But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. – Jude 1:20 ESV
Praying in the Spirit. What exactly is it? How do you do it? Jude was giving his readers some extremely important advice that was intended to prevent a potentially negative outcome in their lives. He had just told them, “you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:17 ESV). But what predictions did he have in mind? Jude leaves no doubt. “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:18 ESV). The prediction was that there would be those in the church who were worldly, controlled by ungodly passions and who did not have the Holy Spirit resident within them. In other words, they were not saved. But those to whom he was writing were in the “beloved” – they were members of the body of Christ and the family of God. As believers they were expected to live differently. They were to build themselves up in their faith. They were to grow spiritually. In fact, Paul told the believers in Ephesus that God had given to the church the roles of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12 ESV). Those within the church were to be equipped so that they could assist one another in their mutual pursuit of spiritual maturity.
The antidote to worldliness and ungodly desires is to pursue spiritual growth, to increase in our knowledge of God and our understanding of His Word. It is to become increasingly more dependent upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom and for strength. That is why Jude says that we are to pray in the Spirit. The very thing that sets us apart from the worldly is our possession of the Holy Spirit and His ability to empower our prayers, as well as interpret our prayers before God Himself. It is our growing reliance upon the Spirit whose presence within us allows us to understand spiritual truths and apply them to our hearts. It is the Holy Spirit who gives our prayers spiritual weight and allows them to resonate with God’s heart and align with God’s will.
While those around us may be devoid of the Spirit, we are to be filled with the Spirit. We are to be controlled by the Spirit. We are to be reliant upon the Spirit. It is this relationship with the Spirit that allows us to stay firmly planted within God’s love and provides us with the patience to wait for the return of God’s Son and eternal life. The Holy Spirit is a kind of down-payment, guaranteeing that what God has promised for the future will actually take place. He gave us the Spirit to help convince us that what He has said about eternity is true and well worth waiting for.
And while we wait, we are to grow and pray – all with the help of the Holy Spirit. As we wait, we are to show mercy to all those with whom we come in contact. Jude writes, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Ephesians 4:22-23 ESV). All that we do in this life and on this earth, we are to do in the power of the Spirit, and that includes our prayer life. We must never forget that without Him, we are nothing. Those devoid of the Spirit have no capacity to reject worldliness or their own ungodly passions. They end up causing divisions within the body of Christ and scoff at the things of God. But because we have the Spirit, we can grow, we can pray, we can love, we can show mercy, and we can live holy lives in the midst of an unholy generation.