This chapter is adapted from Daniel Henderson’s book Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2011).
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. —Jude 1:20
A few years ago, my wife Rosemary and I spoke at a women’s gathering on a Saturday morning. After the breakfast, a mother and daughter from the church gave the first presentation. We were scheduled to follow them on the program.
Their story was riveting.
Linda Barrick and her daughter, Jen, gave an account of the events that took place on a Sunday evening, November 5, 2006. As the family drove home from church, a drunk driver traveling 80 miles per hour struck their minivan head-on. Linda and her husband, Andy, were in the front. Fifteen-year-old Jen and eleven-year-old Josh were in the back. All sustained life-threatening injuries and were rushed to emergency rooms at different hospitals.
While all four family members were in serious condition, doctors did not expect Jen to live through the night. But God sustained her life. She remained in a coma for five weeks with traumatic brain injuries and multiple skull fractures. Jen’s slow emergence from the coma took many more weeks. Doctors feared the brain injuries might prompt a flurry of strange behaviors, such as screaming or cursing. Instead, Jen’s spirit poured out with praise songs and constant prayers. Even though she was not cognizant of her injuries, her location, or even the names of her family members, she continued to praise God.
“The Holy Spirit was so alive and evident in her,” her mom commented.
Unable to open her eyes or comprehend her surroundings, Jen lit- erally prayed for hours.
“But she did not ask for one thing,” recounts Linda. “Even with her body thrashing back and forth uncontrollably, she would cry out for hours, ‘Lord, you are so good. Lord, you are so faithful.’”
Linda notes, “I would just sit there and weep as the Spirit enabled her to praise her Father, sing worship songs, and even quote Scriptures. It was as if she had been in His presence the whole time.”
THE REALM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today, Jen has recovered remarkably well, but still suffers memory loss and endures cortical blindness. Yet she is able and eager to join her mother regularly in telling this amazing account of God’s grace and the power of prayer. As Rosemary and I listened to the Barricks’ story, we were struck by this truth: the Holy Spirit produces truth-based wor- ship and thanksgiving in the hearts of His children.
- For information about the Barricks’ story, including testimonies and videos, visit hopeoutloud.com.
Beyond our mental and physical capacities exists a spiritual dimension that we must grasp if we are going to learn to pray by the power of the Holy Spirit. Worship-based prayer brings our hearts into intimate harmony with the person of the Holy Spirit and enhances our surrender to His control, wisdom, and power for our prayers. The Spirit then enables us to worship more deeply. This worship, in turn, brings us a greater surrender to the Spirit, thus continuing the circle.
Jen Barrick, with limited mental and physical capacity, exhibited a profound experience of prayer in the realm of the Holy Spirit. Many of us depend on our own intellect and forget the Holy Spirit’s essential role. We may punch the prayer clock, but transformation eludes us.
GRAVEYARD OR INSANE ASYLUM
My friend Jim Cymbala urges Christians toward a vibrant, prac- tical, and balanced reliance on the Holy Spirit. He notes that when it comes to the person of the Holy Spirit, churches tend to be either cemeteries or insane asylums. Some hardly recognize the Holy Spirit or seek Him at all. Others engage in all kinds of bizarre, extra-biblical antics, for which the Holy Spirit gets “credit.” In our prayers, we want to avoid these extremes, but must set our hearts on the very real, pow- erful, and practical reality of the Holy Spirit.
LIVING AND PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan writes:
From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangeli- cal would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet there are mil- lions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.7
If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kingdom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit…but when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.8
Jesus wants His house and His people to be characterized by prayer. (See Mark 11:17.) The Lord wants us to be controlled and empowered by the supernatural reality of His Holy Spirit rather than by human strategies and intellectual prowess.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE “HOW TO”
I often ponder why the early church prayed like they did and we, in modern society, don’t do so. The answer, I have concluded, is that they actually believed that the Holy Spirit was the “how to” of the Christian life.
We tend to think the Holy Spirit helps us in the Christian life. We treat Him like an app on our phone in our living and praying when, in reality, He is the operating system of our faith. Too often, the Holy Spirit is an afterthought rather than the first thought in our prayers.
Without Him, no believer can pray effectively. Even the great apostle Paul confessed this truth about his own prayers. (See Romans 8:26.)
We are commanded to pray in the Spirit. (See Jude 1:20.) Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest explained, “Praying in the Spirit is praying in dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is prayer exercised in the sphere of the Holy Spirit, motivated and empowered by Him.”9
Pastor John Piper defines it simply: “Praying in the Holy Spirit is to be moved and guided by the Holy Spirit in prayer. We pray by His power and according to His direction.”10
The great Puritan writer William Law explained:
Read whatever chapter of scripture you will and be ever so delighted with it—yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence on Him.11
J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “Prayer in the Spirit is prayer whose supreme object is the glory of God, and only in a secondary sense is it a blessing for ourselves or for others.”
The Holy Spirit is the secret to Christ-honoring, deeper, and transforming prayer. This, I believe, is what Jen Barrick experienced during her slow recovery in a hospital bed. And it is what God desires for us in our prayer lives.
Excerpted from “21 Days of Deeper Prayer: Discover an Extraordinary Life in God” by Jim Maxim with Daniel Henderson, © 2020 by Jim Maxim. Published by Whitaker House, New Kensington, PA. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.whitakerhouse.com.
Free audio prayers found here: www.acts413.net/deeperprayer