salvation, God is doing in the world that we've seen unfolded so beautifully in the Book of Ephesians, how God before the foundation of the world chose people to be saved in Christ, and how in Christ, by his blood, we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven and how he is doing this, taking this Gospel and extending it to the ends of the earth and people all over the world are hearing about Jesus and they're finding forgiveness of sins, and they're finding themselves in a right relationship with God because of Christ. And this is going on all over the world, and so, to pray in the Spirit means to pray in light of that, but in the immediate context to pray in light of demons and Satan and his opposition and that there's warfare going on, and you can see that going on, and you pray the right things and it means also to pray in the right way, to pray passionately to pray empowered, inflamed. You remember how on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came, like tongues of fire that came down on the heads of each one, and that flickering flame, there's a sense of the life, and the heat, and the light of the fire and the Spirit comes and you're alive, and your energetic and filled with life and heat in your prayers or the rushing wind. There's a sense of a great movement of God, the power of God in the wind praying in the Spirit.
III. Prayer “In the Spirit”: Four Visions from Patmos
Well, I was thinking about this phrase, the other day. Now we're going to get really, really weird. Okay, this is going to be really interesting. This was going to be a subset of the sermon and it became the entire sermon. So I was thinking about the phrase “in the Spirit”, and I remember that it was at of John the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos. So I'd like you to turn to Revelation 1, effectively we're done with Ephesians today. Okay, so just go to Revelation 1. And I want to give you four visions from the island of Patmos, of what it means to be in the Spirit. The phrase, “in the Spirit”, is used four times in the Book of Revelation, and they give an amazing insight into themes that should be part of our prayer life in Spiritual warfare type prayer. Four beautiful themes.
In the Spirit: Vision of Christ Glorified
Now, before we get into each of the four times the phrase in the spirit is used, the first in Revelation chapter 1, so you can turn there Revelation. 1:10-11. So just turn there. But just listen, what I'm going to say is that to be in the Spirit means to be, in some sense, lifted up out of your immediate circumstance and transported to see things in the spiritual realm you had not seen before. That's what I think it means. So, a vividness and reality to spiritual things that happen. So I think of it as an elevation and you're lifted up out of immediate circumstances. So, we're going to see that because three times in connection with, “in the Spirit,” an Angel says to John come and I will show you. And then the angel takes him to a place and shows him something. It's just amazing. First time he does, there's not a common, “I will show you,” but it begins on the rocky island of Patmos, the rocky island of Patmos. There, John the Apostle was in exile. Toward the end of the first century around 90 AD. He's on a small rocky island off the coast of modern day Turkey. He's being there. All the other apostles have been killed, but he was exiled, he's an old band and he's there. There's not much to do there except write the Book of Revelation, which is enough to do. And what happens is he's praying on the Lord's Day in the Spirit.
So that's how it starts. Look at Revelation 1:10-11, “On the lord's day, I was in the spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet which said, write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches,” and what did he see? Well, turning around in Revelation 1:12-16. “When I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man dressed in a robe, reaching down to his feet with a golden sash around his chest, and his head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire, and his feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters and in his right hand, he held seven stars and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. And his face was like the sun shining in all of i's brilliance.” Well, this is a picture of the crucified, resurrected, glorified Jesus and he's moving through seven golden lampstands and the Golden lampstands represent local churches that were in modern day Turkey in Asia Minor, real churches, and he's moving through them and ministering to them. It's a picture of Jesus ministering to local churches as a priest, as a mediator, glorified and exalted. Now, look at John's reaction in verse 17, when I saw him, “I fell at his feet as though dead,” he was so overcome with this vision of Christ, the exalted, glorified Christ. So stop, to pray in the Spirit, means to pray mindful of Jesus. Let's just start there, mindful of Jesus as your mediator, your great high priest, as your atoning sacrifice, mindful of that. Start there. So you're in the middle of spiritual warfare, you're fighting sin, you're struggling, you're going to pray in the Spirit. The first thing the Spirit is going to do is exalt Jesus, he's going to exalt Christ in your own mind. You will know as you're praying in the Spirit, without Jesus, you have no access to God. It is by Jesus's bloody death on the cross, by his resurrection, by his saving work in your life, by him as mediator escorting you into the presence of God, that's how you can pray. Without Jesus, you can't pray. God hears everything, God sees everything he's omniscient. That's not the problem, it's not that God doesn't see your prayers or hear your prayers, it's that your sins have separated you from God so that he will not hear, Isaiah 59:2, but because of Jesus, now your sin has been put away, it's been removed from you as far as the east is from the west, your sin has been forgiven, and now through the mediating work of Jesus you can pray. Without Jesus, God wouldn't even look at you or listen to you. I take that phrase from Elisha, who said that evil king Joram when Jehoshaphat was sitting next to him in the Old Testament and they wanted Elisha to prophecy and he hated this evil king of Israel. He said, "I want you to know that if it weren't for the presence of this man, Jehoshaphat here, I wouldn't even look at you or listen to you.” I think that seems a little rude, But that's what prophets can do. They can just say the truth. You're so evil. I wouldn't even look at you, I wouldn't listen to you, but then I started to think, that's what God could say to us, if it weren't for Jesus, if it weren't for the presence of Jesus, he wouldn't even look at us or listen to us.
Or like Esther. You remember how Esther was terrified to go into her husband when he sat on the throne? Because if you have not been invited into the throne room of the king of Persia, he will kill you. That's the law. One exception is if he extends the golden scepter, then your life will be spared, but you don't just walk into the throne room of the king of Persia. She courageously put on her queenly robes and walked into the throne room and he extended the golden scepter. Well, that's a picture of Christ to me. In Christ, God Almighty has extended the golden scepter and he's welcomed me into the throne, So, to pray in the Spirit, means mindful of the greatness of Jesus and what he's done for you, to enable you even to have a prayer life. Ephesians 2:18 says, "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” We have access, or again, Romans 5:1-2, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” So, you have access, you have an opening, you have a new and living way open for you into the throne room of God by the body of Jesus, Hebrews 10. So, to pray in the Spirit, means with a spiritual inner vision of the glory and greatness of Christ as your mediator.
In the Spirit: Vision of God Enthroned
Alright, number two, the second time that this phrase in the spirit is used in the Book of Revelation, is in Revelation 4:1-2. Revelation 4:1-2. “After this, I looked and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me, like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this,’” verse two, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in Heaven with someone sitting on it.” Alright, so to pray in the Spirit, I believe, again, there's that image of transportation, come up here. How do you do that? He's on the island of Patmos, the door standing open in Heaven, but by the power of the Spirit, he's lifted up off of the island of Patmos, and he sees this door standing open in Heaven and the voice invites him to come through the door and see things. And he goes through the door, and what does he see? The first thing he sees is a throne with someone seated on it. Friends that is the most important reality there is in the universe: That is the throne of Almighty God, It's the throne of the sovereign creator of the ends of the earth. That is the one to whom you'll be addressing your prayers. The first vision is the one by whom you'll be addressing your prayers, But it is to Almighty God, God enthroned, that you will be praying and how great is that throne, how great is the power of Almighty God, how great is he seated on a throne, Isaiah 40, perhaps one of the greatest chapters on answering that question. Isaiah 40 verse 22.
"He sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” Think of the immense City of God enthroned Isaiah 40:12 says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand or the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, Or weighed the mountains on the scales or the hills in a balance.” That's the greatness of Almighty God. "Surely the nations are like a drop from the bucket and like dust on the scales. He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Before him, all the nations are as nothing.” they're regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing, that's God enthroned. That's who you're going to be praying to and think of the wisdom of God, enthroned, Isaiah 40:13-14. Who has understood the mind of the Lord or who has instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way.
Can I just tell you about your prayer life? You're not able to give God any advice. When you get on your knees to pray, you're not telling him anything he didn't know already, you're not giving him any wisdom, he's not asking your advice. And frankly, if he needed a counselor, he wouldn't ask you. I mean, let's be humble here. But yet, we want to give them all this advice about our lives or people we know, etcetera. There's nothing wrong with making your request known to God, but just remember who you're talking to. He has already worked out everything, the end from the beginning, he has thought all of these things through, he is perfectly wise, that's God enthroned. And this powerful God, his power, is limitless, the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the Earth. He does not grow tired or weary. His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak, that's our God, so to pray in the Spirit means to pray mindful of Almighty God on that kind of throne of power.
Now, in the New Covenant in Jesus, it also means to see that throne as a source of grace and mercy for you. Grace and mercy. God's power is at work in your life, to give you grace and forgiveness and mercy and love, not wrath and punishment like he could. Isn't it amazing that the throne is pictured in Daniel 7 as having a river of fire flowing through it and that's judgment, wrath, But in Revelation 22, a river of the water of life, flowing clear as crystal. For us as the children of God, we drink from that river and we are refreshed and renewed. And so it says in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” So let's go back in your mind to spiritual warfare. That's a time of need, dear brothers and sisters, you need his help, go to the throne of grace through Jesus, go through that door into the throne room of grace and get mercy and grace to help when in need. And that's friends before you sin. It's not just put it this way. A mop to clean up after you sinned, it's power to keep you from sinning, It's grace and mercy in the time of temptation. So that you can say no to the temptation. It's a time of need. So to pray in the Spirit, means to be drawn into the heavenly realms, to see the throne room of God, the sovereign God, your Heavenly Father, who rules over heaven and earth, it is to see his holy hatred for sin, he's pure eyes that cannot look on anything evil. It is to have that vision, renewed by the Spirit to kill all the sin in your life, to put to death every temptation that Satan throws your way. Kill them all and it immediately gives energy and power to your armor, the full armor of God, makes them potent and powerful in your mind. Praying in the Spirit also means to see God enthroned as if on Judgment Day, And what will all this look like on judgment day, and to see God enthroned means to see Satan and his power in light of that omnipotence. Satan's nothing compared to God. Satan is weak, he's a created being compared to God, powerful compared to us, but God could speak him out of existence at any moment.
In the Spirit: Vision of Satan’s Kingdom Exposed
Third use of “in the Spirit” is in Revelation 17. So look at Revelation 17:1-5. Revelation 17:1-5, third use of "In the Spirit," again in this passage, we're going to get that same sense of come and I will show you transportation. So again, to pray in the Spirit, means you're going to be transported out of the room, you're praying in. It could be your bedroom, it could be your office, it could be anywhere. And then you're seeing things in the spiritual realm. Alright, Revelation 17:1-5, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said, to me, ‘Come and I will show you, the punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the Earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’ Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit to a desert and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and 10 horns, and this woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering, with gold and precious stones and pearls, and she held a golden cup in her hand filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries, This title was written on her forehead, ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.’” And then at the end of that chapter, Revelation 17:18, it says, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” So I think it's what Augustine called the City of Man. Well, we could also call it The City of Satan, It's the world in all of its wicked corruptions. It's the world and all of it's alluring temptations, it's the world and all of its hatred to God's people. She's drunk with the blood of the saints, and she's covered in luxury and she's pictured as a horror of luring hearts away from a true, right, love. A pure love.
Now again, Ephesians 6, is spiritual warfare, praying right, we're going to pray in the Spirit. So what I'm saying is to pray in the Spirit, thirdly is to be mindful of the wickedness of the world we live in the wicked, evil world system that opposes us, and Satan has crafted it to see it clearly, to see it for what it is to see it how evil it is this spiritual Babylon. This wicked world system to see it in the eyes of God. What does he think of this world in all of its wicked sin to see it in the eyes of Judgment Day, what will all of that sin and that wickedness look like on Judgment Day. To pray in the Spirit, means for the Spirit to take us by the hand on a tour of the evilness of the world, and we can see it for what it is and we're like, "I hate that, I don't want that. It's to see how it'll appear on Judgment Day, to pray in the Spirit, means to see the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life, clearly as the deadly dangers they are to pray in the Spirit, means to see the World Properly, spiritually to look at the political forces, political forces, the military situations that are going on on earth, to look at those things with spiritual eyes, to look at the economic things that are going on to look at the stuff they sell in the mall. The stuff that's in the cyber world, the stuff that you surf the web, and then zero in on to see those things spiritually to see them properly. To see Babylon the great as a vast, dark satanic conspiracy a wicked brilliantly conceived alluring temptress away from faith in God. It's to peer into the invisible realm and see how Satan's organized world, system keeps people all over the world enslaved to lusts and false religions and false philosophies, to enslave them to pray in the Spirit, more than that is to see how those things have made inroads into your own heart.
How are Satan's temptations, already putting a rope around your heart and pulling you, so that you can see it with the disgust we should have and cut those ropes and say, "I'm not going to sin, I hate sin.” Praying in the Spirit, is to see how those things are assaulting your soul to see the ways the world is making inroads to look at your spending habits. How are you spending your money? How are you spending your time? What websites are you going to? How are you actually living your life, To see the world system and how it's weakened your zeal for holiness and how it's weakened your zeal for evangelism and missions to see it clearly.
In the Spirit: Vision of the Future Glory of Christ’s Bride
Fourthly, the fourth vision to be in the Spirit, the last use of the phrase in the spirit is Revelation 21:9-11. And again, we're going to see the same thing, “Come and I will show you” So to pray in the Spirit, means to be transported lifted up from the room where you're praying, your dorm room, your office room, you're praying at lunch, you go into your room and close the door, it's at home, but you're lifted up, that room isn't an ordinary place, anymore. Now, you can see spiritually some things.
So what's the fourth vision? We'll look at it. Revelation 21:9-11, one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come and I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb, and he carried me away,” here's the phrase, “in the Spirit to a mountain great and high and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God and it shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a Jasper, clear as crystal. This is the New Jerusalem, it is the heavenly bride of Christ, this is the people of God finished, at the end of salvation, radiant and glorious and shining with the light of the glory of God, so Revelation 17 and Revelation 21, both show us a woman that's a city, or a city that's a woman.
There's a complex imagery there of woman/city and so, in Revelation 17, she is vile and corrupt and drunk, and in Revelation 21, she's pure and holy, and radiant and beautiful. What a contrast. So to pray in the Spirit, means to have an eternal view of the Church, the bride of Christ, the people of God as they will look at the end of the world. All of the people, elect, chosen before the foundation of the world. Some of them converted some of them not yet, But they're going to make it all of them are going to be there, They're going to be in Heaven, all of them, they're going to be saved and we can pray. We're going to talk more next week about how to pray and intercede for others horizontally. How to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests with this in mind, “be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” We'll talk about that next week but it's to pray in light of the Church in glory, it's radiant beauty.
So the Book of Revelation gives us four uses of the phrase, “in the Spirit,” first, a vision of the glorified Christ as mediator and how much you need him to be your mediator. Secondly, a vision of Almighty God seated on a throne, high above the surface of the earth infinitely greater in power than Satan. Thirdly, a vision of the world, in all of its wicked corruptions, and sins in the power of the devil in the power of Satan, and then fourth a vision of how the church is going to be pure, and beautiful, and radiant, when all is said and done.
Praying for the Right Things
Now those four themes are vital to spiritual warfare prayers. Vital. We need to pray for the right things in detail. The Spirit's going to teach you how to pray. He's going to take those themes and apply them and help you to see things, aspects of each one of those things as you pray. So what I would suggest to you is that when you go to pray, calm your mind and your heart, Allow enough time. Try to not be distracted. Jesus went away to lonely places to pray because it is so easy to be distracted. Calm your spirit and wait to be in the presence of God until you know that you're about to talk to Almighty God through Jesus.
IV. Prayer “In the Spirit”: Praying the Right Way
There was a missionary in India, named John Hyde, he was nicknamed “Praying Hyde,” And Wilber Chapman tells a story, he was an evangelist traveling evangelist and he was having a evangelistic service, and it wasn't going that well. It turned out that John Hyde was in that town, heard about it, and came and wanted to pray for him. Never refuse when a man like that comes and says, "Can I pray for you?" please. And so, they went into the room together and this is the description of what happened. “He came to my room, turn the key in the door and dropped on his knees and waited. Listen to this for five minutes before uttering a single sound,” five minutes. The man said, “I could hear my own heart thumping I felt hot tears start to come down my face. I knew that I was with God and then with an upturned face, with tears streaming down his face, he said simply, oh God, and then five more minutes, nothing else.” And then when he knew without a doubt he was talking to the God of Revelation 4, the God enthroned, the God of Isaiah 40, he began praying and intercession and request came streaming out from him almost like molten lava just pure and powerful and strong. So do that, look at the ways that prayer is rote and mechanical in your life and get rid of them. Don't pray rote prayers, don't pray machine-like prayers, don't pray cold prayers.
Thomas Brooks, a puritan and writer said this, “As painted fire is no fire and the dead man is no man, so a cold prayer is no prayer.” “In a painted fire, there's no heat in a dead man there is no life, so in a cold prayer, there is no power, there's no devotion, there's no blessing. Cold prayers are arrows without heads, as swords without edges they are as birds, without wings.” So, they pierce not, they cut not, and they fly not up to Heaven. Cold prayers do always freeze before they get up to Heaven, oh, that Christians would hide themselves out of their cold prayers and chide themselves into a better warmer hotter frame of spirit before they pray. So, you're going to wait until you know you're in the presence of God, lean on Christ, your mediator be mindful that were it not for him, God would not look at you or listen to you. By the blood of Christ, you enter into the throne room, you see the greatness of God, you wait in his presence, and listen to what the Spirit tells you to pray for and then as he tells you to pray, pray.
A Message to All Non-Christians: Repent and Believe
One final word I want to say, I know that it's possible not everybody that's here today is a believer in Christ. And so I've been talking to Christians about how to pray. But if you came in here and you were not a Christian, you knew you're on the outside looking in, the most important thing you can do is trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. We believe that God sent Jesus, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for sinners like you and me. Raised from the dead on the third day. If you trust in him, not by good works, but by simple faith, your sins will be forgiven, Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and you'll be able to pray in the Spirit, as we've been talking about today. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the things we learned from your word. We would not know these things, if you didn't teach them to us. We thank you that the word and the Spirit are so closely connected. I thank you for the vision that John had in the Book of Revelation, I thank you for the fourfold use of the phrase “in the Spirit,” I thank you for what he saw each time. I thank you for Jesus, our great mediator, who shed his blood that we might have access into the throne room of God. And I thank you for the throne room of God. A door standing open, not closed, but open for us, and we can in the Spirit go through that door and come to the throne of grace and see Almighty God enthroned. I thank you that by the ministry of the Spirit, we can see the wickedness of sin and hate it like you do, And I thank you that we can also see our future in the bride of Christ in the Church, pure and holy, I pray that you would enable us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions in Jesus' name. Amen.