In Galatians, Paul is teaching the church that as they have begun their faith journey by the Spirit, so they will continue by the Spirit. They are perfected by the Spirit, and they ought to walk in the Spirit (see especially Galatians 3:1-5 and 5:5-25).
We Live by the Spirit
It is elsewhere that we are taught that our prayer life falls in this same realm–we pray by the Spirit. In word or deed, our actions ought to be in the power of the Spirit , we walk in the Spirit, we put off the old and put on the new by the Spirit, we understand and grow in knowledge by the Spirit–and so we do not pray in the flesh. We do not pray from a source outside out union with Christ.
How does the Spirit Help Us Pray?
Let us make a start in 1 John 2:1, Paracletos, and another Peracletos John 14:16-17, 25;
Paracletos had in years past been thought of as being “comforter” but most agree now that this word simply does not cut it. The Greek word referring only to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit has the meanings of Advocate (legal, court of law), Intercessor, Helper. Jesus tells the disciples in the Gospel of John that the Spirit continues the work of Christ: He bears witness, He teaches, He strengthens in time of persecution and helps. He does more than simply console us. He reassures us of our place in Christ, of all things that are ours in Christ, of our calling and our inheritance. No one passage of Scripture sums this up, it is scattered throughout the New Testament.
In the Gospel of John, the disciples are called to abide, and then they are promised that the Spirit of truth will guide them into all truth, bringing to mind all that Jesus had taught them. He discloses the things of Christ, which are the things of the Father as well–perfect harmony in the work of the Trinity. The Spirit is not saying new and unique things–but the same mysteries that were hidden for long ages past and are now revealed to us through Christ, through the Word, and through the Spirit’s granting understanding.
The promised Spirit would lead the disciples’ as they undertook their specific work of spreading the gospel, the writing of Scripture and handing down the faith. Likewise He guides us in our work, to understand/believe/abide in His Word and continue to hand down that faith (not hiding it under a bushel! Also see Jude 3).
To know we are in Christ
John 14:20 specifically states that the disciples would know they are in Christ, they would understand the mutual abiding they are called to, they would understand they are not orphans.
So then, to pray in the Spirit is to pray knowing we are in Christ, we are not orphans, we belong, we are not forsaken. We have needs, we are afflicted, we are confused, we are distracted, we sin, we grow weary…and we pray in the Spirit who will faithfully lead us back to grasping the truths He wants us to cling to. We pray in the Spirit when we remember our Union with Christ.
To know I am kept
Turning to Jude for just a moment, he starts by saying we are kept, and ends by telling us to keep ourselves in the love of God. This is similar to Jesus promising both to abide in us and calling us to abide in Him. Back and forth, relationship based on promise. And so Jude continues by saying to keep yourselves by praying in the Spirit… this enables us to keep ourselves where we are–being kept by His strong and loving embrace. So praying in the Spirit, not in the flesh, strengthens us for the journey, and keeps us rooted and grounded in the knowledge of His great love–His unchanging love.
When we pray in the Spirit, these will be at the foundation of our prayers: in Jesus’ name, for His glory(acc to John 14-17), and reflecting His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, righteousness, truth (Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9).
When we pray in the Spirit we will not lay down the sword of the Spirit. When we pray in the Spirit, we will trust Him to groan the thoughts and feelings that are too deep for words rather than trying to figure out all the right things to pray.
When we pray in the Spirit, we will be honest like Jesus was–asking for this cup to pass. And we will be submissive like Jesus was, admitting the Father’s will is better. We will admit we are weak, and that we cannot even call out “Abba, Father” if it were not for the Spirit’s working in us. We pray because the Spirit dwells in us, so we pray in the Spirit when we are not consciously grieving Him and praying in the flesh.