March 19, 2014

Prayer is spiritual fruit

The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) This fruit is evidence that a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. However, God shows me another one this morning. Notice the contrast between these two passages. In the first, the people are praying and boldly speaking the Word of God . . .

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

In the second, they are not . . .  

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” (Exodus 15:23–26)

Instead of being thankful (another sign of the Spirit at work), they were grumbling and complaining. The rest of the passage hints that they were not listening to God, disobedient, and possibly often sick. From these two passages, it is easy to see that prayerful reliance on God goes along with being filled with the Spirit.

Of course, He helps me pray regarding the content of my prayers . . . “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26–27)  . . . but I never thought before that He also is at the root of prayer, the One who prompts it as well as directs it.

My best example is my husband. When someone describes a problem in their life, he is quick to offer prayer and prays for them on the spot. I’m more apt to offer solutions or a promise to pray for them later. I’ve asked God to change that response so I will also be quicker to pray. From these verses, I can see that my deeper need is to be less full of my own ideas and instead filled with the Holy Spirit.

Being filled with the Spirit is not just for situations that require prayer. Paul wrote about the need for Spirit-filled prayer all the time and in all circumstances . . .

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:16–20)

From his words, obviously Spirit-filled prayer is necessary to fight the suggestions and deceptions of Satan, to uphold and support other Christians, and to ask God to give words and boldness that His people might speak the gospel boldly and with clarity.

I can also see that when I am grumbling or even just feeling needy, I must obey God, not complain about my lot in life, or try to fix my problems or the problems of others without Him. Obedience requires the Holy Spirit and the fullness of His presence. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4) and I know that I cannot do anything, even properly pray, without His presence and power. 

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