The Heart Stuff
A lot of people have in their mind the stuff of faith. But how can you move from that 'head stuff' to a living faith? Prayer, before anything else. In prayer we go from thinking about or talking about God or even talking to God, to talking with God and listening when God calls. It's a trust commitment in one whom we cannot see and cannot hear, who we cannot by normal earthly means even know is there. We pray trusting, or maybe just hoping, that God will act on what we pray about. We respond to the Lord's proven love by depending on God to respond within our daily lives. The life of faith is a life of trusting that God is at work on your concerns, or is at least working on you.
When you rediscover that the world around you is both natural and supernatural, then it makes sense that communicating with God is of great value. You begin to want to pray, and look forward to going deep into private or group prayer time.
Praying in the Spirit
Traditionally, when Christians have prayed involving the Holy Spirit, we've prayed an epiclesis. That's fancy God-talk for saying that the prayers are a plea to the Father to fill us with the Spirit. In liturgical churches, the key epiclesis is found in the thanksgiving prayer before Holy Communion is given out. In some charismatic churches, an important epiclesis happens right before the sermon. The worshipers will come forward to make a huddle around the preacher, praying that the Spirit moves through the preacher and sermon. Every once in a while, a song will give praise to the Spirit, but most churches only do that once we've already said praises to the Father and to the Son. Almost no other churchly prayers or songs directly address the Spirit. This gives many people the impression that the Spirit is somehow third-rate. Today's liturgists and worship leaders still have a distance to go to change that picture.
Christians don't pray to the Spirit to confess their sins nor do they plea to the Spirit for forgiveness. As Jesus taught in the Lord's Prayer, such prayers go to the Father, so that the Son may step in for us now as He did when on earth. The different persons of the Trinity are most centrally involved in different parts of it. The Spirit moves you to turn to God in prayer and repentance, brings to your mind that there is hope in doing so, and makes you aware of the truth and the need. The Spirit prays with you, and when you reach the point where your praying becomes too much for you, the Spirit picks it up and keeps it running, "with sighs too deep for words". But don't think rigidly about these roles. All of the triune God is at work in your prayers. If you pray to the Spirit, God responds just as well as if you prayed to the Father. The pattern is there not for God, but for us and our own feeble grasp of the mysteries of how God hears us. All talk of the role of the Holy Spirit in prayer is the same way: it's part of a much more complex, 'bigger' reality the Spirit leads us into.
There is a difference between praying to the Spirit and praying in the Spirit. Both have their place. Praying in the Spirit is, in traditionalist terms, what happens after you pray to the Father who then sends the Spirit into you. If that sounds like a splitting of hairs to you, well, it has sounded like that to many praying believers over the centuries, and especially so today to Charismatics. They believe that the Spirit is already present in such a way that praying in the Spirit is more a matter of inviting or opening up to let the already-present Spirit get a good grip on you while you pray, so that the Spirit can pray with you.
Prayer and Charismatics
The early years of the charismatic renewal were especially prayer-packed. An outsider could easily have seen the charismatic movement as a prayer movement. The prayer meeting was the charismatic renewal's beehive, the main activity for their gathering, their nurture, and for their spreading around. Several people would gather, often at someone's home, on their own accord, just to pray. Eventually, the groups got larger as more people came, and the scene shifted to churches. In the movement's heyday, there was a group praying somewhere in many major cities, at any time, every day. Even on the overnight shift! (Shades of the vigils of Zinzendorf's followers at the Herrnhut!) After many years of quieting down, once again young Christians from all over the world are holding every moment in prayer in the Lord's presence. There aren't as many of them as some published reports would lead us to believe, but then it has always been the work of the few. They've just returned to work.
The charismatic movement is prayerful before it is anything else. However, they're finding it harder to keep it up nowadays, because there's so much more to do: prayer conferences and prayer books and videos and web sites and teaching-programs and classes and church activities and stadium meetings and worship music CDs and visiting preachers and politics and warfare strategizing, bracelets and jewelry. Oh I almost forgot -- all sorts of stuff about prayer, and about someone else's powerful prayer ministry.
The Devil will do anything to get our mind off of our really praying or really serving.