“Praying in The Spirit” from D. Lloyd Jones, written by Jason Meyer

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D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Praying in the Spirit
by Jason Meyer

I spent five years immersing myself in the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It was truly a transformative season in my life. What was the biggest takeaway? The answer may surprise you. He taught me how to pray.

Those who really knew Lloyd-Jones will not find that answering surprising at all. His wife once said, ‘No one will ever understand my husband until they realize that he is first of all a man of prayer and then an evangelist’ (Bethan Lloyd-Jones). In particular, Lloyd-Jones, as a man of prayer, taught me how to pray in the Holy Spirit.

My hunger for learning how to pray in the Spirit came from a perplexing problem. I read Ephesians 6:18, ‘praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.’ This text really bothered me because I could parse the words and diagram the grammar, but I had this nagging sense that I was not experiencing the reality of it. Lloyd-Jones served as a mentor for me in making this verse a living reality. He led me on a three-stage guided tour of discovery: (1) what it is not, (2) what it is, and (3) how it is done.

WHAT PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT IS NOT
First, he helped me see what praying in the Spirit means by contrasting it with its polar opposite: praying in the flesh. Prayer in the power of the flesh relies upon human ability and effort to carry the prayer forward.

We all know what it is to feel deadness in prayer, difficulty in prayer, to be tongue-tied, with nothing to say, as it were, having to force ourselves to try. Well, to the extent that is true of us, we are not praying in the Spirit. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Living Water: Studies in John 4, p.99)

How do we overcome this difficulty in prayer? Praying in the flesh calls upon human ability and effort to push past the difficulty. If we are tongue-tied in prayer, we may try to overcome that difficulty with a stream of many words. Jesus warned us against thinking we would be heard because we use many words (Matthew 6:7). If we struggle with wanting to give up after a short time in prayer, we may focus upon how long we pray. Success in prayer does not depend upon how much time we can log in prayer. Sometimes people try to overcome deadness in prayer by focusing on how well we can pray. We subtly trust in having perfectly composed, doctrinally correct prayers that rely upon the right diction, cadence, language, emotion, or volume.

These attempts to push past the difficulty in the power of the flesh are attempts to imitate the liveliness that the Spirit gives in prayer.

The Spirit is a Spirit of life as well as truth, and the first thing that he always does is to make everything living and vital. And, of course, there is all the difference in the world between the life and liveliness produced by the Spirit and the kind of artifact, the bright and breezy imitation, produced by people. (Living Water, p. 99)

If praying in the flesh is the counterfeit or imitation of praying in the Spirit, what is the genuine article? The second part of the guided tour was discovering what praying in the Spirit is.

WHAT PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT IS
Here is the key difference: in the flesh, we are pushing the prayers forward, while in the Spirit, we feel caught up in the way the Spirit carries the prayer forward. Praying in the Spirit is experiencing the Spirit of life bringing prayer to life.

Praying in the Spirit means that the Spirit empowers the prayer and carries it to the Father in the name of Jesus. The prayer has a living quality characterized by warmth and freedom and a sense of exchange. We realize that we are in God’s presence speaking to God. The Spirit illuminates your mind, moves your heart, and grants a freedom of utterance and liberty of expression.

Lloyd-Jones frequently uses stark contrasts to make his point. He did not often go back and nuance the contrast between praying in the flesh and praying in the Spirit. He did not plot different degrees of experience; he simply posed sharp polarities to help us see the difference between the two.

It is helpful to acknowledge that there are varying degrees of experience when it comes to praying in the Spirit. It does not feel like revival every time we pray in the Spirit. There are varying experiences of feeling carried along or pushed forward. Sometimes praying in the Spirit will not feel electrifying at all. It will feel like groaning. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

I remember going on a bike ride where there was a gradual incline for the first half and a gradual slope down the second half. I sometimes think of that as the experiential difference between praying in the flesh and praying in the Spirit. Praying in the flesh feels like an upward climb in which we were having to power up the hill. Praying in the Spirit reflects the reality of the downward slope. Obviously, there are degrees of decline. But the basic awareness of a downhill energy and momentum are present in all of the different degrees of a downward slope.

When we pray in the Spirit, according to Lloyd-Jones, we experience being carried or driven in prayer to God by the Spirit, but how is it done?

HOW TO PRAY IN THE SPIRIT
Praying in the Spirit has three great aspects: (1) admitting our inability, (2) enjoying the creation of a living communion with God, and (3) pleading the promises of God with boldness and assurance.

Step One: Admitting our Inability to Pray
We should start with confession: we must admit out inability to pray as we ought. We must come face to face with out tendency to try to pray on our own. We start with the recognition that prayer is a spiritual activity, and the power of the flesh profits nothing at all. We should feel our dryness and difficulty and confess to him our dullness, lifelessness, and spiritual slowness and sluggishness (Living Water, p. 86).

But this step is not passive; it is the act of yielding ourselves tot eh Spirit. Confession leads to expectation and prayerful anticipation.

Step Two: Enjoy Living Communion with God
You are aware of a communion, a sharing, a give-and-take, if I may use such an expression. You are not dragging yourself along; you are not forcing the situation; you are not trying to make conversation with somebody whom you do not know. No, no! The Spirit of adoption in you brings you right into the presence of God, and it is a living act of fellowship and communion, vibrant with life. (Lloyd-Jones, The Christian Soldier, p. 100)

The place where you pray seems to be transformed. I start out praying in my living room, and suddenly I sense that I am in the throne room.

One of the key differences here between praying in the flesh and praying in the Spirit is that you don’t feel the need to rush to say anything when you pray in the Spirit. The living reality the Spirit creates is the awareness of God’s presence. Experiencing his presence will seem much more important that any petition you are going to make (Lloyd-Jones, Christian Soldier, p. 82). But the Spirit will not lead you merely to rest in God’s presence in a passive way. There will be a holy boldness to plead the promises of God.

Step 3: Pleading with Holy Boldness
The result of the Spirit’s work is that we bow before God as humbled children of God in awe of God. We don’t bow before an unknown or far away god, and we don’t skip into God’s presence with breezy familiarity. We come with an awakened sense of intimacy and awe. The Spirit also breathes bold life into our prayers — a holy boldness that pleads the promises of God with God in the presence of God.

The beauty of this boldness is that it is a humble and holy boldness. There is no presumptuous sense of demand.

Do not claim, do not demand, let your requests be made known, let them come from your heart. God will understand. We have no right to demand even revival. Some Christians are tending to do so at the present time. Pray urgently, plead, use all the arguments, use all the promises; but do not demand, do not claim. Never put yourself into the position of saying, ‘If we but do this, then that must happen.’ God is a sovereign Lord, and these things are beyond our understanding. Never let the terminology of claiming or of demanding be used. (Lloyd-Jones, The Final Perseverance of the Saints, p. 155)

DON’T QUENCH THE SPIRIT
Lloyd-Jones once said that the quickest way to quench the Spirit is to not obey an impulse to pray. This point is very, very personal to me, so let me tell you a story from my own experience.

Once I was driving home from working at UPS. I worked the night shift during my doctoral days and never seemed to get enough sleep. I was driving home very early one morning, around 4:30, and falling asleep at the wheel. I tried everything to stay awake. I turned up the radio and tried to sing along. I even slapped myself. The next thing I knew, I woke up in my driveway. I was more than a little shaken. I didn’t know how I got there.

I walked inside the house now eerily wide awake, and as I walked into our bedroom I noticed the strangest thing: my wife was wide awake, too. She would normally be asleep, but instead, she was sitting up in bed waiting for me.

She said, “Hi, honey, how was your drive?”

I said, “It’s funny you should ask. I really struggled to stay awake on the drive home. In fact, I don’t know how I got here.”

She said, “Yeah I figured. . . . ”

“Okay,” I said, “please continue!”

“Well,” she said, “I woke up at about 4:30 very suddenly, and felt this intense prompting to pray. I figured you must be struggling on the road since that is around the time you normally come home. So, I prayed for you.”

I think I am still alive, and typing these words, because my wife did not quench the Spirit in that moment. She obeyed the Spirit’s prompting to pray. I hope this story gives you a greater sense of what is at stake in prayer. Our tendency to quench the Spirit is not a small and inconsequential problem. Let us give ourselves to the reality of praying in the Spirit and renounce the temptation to try and pray in our own strength. And let us, after Lloyd-Jones’s example, always obey every impulse to pray.

© 2018 Jason Meyer
Jason Meyer is the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church and associate professor of preaching at Bethlehem College & Seminary. He’s the author of Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. He and his wife, Cara, have four children. This article was first published on the Desiring God website and has been reproduced with permission.

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“Liberty to be Transformed” from Bob Hoekstra’s ‘Day by Day Grace’

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Liberty to be Transformed

Bob Hoeksra ~ Day by Day Grace Blue Letter Bible, Daily Devotionals

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Living day by day under the new covenant of grace embraces the spiritually liberating work of the Holy Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). When the Holy Spirit is relied upon, there is liberty to be transformed.

This transformation process is for every believer who lives by the terms of the new covenant: “But we all.” The terms are simple: renounce self-sufficiency (“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves”-2 Corinthians 3:5a) and rely on God’s sufficiency (“but our sufficiency is from God”-2 Corinthians 3:5b). Those who reject human resources (the flesh) seek God “with unveiled face.” They come humbly, without any veils of pretense or self-justification.

Coming to the Lord in this manner brings an ongoing blessing: “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.” Three mirrors reflect the glory of Christ from heavenly places into the experience of the redeemed here on earth: the creation, the church, and the Scriptures. The universe declares His glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Also, the Lord can be seen living in His people. “For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:11). These two mirrors are helpful, but they can be distorted by sin. The mirror that reflects the Lord’s glory flawlessly is His word. “The law of the LORD is perfect…these [the Scriptures] are they which testify of Me” (Psalm 19:7; John 5:39).

As we humbly seek the Lord in His word, we behold His glory therein. The wonderful consequence is that we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” From one area after another, from one degree to another, we are being changed into the likeness of the glorious Savior we are beholding. This process is carried on as only the Holy Spirit could do it: “just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Dear Heavenly Father, I long to be more like Your Son. Forgive me for neglect of Your word. Please draw me consistently to the Scriptures, that I might humbly behold the glory of Jesus. Thank You for the work of Your Spirit, who is able to transform me into a growing Christlikeness, Amen.

Psalm 63:3-7 praise & ‘turning to the love of God’…from LWillows

Psalm63Willows
Turning to the Love of God
Turning to God is turning to a love and a sovereign power that will not fail us most especially in times of crises, overwhelming need and the seeming failure of what we depend upon for our existence, assistance and reliance in a world of astounding change and unsettling circumstances.

We need to gather in communities of love. We need to mobilize compassion and empathy into prayer that moves beyond words and pictures into lives that change.

When it is Love-the Love of The Lord God through us, that pours from all skies of the lands, then our hearts and lives will be re-shaped. The world that we see will reflect Love. The Holy Presence that has spoken throughout the ages will be heard, seen and known as we live, and pray hope forward through generations next.

© 2017 LWillows

“Trusting God; how do we develop strength for tough times?”…the works of Maria M. Kneas

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Trusting God’
From “Strength for Tough Times” by Maria M. Kneas
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.”
(Proverbs 3:5)

Proverbs 3:5-8 gives some keys to having a right rela­tion­­­ship with God. It also shows us how God will bless us if we do things His way.

Frank Sinatra used to sing a song called “My Way.” Its theme is, “I did it my way.” This is a good example of leaning on your own understanding and being wise in your own eyes — which is a recipe for disaster.

Here is what God tells us in Proverbs 3:5‑8. (I give each verse separately so that we can look at them individually.)

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (verse 5)
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
(verse 6)
“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
(verse 7)
“It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”
(verse 8)

Verse 5 gives a contrast between two opposing things. Trusting in the Lord with all your heart is comparable to a child who is walking with his father, and they have their arms around each other. That child is not going to go in the wrong direction, or the wrong way. And he is not going to fall. He is safe and secure. If the ground is uneven or unstable, the father will support the child, and he will guide him onto safe paths.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word translated “lean” means to lean on or rely on. Leaning on our own understanding means to rely on our own intellect, training, and experience more than we rely on God. We need to use those things (which are gifts from God), but our primary reliance should be on God Himself. Our human understanding is so limited. Our human experience is so inadequate, compared to that of the Creator of the universe. We only see “in a mirror, dimly.” (1 Cor­inthians 13:12) Our vision is clouded. Our perspective is too narrow. God tells us,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8‑9)

Even if things happen that we don’t understand, we can trust God’s nature, character, power, and love. The Apostle Paul said,

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Notice that Paul said whom (a person) rather than what (a thing). Paul’s confidence was in God, rather than in his own understanding.

Leaning on our own understanding is comparable to walking with a cane, and putting most of our weight on it. If the cane lands on uneven ground (such as a rocky place) or it lands at an awkward angle (as it could in a hole, or in a crack between some rocks), then we can stumble. If it lands on unstable ground (such as stones that move, or a slippery surface), then we can fall. The cane doesn’t know which way is safe and which way is dangerous. It just goes where we put it. And it can only provide stability to the degree that we have chosen solid footing for it.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “acknowledge” in Proverbs 3:6 includes comprehending, considering, being diligent, instruction, being aware, having respect, understanding, being acquainted with, and being related to (as a kinsman). It involves the kind of understanding that comes from personal relationship, in addition to the kind of understanding that comes from diligently paying attention to (and comprehending) instruction. When we have a close personal relationship with the Lord, and pay close attention to what He tells us and shows us, then He will direct our paths.

Our primary means of “hearing” from God is reading the Bible. Another way is having Biblical principles come to mind when we need them, or remembering Scripture verses that are appropriate for our situation.

Proverbs 3:7 gives a contrast between two things. The first is being wise in our own eyes. The second is fearing the Lord and departing from evil. If we are wise in our own eyes, then it is difficult to have a Biblical fear of the Lord.

In addition, being wise in our own eyes can lead to sins such as presumption, doubt, unbelief, and hardness of heart. Examples of such sins are given in the following Scripture passages:

“Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13)

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12)

“Afterward he [Jesus] appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” (Mark 16:14)

Following the guidelines of Proverbs 3:5-7 will bring blessings in our lives. Verse 8 says, “It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” The King James Version says, “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”

When we lean on our own understanding instead of fully trusting the Lord, then we can become stressed or anxious. According to medical research, sustained stress can cause arthritis and anemia, which are diseases of the bones and bone marrow. (The bone marrow makes the blood.) Stress can also cause, or aggravate, other health problems.

Verse 8 mentions health for our “flesh” or “navel.” According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word used here literally means the umbilical cord. How do babies in the womb get everything that they need for life? Through the umbilical cord. If it doesn’t function properly, then the baby won’t get adequate food and oxygen.

Babies in the womb are totally dependent upon their mothers for everything that they need for life. They are connected to their mothers by their umbilical cords, and they receive what they need through those cords. Similarly, Christians are totally dependent upon God for everything. Receiving what God wants to give us depends on having us be rightly connected to Him.

Whatever we need, in order to receive it, we have to be rightly related to God. Do we need strength or comfort or courage or healing or wisdom or protection or provision? Proverbs 3:5‑8 gives us some keys for receiving such things from God.

Building Trust

How can we develop the child-like faith of trusting in the Lord with all of our heart instead of leaning on our own understanding? There are some practical things that we can do to help strengthen our trust in God.

Strengthen Our Relationship

When you know a good person intimately — when you really know their heart — then you have more trust in them. So how do we get to know God better? By reading the Bible (and asking God to help us understand it). The Bible shows us God’s character and His ways.

We can also get to know God better by spending time in prayer and worship. The Bible says,

“Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Notice that the peace comes when we give things to God in prayer. It does not wait for how He answers our prayers. It does not depend on the outcome. The peace comes when we put the situation into God’s hands. The Bible says that we should cast all our cares (concerns) on God because he cares (loves and takes care of) us. (1 Peter 5:7)

Gratitude

We need to develop the habit of being grateful for who God is and what He has already done for us. It is easy to take things for granted. For example, you are reading this essay. Have you thanked God for the fact that you are able to see, and you know how to read?

If we look for things to thank God for, we will find more and more reasons to be grateful. And if we look for things to complain about, we will find more and more reasons to complain.

When the Israelites came out of Egypt and went to the Promised Land, they kept complaining. They got bored with eating manna every day, and wanted to eat something more flavorful (with garlic and leeks). So they complained about the miraculous food that God provided. They complained when they had no water. God miraculously supplied water for them, but we have no record that they were grateful for it.

And what was the end of the matter? That generation died in the wilderness because they refused to enter the Promised Land when God told them to. They didn’t trust God to deal with the giants there.

This is an example of how lack of gratitude can result in lack of trusting God. And that can lead to a lack of obedience (i.e., rebellion against God).

Compare this with the attitude of King Jehoshaphat. When he and his people were threatened by a huge army, Jehoshaphat prayed,

“O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.” (2 Chron­i­cles 20:12, emphasis added)

And God came through for them. He miraculously delivered them from their enemies.

We can choose to develop the habit of thanking God. We can look for things to thank Him for. We can thank God and praise Him even when we don’t feel like it.

We can deliberately choose to be grateful, and we can ask God to give us a grateful heart. The Apostle Paul exhorted us to have that kind of attitude when he said,

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, emphasis added)

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were sent to a Nazi concentration camp because her family hid Jews during World War II. Betsy died in that camp, but Corrie was released.1 After the war, she traveled the world, telling people about God’s love. Corrie knew first-hand how difficult life can be. But she said,

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”2

NOTES:

  1. Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place tells about how they hid Jews, were sent to a concentration camp, and led a Bible study and prayer meeting there. Some of the prisoners in that camp became Christians through their ministry. You can also watch a DVD that is based on the book. (It has the same title.) Corrie was present for the filming.
  2. Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook (Nash­­­­ville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982), p. 27.

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