Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
THE EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
When all is said and done, how will we know this is happening? What will be the evidence that we are indeed praying in the Spirit?
First, character. We grow in faith, hope, and love; we know and live in the holiness of God. That is, if we are praying in the Spirit, it will be evident in the quality of our lives—in our increased capacity to live lives marked by moral intelligence and wisdom. The reign of Christ, the authority of Christ, will increasingly be evident in the way in which we live and work and in the quality of our relationships. Our prayers will actually be a means of our formation.
Second, vocational clarity and patience. Those who pray in the Spirit as I am suggesting are those who say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. They do not overspeak, they are not overly wordy, they are good listeners. They are at peace to be silent or quiet, and yet they know what it is to “make an apt answer . . . a word in season” (Proverbs 15:23). They also do what they are called to do—no more, no less. They are able to make difficult decisions with an awareness of the deep ambiguities of life, yet with a certain decisiveness. It may strike us as self-confidence, but it is better to describe is as nothing more than the humility to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said. These people act without frenetic busyness or despair or frustration that they do not have the time they need. That is the genius of it, actually: women and men who pray in the Spirit do what they are called to do, even if it involves very difficult decisions, with a gracious courage and patience. There is no other way to describe it than as the grace of being patient. Patience is not acquiescence. It is the twin to decisive and courageous words and deeds.
Third, those who pray in the Spirit are marked by a resilient joy. Joy is not mere sentimentality or an optional extra. In many respects it is the heart of the matter—not of secondary significance in the Christian journey. It is the joy of alignment: Why would it not be the case that as we live increasingly in alignment with the reign of Christ we come to know what it means that Christ Jesus has come so that our joy may be complete (John 15:11)? We will encounter much sorrow and suffering in this world. And yet, in the midst of it all, joy will be our true home, the fundamental orientation and disposition of our hearts and lives. And fear will dissipate.
This is only possible, of course, because we know that evil does not have the last word—that indeed the kingdom will come and Christ will reign and will, in due time, make all things well. Yes, we are participants in the kingdom of God now, but what we see and experience will without doubt be marked by much that falls short of ideal. Many come to the end of their lives and their careers deeply disappointed with God and with others. But those who pray in the Spirit are marked by an uncanny joy—largely because they know that what is before them is not the last word and that when all is said and done the kingdom of God will come.
So frequently we think that if we have conviction and ideals—for the church, for our institutions, and for our families, including our children—this strength of vision for all that could be, and in our minds should be, will be evident in our impatience with people and with systems (which is another way of saying “people”). We think that our disappointment with how things are is a sign of moral and intellectual strength. Yet those who pray in the Spirit, while they are deeply engaged and without doubt keenly feel all that is not what it should be, are not robbed of joy. Their joy is a reflection of their quiet assurance of the ultimate coming of the reign of Christ.
Finally, the key indicator that we are praying in the Spirit is humility. As discussed in chapter one, there are three major temptations that we come up against in our prayers: the temptation to complain rather than give thanks, the temptation to judge rather than make personal confession, and the temptation to either frenetic busyness or despair rather than the way of discernment. And yet in the end there is only one temptation: that we would view ourselves as somehow at the center of the universe. So easily our default mode is of living as though everything revolved around us.
But when we pray “thy kingdom come,” what essentially happens is that we recognize the priority of the kingdom. Thus we learn to see all things, including our lives, through the lens of the reality of the reign of Christ and the kingdom of God. And this necessarily means that we grow in freedom and humility.
Increasingly, Christ is the center of our universe, and we find freedom in no longer needing to be at the center. Humility is nothing other than to know and experience ourselves in truth, in freedom, with Christ and the reign of Christ as all that truly consumes us. We are not obsessed or consumed with ourselves but with the reign of Christ. Our prayers are not all about us. Sure, our own context and life situation is without doubt the lens by which we come to Christ and pray “thy kingdom come.” But as the Spirit guides us in our prayers, they will be defined not by the particulars of our lives but rather, first and foremost, by our longing for the reign of Christ. Yes, our prayers are about us, but they are about us in light of the
kingdom. Thus when we pray for ourselves and for the needs and longings that inevitably arise in our lives, it is not because we are overly concerned with ourselves. It is actually because we long for our lives to be found within and under and in light of the reign of Christ. And this is freedom. The freedom to let God be God: to find deep joy in not presuming or desiring to be God.
-Taken from Teach Us to Pray by Gordon T. Smith. Copyright (c) 2018 by Gordon T. Smith Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com