Powerful prayer: A covenant to pray for the lost | Baptist Messenger of  Oklahoma

She stood tall in the center of the church, right by the altar, with elegant poise and a high dose of faith, and with a voice laced with enthusiasm and self-assurance, she prompted the congregation “Can we now begin to pray in the Holy Spirit?” Immediately after her directive, the church went into a pin drop silence.

She approached me in my office at the end of the service with a bewildered look on her face. “Doesn’t anyone here speak in tongues? “They do” I quipped!” “All of them speak in tongues. And a few of them even prophesy,” I continued. “What you see today, woman of God, is a result of training. They know the difference between “praying in the Holy Spirit” and “praying in tongues.”

I hadn’t met this American Lady Minister before. It was our Pastor’s Appreciation Day and we had invited the husband, a leading American Pentecostal pastor, to minister in prayers. Indisposed and unable to attend, he had sent his wife to represent him. I knew the woman’s confusion. When she called for “prayers in the Holy Spirit, she had expected to see in the congregation the usual wild outburst, frenzy, and head-jerking that come with tongues. But I also knew that American pastors were not ego-driven especially when it came to matters of God-knowledge. When presented with a superior argument they would quickly drop their preconceived opinions and amend the error of their ways. So, with a conscious note of humility in my voice, I motioned her to a chair across my desk and I led her into the truth of the Word of God.


Praying in “spirits” is mentioned three times in the Bible.

(1) 1 Cor. 14:13 -15 “For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.”

(2) Eph. 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

(3) Jude v.20 “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”

The scripture that is most certainly used to support the fact that “praying in the Spirit” equates to “praying in tongues” is 1 Cor. 14:13-15 above. But a careful look at the three scriptures above reveals an interesting fact, a fact noticeable only to the discerning reader – the “spirit” in 1 Cor. 14 comes with a small “s.” Nowhere in the Bible is the small letter used for the Deity, Holy Spirit, just the same way the small letter is never used for the two other Deities, the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. Apostle Paul was careful enough to clarify this in the pronoun he used, also called in the English grammar, “possessive adjective.” He said “my spirit.” He said “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” The possessive adjective (my) used there also indicates that Paul is speaking about the spirit of man, not the Holy Spirit of God. A systematic study of the Bible tells us that man is composed of body, spirit, and soul. Paul reverts to the Spirit with the capitalization only when he’s speaking about “praise” in verse 16

In the other two Scriptures, Eph. 6:18 and Jude 1:20 the apostles (Paul & Jude) indicate the Spirit with the capitalization (the capital S), the Deity, the Holy Spirit of God.

So, in this treatise, we are going to concentrate on these two scriptures…

(1) Eph. 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

(2) Jude v.20 “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”



It cannot mean “praying in tongues” because:

(i) That would violate the attribute of God as a God of Righteousness.

The most expansive Christian organization in the world today is the Catholic Church, comprised of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic church is the largest religious denomination with approximately 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide as of 2019. The Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church is the second-largest Christian Church with approximately 220 million baptized members. It operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops in local synods. They are predominant in Southeast Europe, Eastern  Europe, Cyprus, Georgia, Siberia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

The Roman Catholic Church makes up 50.1% of the Christian population, while the Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Catholic Church makes up 11.9%. Together, these two denominations make up 62% of the world’s Christian population. What does this translate to? Sixty-two percent of the Christian population DO NOT speak in tongues.

It does not end there. The Protestant Churches make up only about 36.7%. Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th Century reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Catholic Church. Basically, all churches that are not catholic in orientation are protestant churches. They include the Eastern Protestant Christian Church, the Anglican Communion, the Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Church, The Methodist Council, the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, the World Lutheran Federation, the Reformed Restoration Movement, and all other modern-day Churches that come under the Pentecostal and the Evangelical Movements. All these churches make up 36.7% and ONLY the Pentecostal & the Evangelical Movements speak in tongues, together with a few Charismatics. Charismatics are those that share the beliefs of the Pentecostals but are still in other mainstream Churches.

Then, we have the other Christian bodies that account for a paltry 1.3% of the World’s Christian population. Again these DO NOT speak in tongues.

Though the Pentecostals are the fastest-growing movement, as of today they account for ONLY 20% of the world’s population, leaving a whooping 80% that do not speak in tongue.

It does not end there. Not all Pentecostals speak in tongues. Unverified data puts the tongue-speakers among the Pentecostals to between 10% to 15% – an infinitesimal fraction of the entire world Christian population. The rest 80-85% do not speak in tongues, through no fault of theirs. Tongues are Not of man; it is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gives as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11) and it has pleased the Holy Spirit not to give to this 80-85%.

Now, this is the argument: Eph. 6.18 is a command, “Pray ALWAYS with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Jude 1:20 is also a command, “Build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” The Christian MUST pray. And he must pray ALWAYS. The Christian who is not always praying is not assured of God’s protection. The Christian soldier must pray all the time to maintain a constant unbroken consciousness of God’s presence and care. We must pray with all prayer and supplication, with all kinds of prayer: public, private, and secret, social and solitary, solemn and sudden; with all parts of prayer: confession of sin, petition for mercy, and thanksgiving for favors received. But we MUST pray “in the spirit.” We must pray “in tongues.” That is the ONLY kind of prayer that God will accept. That is the ONLY prayer that is in his will. Or that is the kind of prayer that is most effective. But here are 80-85% of the Christian population who cannot exercise the gift of tongues because the Holy Spirit did not give it to them. Therefore they cannot pray an effective prayer. Through the apostle Paul and Jude, the Lord has commanded the body of believers to pray, but he himself has gagged the mouths of 80-85% of them.

Where are fairness and equity? Where is the Righteousness of God? How can a God who makes salvation (of a greater worth) freely available to all men now make the power of effectiveness of prayer available to a select few? This does not line up with the attributes of God as a God of Righteousness and as God of Love and the interpretation of Eph. 6:18 and Jude 1:20 must be wrong.

(ii) That would violate the attribute of God as a God of Justice.

God cannot give you a task without giving you the power to accomplish it. Asking a person to pray in tongues and declaring that prayer to be the only prayer you will accept when you have not given the person the gift of tongues is akin to Pharaoh asking the Israelites to makes bricks without straw and forbidding the Egyptian foremen to supply the same. It violates God’s attribute of justice.

(iii) That would violate God’s attribute of mercy.

Paul in 1 Cor.14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter. But In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit” on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said?

Apostle John In 1 John 5:15 recapitulates the mercy of God, “And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask -we know that we have what we asked of him.” In the mercy of God, there must be three levels of consciousness. 1. The consciousness of our petition (we must know what we asked of him so that we can be able to gauge his mercy) 2. The consciousness of his willpower (before we receive-this is our faith) and 3. The consciousness of the expected result.

If “praying in the Holy Spirit” is “praying in tongues” then we would have an impaired evaluation of his attribute as a God of mercy. You can see this part of him as you count your blessings against your earlier requests.

(iv) That would violate the unity of the Scripture.

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 6, the Lord Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s prayer in 4 great steps.

Known as ACTS, they are Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplications. Any prayer that incorporates these four components, and is rendered in faith and the will of God is effectual.

A – Adoration – Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.

C – Confession – And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

T – Thanksgiving – For thy is thine kingdom, power, and glory, forever and ever.

S – Give us this day our daily bread, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

And in verse 9, Jesus says “This, then, is how you SHOULD pray. He did not speak of a future prayer model that would supplant this. The apostolic injunction to “pray in the Holy Spirit” does not vary, modify or cancel out this model prayer as that would violate the unity of Scripture.

“Praying in tongues” exists but it is distinct from “praying in the Holy Spirit.”

What then is “Praying in the Holy Spirit?”

Meet me in Part 2 for the concluding essay ✍

– Pastor Tayo Ajibade holds a Ph.D. in Theology and teaches at The Gamaliel Seminary, MD, USA

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