Always Pray in the Spirit
For the last few weeks, we have been looking at the uniqueness of the Christian Life. In John's letter, we are told, "We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) As we are all born into Adam's race, we all sin because it is our nature. Just like every small child trusts their parents' dictates, every child of Adam's race obeys Satan's lies.
Sin is present with a born again believer and the potential to sin; there is also a possibility to adhere to the devil's lies. However, we have escaped from the devil's control as those who have placed saving faith in Jesus Christ. Every believer is in a war for the truth and the freedom to live a life separated from the world and holy for Christ's glory. But how?
The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6, begins in verse 10, to tell his readers to put on the full armor of God. It is not our armor; it is God's armor. Whose armor it is, is no trivial point. We do not put on our armor, as if there is something special about us. On the contrary, when we put on God's armor, we put on Christ.
To defeat the devil's schemes and make no mistake, Paul is not talking about overcoming sin, but the devil. He said, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (6:12) To defeat the devil, a person must have their all-consuming purpose in life to value the truth more than their selfish plans (V14). Furthermore, they must love righteousness from a heart filled with Christ's love (V 14). Equally, such a person must not lose his footing but have feet prepared to stand firm in the good news of peace. The good soldier is not looking for a fight; he lives in peace with God, himself, and others. However, when the battle comes, he's ready.
The overcoming Christian soldier is covered from his head to his feet because he is preoccupied with Jesus more than anything else. Such a person and only such a person can carry out the Apostle's following admonition. "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit..." (V 18). We are told to pray all the time in the Spirit, which means it is never acceptable to pray in the flesh.
All the problems that we read about in the New Testament regarding the Church resulted from fleshly living. Hence, Paul tells us in the fifth chapter of Galatians, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (5:16) The devil's plans usually involve using our tendency to sin against us. It is the person who knows how to walk in the Spirit with consistency who can defeat the devil. How do we walk in the Spirit?
Death is part of life. No sinner wants to face that reality, but that doesn't make it any less real. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." (John 12:24) The concept is simple enough, but the fulfillment of it is anything but easy. For this reason, Jesus says, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me;" (Vs. 25, 25)
To walk in the Spirit, the Christian soldier must follow Jesus to the cross, which is a means of execution. Our selfish goals, desires, plans, thoughts, motives, intentions are all meant to die at Calvary. Jesus' life was the only one worth living. He, who is the source of eternal life, loved God the Father's will literally unto death. We can only love life through Jesus' death. Only in this way can we experience His resurrection life.
From Matthew 16 on, we see a further revelation by Jesus to His disciples, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day." (Matthew 16:21) When Peter pulled Jesus aside to tell Him He was wrong, Jesus said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!" Jesus understood full well who was behind that statement. When that idea comes to your mind, do you always understand its source in various forms and circumstances?
Only a person who can perceive the right enemy at the correct time can say with the Apostle Paul, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (stronghold). We are destroying speculations (reasoning that reflects someone's values; what if Satan's), and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; emphasis added)
In the mind, the war is won or lost. When we are able, by walking in the Spirit, to discern a truth from a lie and refuse the lie and walk in the truth, we win. Jesus is the truth, and to know Him personally, and in the Spirit, by denying worldliness and elevating the cross over selfish ambition and pride, we experience overcoming victory.
Let us be clear, "The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7, 8) Why would any Christian not set their attention to avoid living in the flesh? The reality of being spiritual for born again believers is this, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him." (Romans 8:9)
Nevertheless, if living by the Spirit were automatic, there would be no need for the admonition to always pray in the Spirit. Therefore, Paul goes on to tell us in verses twelve and thirteen, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." Do you see it? Life or death as a choice. You have the freedom to choose death in the flesh and thereby receive life in the Spirit. The world has no such option. Christian, you face it every day.
I sincerely hope that you do not try to defeat the devil by some hopeless attempt at self-crucifixion because that will never work. The only death worth dying is identification with Christ in His. Learn prayerful meditation upon the sacrificial death of Christ. Learn to weep in prayer, spend time glorifying Christ in worship, and thanking Him. As you take time to pray in this way and fill yourself with pleasing Him, you will find yourself wearing His armor. Then you will be able to pray at all times in the Spirit and effectively pray for others.
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