When I’m Not Sure How to Pray
By Steve Hearts
He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.
—1 Corinthians 14:21
Before discovering the gift of tongues2 personally, I’d heard many people pray in tongues, and I often emulated them in order to look like I was “with it.” After a painful relational loss, the Lord began teaching me to praise Him in the midst of my pain. It was at this time that I read the book “Prison to Praise,” by Merlin R. Carothers, where he tells of having received the gift of tongues when he was first baptized in the Holy Spirit.
One night, after reading that book again, I felt an overwhelming urge to get down on my knees and pray. Though I’d done my fair share of praying, it had been a while since I’d been actually driven to my knees.
I began pouring out my heart to the Lord, telling Him things that I wouldn’t have told anyone else. The amazing thing was that it wasn’t me speaking. It was as though someone else were speaking through me. What was more, the words came out in a language not known to me—a brand-new language.
Although in the physical I was on my knees, my spirit began to soar higher than it had in quite some time. As I continued to express myself in this new, unique way, my heart felt lighter and lighter. I was rather puzzled, though, since I was unable to understand a word I said. Right then I heard the Lord say, “You may not understand what you’re saying, but I do.”
When the experience was over, I asked the Lord exactly what had gone on. He answered, “Now you’ve got the gift of tongues. It’s a ‘new language’ I’ve given you to pray in when you’re not sure how else to pray.” This was a pivotal point in my prayer life. I now had a brand-new language He’d given to me.
I came to understand with greater clarity the meaning of Romans 8:26: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” As a child I had memorized this verse, but I hadn’t comprehended it until now.
Many times throughout my adult life, I’ve been faced with situations for which I had no idea how to adequately intercede in prayer, so I simply endured them. Now, however, the Lord was showing me how the Spirit could intercede for me as well as through me. Although the language the Spirit spoke was unknown, I could trust that my petition was being made known in an adequate manner—one that was not my own.
I’ll never forget the time we were notified by a dear friend that her young son had tried to end his life. He now stood precariously on the brink of life and death. My family and I held prayer vigil for him, both together and individually. One particular night, I was so burdened in spirit for this young man that I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t sure how to adequately pray in my own language, so I prayed in my new one.
As I did so, peace flooded over me. I knew I had labored in the power of the Spirit, not my own. This must have been why I did not feel tired the next day, in spite of not having slept a wink the previous night. I felt a divine certainty that a miracle would be performed to restore this fellow’s health and transform him spiritually.
That evening, we were notified that the young man was radically improving and would recover. When I spoke with him on the phone a few days later, he was overflowing with thanks to God for His mercy, as well as for the prayers of all those who had interceded on his behalf. Today he is healthy and pursuing a career.
Are you up against a situation for which you are unsure how to adequately pray? I suggest you ask the Lord to give you a new language to pray in, and you will come to experience the wonders of His Spirit interceding for you.