pray as you go (and a bit on praying in tongues)

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

There is nothing more important in life than to be in vital communion with God. A key aspect of that is prayer. We might liken prayer to exhaling in breathing. We inhale as we take in God’s voice to us through his word. And we exhale in response to that. Yes, prayer ends up being as vital as the air we breathe. We can’t get by well without it. In fact it is part of our life, becoming no less than a part of who we are.

Admittedly and all too often it seems prayer seems to be an uphill battle. We can feel prayerless, not seeming to have the ability to do it at all. Perhaps that is a time when we need to be still before God in all our brokenness and lostness.

To pray continually or without ceasing simply means that prayer is to be ongoing for us, a rule of life so to speak. It is good to pray set prayers (see the Sunday posts on this blog) along with our own expressions of worship, confession of our sin, thanksgiving and petitions to God along with other prayers (see scripture).

I have the personality or bent of never feeling like I’m ready for anything. So I have no trouble thinking that I need to be in prayer at any given time. Actually praying can be another thing. But by God’s grace it is beoming much more habitual and ingrained in me.

It is good to pray short prayers. If someone brings a concern to my attention, I want to pray a short prayer at the time. We can pray in the Spirit in a number of ways, including “tongues” (see 1 Corinthians 14). I believe every Christian can pray in that way. But you’re neither more nor less spiritual if you do or you don’t contrary to some of the teaching out there. In my case I figure I need all the help I can get, so if that avenue is open, I’ll take it. You could simply ask God to fill you with his Spirit, and then you open your mouth and begin to speak as the Spirit gives you words. The words are unintelligible and may seem to be mere gibberish. But go on. This is not spoken of in the Bible for no reason. And see the distinctions of it again in ! Corinthians 14 along with 12, Acts 2 and in other places. Sadly this has been a divisive gift and a false marking of “haves” and “have-nots.” No, you are not more spiritual if you pray in this way. The Corinthian church according to Paul lived like those without the Spirit. But neither is this gift to be despised. As to the gift of tongues for the assembly along with an interpreter, it seems like this is a gift given only here and there. Perhaps not a so-called constitutional gift but a situational gift as I think John Wimber suggested.

Life is full of difficulty and can be overwhelming, more than we can bear. That is when we need to bear our hearts to God, look to him for ourselves and for others. But through good and difficult times we need to be in prayer. As we continue in this life in Jesus.

being open to the Holy Spirit

Most all of my Christian life I have more than dutifully listened to the Bible being read (on cassette, and now on CD’s). Except for one period of time. For a few years we went to a Vineyard church. I had a personal crisis and we up and left the church we were part of. I had been dissatisfied with my Christian life to some extent, and had considered considering Roman Catholicism at one point. I had believed in all the gifts or manifestations (as I might want to emphasize now) of the Spirit through the writing of Gordon Fee. Now we were in a church in which a number of the gifts cited in scripture, particularly in 1 Corinthians, likely would be “in play.” And over time we found out that was the case. Probably not as intense as in some Vineyard and charismatic or Pentecostal churches. But just as surely present.

Back to the Bible point, for the first time and I think the only time in my decades of being a Christian, I quit listening to scripture for a time, was using a different version than the NIV, the new NLT, and was simply trying to be open to the Spirit and get into worship. The worship, while one dimensional in the sense that it was one kind of music, was excellent in quality of music, but more importantly, it was about worship. For people to be lying on their faces, at times dancing, all of us moving with hands in the air, was the norm. God’s presence in conviction and sweetness was often palpable for me. I believe the Lord helped me emotionally during that time, and to know more (even though still not enough) of the presence, power and person of the Holy Spirit. I entered a bit into some of the manifestations of the Spirit.

I was there a few years, and though I was impacted on the “charismatic” side, I felt like I wasn’t being used, wasn’t really needed there, I felt like somehow I didn’t entirely fit in. And eventually we left for the church we are members of now. I came to miss the charismatic side, but I also thought that sometimes people on that side don’t have their feet sufficiently on the ground. Probably unfair and that Vineyard church had an unusual amount of artists and creative people, which means they will seem off the beaten path, oftentimes more than not. I believe the church we are at is open in theory and a little in practice to that side, the charismatic side.

I do think that an emphasis on the Holy Spirit is much bigger than the distinctions of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. At the same time, I think a significant chunk of the manifestation of the Spirit is missed when we aren’t that open to works like prophecy, tongues, healing- laying hands on others and healing the sick in Jesus’ name, discerning spirits, both in regard to utterances, and perhaps with reference to those who may be demonized, either possessed to some degree or another, or troubled by a demonic spirit, etc.

And I think we need to be open to whatever the Spirit might do, including the phenomena of being slain by the Spirit. If this would happen in a church, I suppose it might come to be known as a full blown charismatic (or Pentecostal) kind of church, though I don’t think that necessarily follows. A problem has been the questionable interpretations and practice in regard to these gifts and the manifestation and power of the Spirit. There are “ministries” I would want no part of, engaged in this kind of thing (at least in appearance, and I don’t doubt there might be some power present, even from the Lord). But who are not well grounded in scripture, and are questionable in some way or another (or in a number of ways). In some ways I would just as soon go on and know church as I always have, but scripture indicates there is more in the sense of variety as well as degree, I suppose.

All of this simply to say, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit, to the ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit will emphasize Christ, that Jesus is Lord. And will empower us as witnesses about Jesus to the world. And he will move in power, if we are open to that, indeed if we pursue it.

Much more to say, and this opens me up to much misunderstanding. But I must end this post here. We by the Spirit are together in Jesus in this for the world.