“In spirit and truth.”
Or, The True Worshippers.

“The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such doth the Father seek to be His worshippers. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” — John 4:23-24.

THESE are the first words of Jesus’ instruction on prayer that are recorded. He spoke them to a Samaritan lady. They provide us with some amazing initial looks into the world of prayer. The Father is looking for people to worship him. Our worship brings delight to God and satisfies the loving part of His heart. He seeks true worshippers but finds many are not such as He would have them. Genuine worship is that which is in spirit and truth. The Son has arrived on earth to show us how to worship God in spirit and in truth and to clear the path for us to do so. As a result, one of the first things we should learn in the school of prayer is what it means to pray in spirit and truth as well as how to achieve that level of prayer.

Jesus discussed the concept of a threefold worship with the Samaritan woman. There is, to begin, the naive worship that is practiced by the Samaritans. “You worship that which you do not know,” Jesus said. The second aspect is the thoughtful worship practiced by Jews who have an accurate understanding of God. “We worship that which we are aware of, for it is the Jews who will bring deliverance.” And then there is the fresh worship that He has come to inaugurate, which is a spiritual one. “The time has come, and it has come already, when those who worship the Father in spirit and truth will adore the Father in worship.”

It is clear from the link that the phrase “in spirit and truth” does not indicate in a sincere manner, from the depths of one’s heart, or with complete sincerity, as is commonly believed. The Samaritans possessed the five books of Moses and had some understanding of God; it is most likely that there was more than one individual among them who prayed sincerely and diligently to seek God’s favor. There were godly men who called upon God with their whole hearts who were a part of the Jewish people, and they had the genuine full revelation of God in His word that had been given up to this point. And yet, not “in spirit and truth,” in the sense that the phrase is normally understood. Jesus is quoted as saying, “The hour is coming, and it is now.” Only in and through Him will the worship of God be in spirit and truth. 

You can still find the three different types of worshippers inside the Christian community. There are those people who, because to their lack of knowledge, pray fervently but do not see much of an answer to their requests. The second type are those that e ven though they have the right information, make an effort to pray with all of their mind and heart, and pray with the utmost sincerity on a regular basis, there are still those who do not achieve the full blessedness of worshipping in spirit and truth. It is incumbent upon us to pray to our Lord Jesus that He accept us into this third class. It is necessary for Him to instruct us on how to worship in spirit and in truth. Just doing this is an act of spiritual worship, and by doing so, we become the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. When it comes to praying, everything will be determined by how well we grasp and put the worship of spirit and truth into practice.

“God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” The first idea that is offered by the Master in this passage is that there must be harmony between God and those who worship him; in other words, worship of God should reflect the nature of God. This is in accordance with an overarching concept that can be found everywhere in the universe. We try to determine whether or not an object corresponds to the organ to which it either discloses itself or yields itself. An inner fitness for light is possessed by the sight, and an inner fitness for sound is possessed by the ear. The individual who would genuinely worship God would seek for God, come to know Him, possess Him, and take pleasure in Him; he would also be in harmony with God and have the ability to take Him in. Since God is Spirit, our worship must also take place in the spirit. The one who worships God becomes like God himself.

And what does this mean? Our Jesus was asked by the woman whether Samaria or Jerusalem was the more appropriate location for the worship of God. He responds by saying that from this point forward, worship should not be confined to a single location. “Woman, believe Me; the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father,” Jesus said to her. “I tell you the truth.” As God is Spirit and is not constrained by space or time, but rather is in His infinite perfection always and everywhere the same, worship of God would consequently no longer be restricted by place or form, but would instead be spiritual, just as God is spiritual.

A nugget of wisdom of the utmost significance. How might our Christianity suffers from this, that it is bound to specific times and locations. A guy who seeks to pray passionately in the church or the closet spends the majority of the week or the day in a spirit that is quite dissimilar to that in which he prayed. This is true whether the man prays in the church or in the closet. The act of worship that he performed was limited to a certain location or time and did not encompass his entire being. Spirit best describes God. He is the Eternal One who does not undergo any transformation, and He is always and completely that which He is. Our worship must still be conducted in the spirit and in the truth. His worship must be the driving force behind everything we do; our very lives must be an act of worship in the spirit, just as God is Spirit.

It is written that “God is a Spirit,” and that “those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.” The second idea that comes to us is that this worship in the Spirit must originate from God Himself. Spirit is what God is. Only He can impart the Spirit to others. He did this in order to prepare us for such a spiritual worship by bestowing the Holy Spirit upon us after sending His Son into the world. When Jesus repeats the phrase “The hour Cometh” and then adds, “And it is now,” He is speaking not just of the future but also of His own work. He came to baptize with the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit was unable to flow out until after He was glorified (John 1:33, vii. 37, 38, xvi. 7). He was only able to send the Holy Spirit to us as the Spirit of the Father after He had put an end to sin, entered the holiest of all with His blood, and received the Holy Spirit there on our behalf (Acts chapter two verse 33). This allowed Him to send the Holy Spirit to us as the Spirit of the Father. It wasn’t until after Christ had redeemed us and we had become children through Him that the Father sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cause us to cry out, “Abba, Father.” Christ had redeemed us, and we had become children through Him. The worship that is performed in the spirit is the worship that is performed for the Father through the Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of Sonship.

This is the reason why Jesus refers to God as the Father in this particular instance. There is not a single instance in which a saint from the Old Testament adopts the name of a kid as his or her own or refers to God as their father. Those who have been given the Spirit of the Son are the only ones who are able to worship the Father in the proper manner. Those individuals are the only ones qualified to worship in spirit; they are the ones to whom the Son has revealed the Father, and who have also acquired the spirit of sonship. Christ alone is the one who can open the path and teach us how to worship in the spirit.

And in truth. It does not merely mean sincerity. In addition, it does not only signify, in line with the reality that is found in the Word of God. The statement carries with it a profound and perhaps divine significance. Jesus is described in the Bible as “the only child of the Father, full of mercy and truth.” “Moses gave the law, but it was Jesus Christ who brought grace and truth.” According to Jesus, “I am the truth, and I am the life.” In the Old Testament, everything was just a promise or a shadow of what was to come, but Jesus brought and offered the reality, the substance, of things that were longed for. Because of Christ, we are able to possess and experience the gifts and powers of eternal life in their fullness. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and it is through Him that we have access to the grace that is found in Jesus, which is a positive message coming from the Divine life. Jesus is full of grace, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. And so, worship in the spirit is worship in the truth; actual live fellowship with God, a real correspondence and harmony between the Father, who is a Spirit, and the child praying in the spirit. This is the essence of what it is to worship in the spirit.

She was unable to immediately comprehend what Jesus was explaining to the woman from Samaria. Pentecost was necessary in order to disclose its complete significance. When we first enter the school of prayer, we need to get ourselves ready to understand the material that will be presented to us. We shall grasp it better later on. Let us just begin, and pay attention to the instruction that He provides. Because we are carnal, we are unable to offer God the adoration that He craves. Jesus, on the other hand, came to offer the Spirit. He has made Jesus available to us. Let the disposition we set ourselves to pray to be what Christ’s words have taught us. Let there be the profound confession that we are unable to bring God the worship that is pleasing to Him, the childlike teachability that waits on Him to train us, and the simple trust that lends itself to the indwelling of the Spirit. Let there also be the acknowledgment that this is the case. Above all else, let us not waver from the blessed truth — we will find that the Lord has more to say to us about it — that the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God, the revelation of His infinite Fatherliness in our hearts, and the faith in the endless love that gives us His Son and His Spirit to make us children is indeed the secret to prayer that is both sincere and spirit-filled. This is the fresh and active path that Christ made available to all of us. Because Christ the Son and the Spirit of the Son both dwell within us and reveal the Father, we are able to worship in a way that is authentic and spiritual if we pray, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Praise be to the Lord! I am in awe of the compassion with which you explained the correct way to worship God to a woman who had just refused to give you a cup of water to drink. I am filled with joy because I know that You, my Holy Lord, will continue to train Thy disciple, who comes to You with a heart that yearns to pray in spirit and truth. Please enlighten me to this divinely protected knowledge.

Teach me that worshiping in spirit and truth does not come from man but only from you; it is not simply a matter of the times and seasons but the overflow of a life lived in you alone. Show me that worshiping in spirit and truth is not of man but only comes from you. Show me how to approach God in prayer despite the profound realization that I know very little about him. The fact that I have nothing inside me to offer Him, while at the same time acknowledging the provision that you, my Savior, create for the Spirit to breathe in my childish stutterings. I thank Thee that in Thee I am a child and have the freedom of access that children have; I thank Thee that in Thee I have the spirit of sonship and worship in the truth. Teach me, Blessed Son of the Father, how it is the revelation of the Father that gives confidence in prayer, and let the infinite fatherliness of God’s heart be my joy and strength for a life of prayer and worship. Teach me how it is the revelation of the Father that gives confidence in prayer. Teach me how it is the revelation of the Father that gives confidence in prayer. Amen.

Original by Andrew Murray

Revised and Updated by Nathan Zipfel
March 2023


  • Nathan Zipfel

    Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

By Nathan Zipfel

Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene Pastor of the New Life Church of the Nazarene in Boswell, PA. Batchelor of Arts Pastoral Leadership, Nazarene Bible College Master of Arts, Ministry, Ohio Christian University Master of Social Work, Indiana Wesleyan University Behavioral Health Therapist, Certified Trauma Professional

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