But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:20)
As you might imagine, considering my ongoing health issues adversely affecting the writing and financial support here at Apprising Ministries, we’re spending a lot of time in prayer. No doubt you’re heard the phrase, “there’s power in prayer,” which is so popular right now in our postmodern culture ripe with silly superstition and self-centered “spirituality.”
That’s why it’s important to remind people such as this, who don’t know God through Jesus Christ, that there’s no power whatsoever in the mere act of prayer. No, the power in prayer resides strictly with God Who answers prayer; and not in prayer itself. Just as in the same way, we need to instruct them that faith doesn’t save anyone.
Saving faith is given by God by His grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone on the Cross; and this is what leads to a saving relationship with God and repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name. Only faith in Christ saves; you can jump out of a plane without an actual parachute believing that you’ll land safely, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
With all of this thus understood, as Christians, it’s entirely appropriate that we can now look at the power of prayer. You need to know that in your witness for Christ, you are only going to be as effective for Jesus as you are active in your prayer life with Him. No matter how learned we may become, or how good our ability to testify and/or debate, no one ever accepts the Lord Jesus as their Savior apart from God the Holy Spirit empowering our witness.
And here we discover what was lost in this whole seeker sensitive and emerging evangelical ecumenical religion of social work. One simply cannot convince someone into the Kingdom of God through guilt trips that they’re not active enough in social causes. Nor can someone bring them into God’s Kingdom through excellent argumentation; because they are not in the Kingdom of Heaven apart from being regenerated, or born again, through faith in Christ.
Now, you can give your testimony; you can answer questions; you can share reasons why a person ought to surrender their lives to Jesus; but, if they ultimately accept Christ, that decision must originate with God Himself. As usual Dr. Walter Martin, a well-respected defender of Christianity, put it quite well in his little book Essential Christianity, one which I do highly recommend:
the human heart is like a locked door, but the lock is on the inside of the person. It must be unlocked by God the Holy Spirit.
If we really do love those in our family who are still locked out of the Kingdom of God by their sin, then aided by the Spirit, we’ll make the effort to seek the Lord’s favor and to develop a close relationship with Him through prayer. If we are earnest, and diligent, then remember the promise in Hebrews 11:6, God said He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.
While those rewards may be material at times, the Lord is always ready to reward us with spiritual blessings; a stronger awareness of His glorious presence, and a fresh filling of the power of God through the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 4: 23-31). If you’ll just ask the Lord, He is always ready to empower you in the Holy Spirit, and it is God Who is the Source of your power, not you.
If you wish to see loved ones saved, and other people you witness to come to Christ, then you need to develop a good working relationship with God the Holy Spirit. The original Greek of Ephesians 5:18 conveys to us that we should – be continually being filled with the Holy Spirit. This brings us around to our text verse – But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, (Jude 1:20).
It’s important that we understand what Jude is trying to tell us here. The following from the classic Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary is helpful and edifying in regard to what is means to pray in the Holy Spirit:
praying in the Holy Ghost–( Romans 8:26 ; Ephesians 6:18 teaches what we are to pray for, andhow. None can pray aright save by being in the Spirit, that is, in the element of His influence. CHRYSOSTOM states that, among the charisms bestowed at the beginning of the New Testament dispensation, was the gift of prayer, bestowed on someone who prayed in the name of the rest, and taught others to pray.
Moreover, their prayers so conceived and often used, were received and preserved among Christians, and out of them forms of prayer were framed. (source)
Now you should be able to understand that there’s no power in the act of praying itself; the only effectual prayer answered by God is that which is prayer by those who are born again in Christ and thereby indwelt by His Spirit. As one who has spent nearly 25 years in apologetics and the study of Comparative Religion, I can tell you that all religions pray. For that matter, there’s the old saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
In closing this, for now, while I do not agree with all of his theology, I think it’s safe to say the 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody loved the Lord. So, as it concerns this little encouragement on the power of prayer, which also leads to having a close relationship to God by spending time with Him, let me share the following wisdom from Moody:
Those who have left the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer. You will find that prayer has been the mighty power that has moved not only God, but man…
[Truthfully] there are many Christians in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, but upon whom He has never come in power; we need this secret power.
To those words, let me add — Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (cf. Revelation 22:20)