How to Pray in the Trenches: Pray in the Spirit

By Mark D. Roberts

February 3, 2020

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)


Ephesians 6 teaches us how to pray “in the trenches”—that is, in the battles we face each day as we seek to serve the Lord in a world that is hostile to his kingdom. Our “trenches” are the places where we struggle, where we need God’s power. These “trenches” include our workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, churches, and families.

a woman looking up into a shadowy lightAccording to Ephesians 6:18, we are to pray “in the Spirit.” The words are clear, but we wonder what they mean. How can we pray “in the Spirit”?

Some Christians use this phrase to describe prayer expressed in a language unknown to the speaker. In 1 Corinthians 14:13-19, Paul talks about praying in a language he doesn’t know, a language inspired by the Holy Spirit. While this kind of prayer would surely be included in Ephesians 6:18, praying “in the Spirit” means more than this.

In Romans 8:26-27, Paul teaches that the Spirit “helps us in our weakness.” When we don’t know how to pray, God’s own Spirit prays for us and through us, guiding us, giving us both words and (at times) “wordless groans.”

If we’re to pray in the Spirit, therefore, we don’t approach prayer merely as a one-way conversation, one in which we speak to God and God listens. God does indeed listen while we pray, heeding both our words and the silent cries of our hearts. But God also speaks to us through the Spirit, leading us to pray according to his will, helping us to pray when we are discouraged, reassuring us of his abiding presence. More than conversation, prayer is deep spiritual communion with God.

Thus, when we pray “in the Spirit”, not only do we tell God what we need in the “trenches” of our lives, not only do we receive God’s strength and guidance, but also we experience God’s presence in the midst of our challenges, struggles, losses, and pains.

Something to Think About:

When you hear about praying “in the Spirit,” what comes to mind?

When you pray, are you aware of the presence and guidance of the Spirit?

In which of the “trenches” of your life are you especially in need of God’s help today?

Something to Do:

As you think about the day in front of you, plan to pray in one of your “trenches.” Set aside a few minutes for speaking and listening to God, a time for openness to God’s Spirit.


Gracious God, prayer is such an amazing and wonderful gift. Thank you!

Thank you for listening to me when I pray. Thank you for hearing, not just the words I express, but also the deep yearnings and groanings of my heart.

Thank you for your Spirit who guides me when I pray, giving me faith to trust you and a desire for your kingdom.

Help me, dear Lord, to pray in the Spirit, with attentiveness and openness, with confidence and joy. Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Spiritual Gifts in Community (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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