How do you explain verse 20 of Jude? What is prayer in the Holy Spirit?
Before searching for an explanation, I would like to read the entire verse where this expression comes from:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, (Jude 1:20)
Whenever we want to understand a text or phrase from the Bible you need to study the context in which it written. In order to understand the words written in the Epistle of Jude, it is important to consider the reason that led the author to write. Here’s what he says:
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude)
The recipients of this epistle were in danger, specifically, their faith because a certain group of ungodly men had begun to impose a strange doctrine which insisted that they change the grace of God into lasciviousness (license to sin). The author explains that the promoters of this heresy were adulterers, trapped in sensual bondage with minds so distorted that they even promoted homosexuality, as a Biblical doctrine, in the church. The same thing happens today in some of the prominent countries of this world. The Bible teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun, everything that happens now has happened before. After Jude finishes his description of the ungodly, their sins, and warning of their deception, he then gives instructions to the Christians on how to protect themselves. First, he tells them to build themselves up in their most holy faith that was given to the saints once for all time. He then tells them to pray in the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Holy Spirit means praying according to what the Holy Spirit tells you. In the Gospels, Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide the believers into all truth. The truth is revealed in the Scriptures so the Holy Spirit will help us understand God’s teaching in the Bible. The Holy Spirit will never, ever contradict the teachings of the Bible. Praying in the Holy Spirit means praying according to God’s teachings in the Bible.
Praying in the Spirit is contrasted with the lusts of the flesh that control the ungodly men who live in lasciviousness (license to sin). There is a very similar situation explained in the Gospel of John chapter 4 when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman. Jesus confronted her sin, which was immorality. She had lived with 5 different men and her current one was not her husband either. Immediately, she wanted to change the subject and talk about worship, which is the correct place, Jerusalem or the mountain near Sychar. Jesus approached the heart of true worship. True worshipers were to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. She got the point of His message which was the current problem among the people who claimed to worship God was that they were arguing over the form or style of worship while at the same time, living as slaves to the sins of the flesh. Jesus explained that our worship pleases God when we live by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, according to the Truth of the Bible. The same is true with praying in the Holy Spirit. In order to do this, you must live according to the Holy Spirit’s urgings as the Bible teaches.
There is a wave of teachings today, religious ones, which try to convince people that praying in the Spirit means some kind of mystical experience or language and they usually use this passage in Jude to justify themselves. These practices are not “praying in the Spirit”. Nowhere in the Bible does anyone mention these “mystical” practices that many revert to today. They are not acceptable actions because they do not align with Scripture. I want to challenge you with Jude’s words, “contend earnestly for the faith which was handed down once for all”.
Translation by: Erik Brewer