The Spirit helps us to pray

May 2008    

ON PENTECOST SUNDAY, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Christians are those who are led by the Spirit of God. On Pentecost, the apostles were given the gift of speaking and hearing.

This is a day of Christian communication. Humorist Bob Orben tells how his son came home from college for the holidays: “I asked him, ‘How are things going?’ He said, ‘Good.’ I said, ‘How’s the food?’ He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘And the dormitory?’ He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘They’ve always had a strong football team. How do you think they’ll do this year?’ He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘How are your studies going?’ He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘Have you decided on your major yet?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘Communications.’ ”

In the season of Pentecost, we focus on the communicative power of the Spirit. When we cry “Abba! Father!”, it is like calling “Daddy!” Every Sunday we pray “Our Father in Heaven” (Mt 6:9b) in the Lord’s Prayer.

How do we communicate with God? The Spirit helps us to communicate. Prayer is a two-way communication with God.

When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The father of John Wesley said to John at his dying moment, “The inward witness (of the Spirit) is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity.” Do you have the assurance that you are a child of God? Do you have the inner witness of the Spirit? Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who risked her life to save the Jews from the Nazis. Eventually, she was captured, tortured and released by “mistake” by the Nazis. However, her father and sister, Betsie, died in the Nazi prison.

She related an experience she had with her father during the Nazi Occupation. Some Jews were hurled into a truck. Corrie cried, “Father! Those poor people!” “Those poor people,” Father echoed. But to her surprise she saw that he was looking at the soldiers now forming into ranks to march away. “I pity the poor Germans, Corrie. They have touched the apple of God’s eye.” As children of God, we are the apple of God’s eye. If you are persecuted because you are living as a Christian, rejoice for great is your reward in heaven.

“What is prayer?” Some might respond, “Prayer is when we ask God for things.” Yet, if you look at our prayers on a Sunday morning, prayer encompasses a wide range of acts: praise, adoration, confession. St Augustine said, “When you sing, you pray twice.” Asking God for things is only one part of prayer.

Jesus ended his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane with, “Nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done.” Prayer “in Jesus’ name” means that prayer is not simply a means of getting what we want, but a means of getting what God wants.

In prayer, we align our lives with the will of God. We hope to merge our conflicting wills with God’s will.

When we sometimes do not know what to say to God, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf. American Bishop WilliamWillimon, who was in Singapore recently, wrote, “A student of mine, barely three months out of seminary, called me one evening to say, ‘I just had the worst, best day I’ll probably ever have as a pastor.’ He was an associate pastor at a large church. The pastor had gone out of the country on a mission trip, leaving the young, new pastor in charge. On the second day, a couple in the church who had just adopted a little boy from El Salvador were involved in a horrible tragedy. The father, a dentist in town, was backing the car out of the driveway and ran over the toddler. He was dead by the time they got him to the hospital.

The pastor said: ‘I entered that home to the wailing, horrible sounds of those young parents. I knew how badly they had wanted a child, how long they had waited. It was just terrible, those howling, grief-filled screams.

‘I entered the living room and she reached out to me and I just lost it. I cried, wept with them. Eventually, I said, Would you like to have a prayer? They said yes. I began to pray, my voice cracked, I broke down again and the mother put her arm
around me and tried to comfort me! It was terrible. Horrible. I left that home feeling like the biggest failure as a pastor.

‘Two days later we had the funeral. After the funeral, the mother said to me, ‘Your ministry was such a comfort to us.’

‘A comfort? I thought. I was terrible.

‘The mother said: ‘When I saw that you were just as heartbroken as I was, it really helped me. I felt that I could go on as long as my pastor really felt how terrible all this was.’ ”

Isn’t that amazing? In groans, in “sighs too deep for words”, the Spirit really does help us to pray.

Pentecost: ‘Birthday’ of the Christian Church

NOT long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, His followers gathered for the celebration of Pentecost – the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks, one of three great historical annual festivals of the Jews.

God chose this time, when the apostles were gathered together, to bestow the Holy Spirit upon them. Jews from every nation heard about God’s deeds of power in their own language.

It is traditionally held that the Christian Church was formed at this moment.

The birth of the church universal is an excellent opportunity to lift up and pray for Christian unity. – Interpreter (The United Methodist Church).


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