How to Pray, by R.A. Torrey
Chapter 5: Praying in the Spirit
Over and over again in what has already been said, we have seen our dependence on the Holy Spirit in prayer. This is stated very clearly in Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit”; and in Jude 20, “Praying in the Holy Ghost.” Indeed, the whole secret of prayer is found in these three words, in the Spirit. God the Father answers the prayer that God the Holy Spirit inspires.
The disciples did not know how to pray as they should, so they came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” we also do not know how to pray as we should, but we have another Teacher and Guide right at hand to help us (see John 14:16-17). The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities.” (Romans 8:26). He teaches us how to pray. True prayer is prayer in the Holy Spirit; that is, the prayer the Spirit inspires and directs. when we come into God’s presence, we should recognize “our infirmities,” our ignorance of what we should pray for or how we should pray for it. In the consciousness of our utter inability to pray properly, we should look up to the Holy Spirit, casting ourselves utterly upon Him to direct our prayers. He must lead our desires and guide our utterance of them.
Nothing can be more foolish in prayer than to rush heedlessly into God’s presence and ask the first thing that comes into our mind. When we first come into God’s presence, we should be silent before Him. We should look up to Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray. We must wait for the Holy Spirit and surrender ourselves to the Spirit. Then we will pray correctly.
Often, when we come to God in prayer, we do not feel like praying. What should we do in such a case? Cease praying until we feel like it? Not at all. When we feel least like praying is the time when we most need to pray. We should wait quietly before God and tell Him how cold and prayerless our hearts are. We should look up to Him, trust Him, and expect Him to send the Holy Spirit to warm our hearts and draw us out in prayer. It will not be long before the glow of the Spirit’s presence will fill our heart. We will begin to pray with freedom, directness, earnestness, and power. Many of the most blessed seasons of prayer I have ever known have begun with a feeling of utter deadness and prayerlessness. But, in my helplessness and coldness, I have cast myself upon God and looked to Him to send His Holy Spirit to teach me to pray. And, He has always done it. When we pray in the Spirit, we will pray for the right things in the right way. There will be joy and power in our prayer.
Praying with Faith
If we are to pray with power, we must pray with faith. Jesus says, “Therefor I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” No matter how positive any promises of God’s Word may be, we will not enjoy it unless we confidently expect its fulfillment. “If any of you lack wisdom,” says James, “let him ask of god, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him” (James 1:5) Now that promise is as positive as a promise can be. The next verse adds, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (James 1:6-7). There must then be confident, unwavering expectation that believes that prayer is heard and the promise granted. This comes out in Mark 11:24, “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye pray, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.”
But how can one have this faith?
Let us say with all emphasis, it cannot be forced. A person reads this promise about the prayer of faith and then asks for things he desires. He tries to make himself believe that God has heard the prayer. This only ends in disappointment for it is not real faith, and the thing is not granted. At this point, many people lose faith altogether by trying to create faith by an effort of their own will. When the thing they made themselves believe they would receive is not given, the very foundation of faith is often undermined.
But, how does real faith come?
Romans 10:17 answers the question: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If we are to have real faith, we must study the Word of God and discover what is promised. The, we must simply believe the promises of God. Faith must have God’s sanction. Trying to believe something that you want to believe is not faith. Believing what God says in His Word is faith. If I am to have faith when I pray, I must find some promise in the Word of God to rest my faith on.
Faith furthermore comes through the Spirit. The Spirit knows the will of God. If I pray in the Spirit and look to the Spirit to teach me God’s will, He will lead me out in prayer along the line of that will. He will give me faith that the prayer is to be answered. But, in no case does real faith come by simply determining that you are going to receive what you want. If there is no promise in the Word of God and no clear leading of the Spirit, there can be no real faith. There should be no scolding for your lack of faith in such a case. But if the thing desired is promised in the Word of God, we may well scold ourselves for lack of faith if we doubt, for we are making God a liar by doubting his word.