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What Real Prayer Looks Like

When prayer has become secondary, or incidental, it has lost its power. Those who are conspicuously men of prayer are those who use prayer as they use food, or air, or light, or money. —M.E. Andross

In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul challenges us to “pray in the spirit.” That brings up an interesting question: Is it actually possible to pray “in the flesh”? Could someone actually pray as part of a performance-based system to gain favor with God?

Absolutely! Remember Jesus coming down on the Pharisees? Don’t pray like the Pharisees pray for they stand on the street corner to be seen by everyone. They were performing for people, they weren’t praying, right? Instead, Jesus told us to get in the closet where no one can see us.

But even in the closet, isn’t it quite possible that our prayers are seen as a duty to be fulfilled through self-effort rather than an opportunity to communicate with God?

Let’s consider this simple, pure definition of prayer again:

Prayer is an intimate conversation with the One who passionately loves you and lives in you. Prayer is not an action; it’s an interaction—and that interaction takes place in and through the Holy Spirit.

Paul says there are going to be times when it’s actually impossible for us to pray.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Prayer is not something you do, it’s something that the Spirit, who is in you, does through you. We don’t even have to use words. In our weakness we might not even know what to say, but God knows the mind of the Holy Spirit in us. If you enter the intimate conversation with the One who loves you, the Spirit in you will intercede and lead you.

Lord, I surrender myself to You in prayer. Holy Spirit, pray through me. According to Your will, lay things on my heart that You want to talk about today. Amen.

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