How Should we Pray?
Charismatics and Pentecostals make a big deal out of praying in the Spirit. They will take verse 26 out of context to excuse a practice which is often suspect or false (Romans 8:26).
There was a televangelist recently who broke into praying in tongues for Christian unity with the Pope, much to the enthusiasm and applause of his audience. He sounded really authentic until someone with access to the YouTube video had his prayer translated. The updated video, with subtitles at the bottom of the screen was resubmitted on another YouTube channel. What a farce! The actual translation was an array of jumbled and meaningless words – actual words, but not in any meaningful sentence structure.
Why do these groups push speaking or praying in tongues as a requisite gift all Christians should have? Especially one most easily faked. And the one which has the least benefit for the body of Christ as a whole.
From studying the passage above we get a different picture of verse 26. The key word is “groan”. It is mentioned here in 3 different places – creation groans, we groan and the Spirit groans.
If we think on how creation groans we get a better understanding (Romans 8: 20 – 21). Creation waits and “groans” in a state of expectation – to be set free from a bondage to decay, from floods, from earthquakes, bush-fires and calamities. It is a figure of an imperfect world waiting to be redeemed, which it will in the new heaven and earth.
Likewise our bodies groan too. We all get old as our bodies deteriorate and eventually die. We get deaf, go blind, our skin becomes wrinkled and our hair goes grey and falls out.
The Holy Spirit likewise groans in ways that are too deep for words to express. God does not have to hear words to hear the Spirit’s groans. Yet we have a misunderstanding that we must pray audibly in tongues when, in fact, the Spirit does it for us and without words – especially at times when we are lost for words. I am sure He doesn’t need our help to do this.
I have been in churches where there is an unbiblical practice of teaching converts to pray or speak in tongues. “Just open your mouth and let the words come out. Make little sounds. Even a baby has to learn what to say. Baby Christians learn how to speak in tongues. Just open your mouth and let the words form and come out.” The early church spoke in tongues when baptised by the Holy Spirit. They spoke in distinct languages that praised God, not in some leant baby talk (Acts 2: 7 – 8). Likewise those who prayed in tongues did not need human words because the Spirit as Paul declares: “intercedes for us with groans too deep for words”.
I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not in the misuse of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul told the Corinthians to seek after the better gifts – that build up the church (1 Cor 12: 31). We see churches where everyone speaks or prays in tongues and where a signer stands at the front of the church during the sermon. Where are those Christians with the gift of healing?