2-2 Prayer in the Spirit
This conception of prayer explains why often weeping, crying, waiting, meditating etc. are spoken of as " prayer" , although there was no specific verbalizing of requests (Ps. 5:1,2; 6:8; 18:1,2,3,6; 40:1; 42:8; 64:1 Heb.; 65:1,2; 66:17-20; Zech. 8:22). The association between prayer and weeping is especially common: 1 Sam. 1:10; Ps. 39:12; 55:1,2; Jn. 11:41,42; Heb. 5:7, especially in the Lord's life and the Messianic Psalms. " The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer" (Ps. 6:8,9) crystallizes the point. Desire is also seen as effectively praying for something (Rom. 10:1; Col. 1:9; 2 Cor. 9:14). Weeping, desiring, waiting, meditating etc. are all acts of the mind, or 'spirit' in Biblical terminology. There is therefore a big association between our spirit or state of mind, and prayer. The spirit (disposition) of Christ which we have received leads us to pray " Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). " Praying in the holy spirit" (Jude 20) is to be seen in this context. Prayer is part of the atmosphere of spiritual life, not something hived off and separate- it is an expression of our spirit. Thus there are verses which speak of many daily prayers as being just one prayer (Ps. 86:3,6; 88:1,2); prayer is a way / spirit of life, not something specific which occurs for a matter of minutes each day. The commands to " pray without ceasing" simply can't be literally obeyed (1 Thess. 5:17). " Watch and pray always" in the last days likewise connects prayer with watchfulness, which is an attitude of mind rather than something done on specific occasions. This is not to say that prayer in no sense refers to formal, specific prayer. Evidently it does, but it is only a verbal crystallization of our general spirit of life.
Rom. 8 speaks of the importance of being spiritually minded, and then goes on to say that our spirit, our deep inner mind, is transferred to God by Christ, called by His title " the Lord the spirit" , without specifically spoken words. This is surely proof enough that the Lord does not mediate our prayers as an interpreter would, from one language to another, matching lexical items from one language with those from another. " We know not what to pray for" , so the Lord Jesus reads our inner spirit, and transfers this on a deep mental level, without words, to the Father. The whole process of mediation takes place within the Lord's mind, with the sort of groanings He had as He begged the Father to raise Lazarus (Rom. 8:26 cp. Jn. 11:38), and as on the cross He prayed with strong crying and tears for our redemption (Heb. 5:5 cp. Is. 53:12). The Lord Jesus is the same yesterday and today. That same passion and intensity of pleading really is there. This is why the state of our mind, our spirit, is so vitally important; because it is this which the Lord Jesus interprets to the Father. Because God responds to our spirit, our overall situation, sometimes He does things which seem to be an answer of prayers which were not properly believed in by the person who prayed. Examples include: Gen. 30:16,17; Ex. 14:10,11 cp. Neh. 9:9; Ps. 31:22; Lk. 1:13. Belief and unbelief can quite comfortably co-exist in a man (Mk. 9:24; Jn. 12:39-43). These prayers were answered because God saw the overall situation, He read the spirit of those who prayed and responded appropriately, even if their faith in their specific, vocalized prayers was weak. Perhaps in similar vein, James 4:6 appears to teach that God will hear the prayers of the humble man when a proud man is praying at the same time; faith is not mentioned here.
So far we have seen that our innermost desires, our complaints, our situations, our deeply concealed attitudes, are read by God as if they are prayers, and answered accordingly. He sees us as asking for things which we perhaps can't even visualize (e.g. Ps. 106:44 cp. Is. 64:3), or having confidence in prayer which we certainly don't feel. How God saw Hezekiah's attitude to Sennacherib is a clear example. Yet God not only sees the thoughts and attitudes of His children like this. He describes Himself as " hearkening" to the mocking of Moab (Zeph. 2:8); and God hearkening is the language of responding to prayer. The wicked afflicting the poor, for example, leads to God hearing the cry of the poor (Job 34:28). The implication is that the nature of the situation, not just the fervency of their specific prayers, makes God respond. Hezekiah reflected that " it may be that the Lord...will hear the words of Rabshakeh" (Is. 37:4). He therefore sees the attitudes of the world as some kind of communication with Him, and He 'hearkens' to this and responds. This explains why so many powerful prayers do not make specific requests for help; rather do they show an opening up of the heart / spirit of the believer to God, and a putting of the situation before God, with the faith that God will read the situation as a request for Him to act; but the believer does not suggest to God in concrete terms how He might respond to the situation. Thus David often puts his situation before God, and calls that his prayer- although he doesn't explicitly request anything (e.g. Ps. 3:1-4; 142:1,2). The way God reads a situation as a prayer helps explain a difficult phenomena: i.e., why God appears to answer prayers which lack real faith (Gen. 30:16-18; Neh. 9:9 cp. Ex. 14:10,11; Ps. 31:22; Lk. 1:13). Presumably the Father reads circumstances as prayers, even though the believer's faith in their actual verbalized request may be weak. Job almost sarcastically asked God to show him where he had sinned, and for what God was punishing him (Job 13:23); and God heard this, because He looked below the surface of Job's words and saw the real essence of his request.
The God Who Knows
Putting the situation before God is not only a method of prayer to be employed when we face specific crises. It is a general principle to be followed in our daily relationship with the Father. Thus rather than praying for forgiveness in bald, brief terms, spiritual men confessed their sins to God, they opened their spirit to Him, and this was seen by God as them asking for forgiveness (e.g. Ps. 119:26). Daniel confessed Israel's sins, and God responded by saying that His answer to the prayer was to restore Jerusalem (Dan. 9:18-25). Again, his request was deep within his heart rather than specific. David likewise meditated on the Messianic Kingdom, and this was effectively praying for it to come (Ps. 72:20). In all this there is a kind of spiritual culture, for want of a better way of putting it; not an animal blurting out of the painfully apparent to the God who knows our need before we ask it, not a child-like demand for the obvious, as if our crudely expressed demand is the first the Father will know of our problem.
Men like David, Hezekiah and Daniel appreciated that God knew already. In a sense, all that will happen has happened; so prayer is an opening up of ourselves to God, a service of God (Dan. 6:16; Lk. 2:37), for His glory and for our benefit, rather than a means of communicating information to Him. Therefore they opened themselves up to Him, expressing their understanding that He knew the situation, and didn't present a long list of concrete requests to Him. Their relationship with Him went far beyond that kind of surface level. What of ours?