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The prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an invitation for the Spirit of God to move in any way He chooses – in us, in our church, and in the world around us.
It is also a powerful, sometimes dangerous prayer that has been prayed from ancient times to today.
WHEN THE DAY OF PENTECOST CAME, THEY WERE ALL TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE. SUDDENLY A SOUND LIKE THE BLOWING OF A VIOLENT WIND CAME FROM HEAVEN AND FILLED THE WHOLE HOUSE WHERE THEY WERE SITTING. THEY SAW WHAT SEEMED TO BE TONGUES OF FIRE THAT SEPARATED AND CAME TO REST ON EACH OF THEM. ALL OF THEM WERE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
INTRODUCTION: THE STORY BEHIND THE PRAYER
Sometimes, the simplest prayers are the best prayers. One prayer that has been prayed in many forms by the Church over the past 2000 years can inspire us in our pursuit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our churches and lives.
It is the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit.”
The prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” is an invitation for the Spirit of God to move in any way He chooses – in us, in our church, and in the world around us. It is also a powerful, sometimes dangerous prayer that has been prayed from ancient times to today.
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you’” (John 16:7-15).
In this amazing passage about the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John, spoken by Jesus Himself, the Spirit is described as our Advocate – the God who backs us, supports us, and carries us.
Learning to pray the simple prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” opens us up to a life where Jesus is in the lead, carrying us forward in faith. This simple invitation is a true spiritual game-changer.
Most Christians would say we want to live a life led and guided by the Holy Spirit. But sometimes the Spirit’s leadership means doing things in a way that can make us reluctant to be led – we have to slow down, speed up, choose what seems unnatural to us, or do things that involve risk and faith.
Keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25) means we are “locked in” to the Spirit’s life and ways. We don’t resist, but rather welcome the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our steps. And when we are locked in to the Spirit’s direction and pace in our lives, we are on the path to living a fruitful life, full of the character traits of Christ emerging in us as the Spirit changes us inwardly, more completely, into Jesus’ likeness.
With the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, we can do the works of Jesus. We can join him in the advancing of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. “Come, Holy Spirit.”
THE THIRD PERSON OF THE TRINITY
Who Is The Holy Spirit?
Who is the Holy Spirit? The truth is that the Holy Spirit may be the least understood Person of what church history calls the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit is mentioned at least 88 times in the Old Testament, across 23 books, and is often referred to as the “Spirit of God.” We first meet the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2, hovering over the waters of chaos (the great void) at the beginning of time. Here, the Spirit is the “ruach Elohim” – the breath of God.
In Isaiah we see the Spirit spoken of as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Counsel, the Spirit of Power, and the Spirit of Knowledge (Isa. 11:2). Wherever the Spirit appears in the Old Testament, words like creativity, insight, power, wisdom, and joy mark His presence and activity.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned at least 264 times in the New Testament, and more than 60 of those references are in the Gospels!
The Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus as He is baptized, affirming Jesus’ identity, place in the Father’s heart, and pleasure to God (Luke 3:21-22; Matt. 3:16). Then the Spirit fills Jesus as He is led into the desert to face – and resist – the powerful temptations of the evil one (Luke 4:1; Matt. 4:1). When Jesus returns from the wilderness, He returns “in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:14-15) and begins to preach the message of the Kingdom of God.
Recognizing The Person Of The Spirit
According to church history, the Holy Spirit is God, and as such, shapes our lives as God indwells us, by his Spirit through the work of Christ (Col. 1:27).
The Holy Spirit is called by many names, including the Comforter (Jn. 14:26), the Advocate (Jn. 14:16), and the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2). The Spirit is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing God’s goodness to come (2 Cor. 5:5), to assure us of Christ’s presence within (1 Jn. 4:13), to speak through us to one another (1 Cor. 12:18), to guide us in our understanding of God’s gifts to us (1 Cor. 2:12), to empower us to impact non-believers (Mk. 1:11), and to give us rest (Is. 63:14).
Jesus And The Spirit
It is by the power of the Spirit of God that Jesus ministered:
“…And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17).
The Spirit also empowered Paul and the other disciples to do the works of Jesus, and touched those to whom they ministered:
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:15-17).
The Holy Spirit, likewise, distributes gifts among us, his Church today. These gifts of healing, prophecy, prayer languages, miracles and many other gifts enable us to experience God’s presence personally and corporately.
These gifts enable us to minister to the world around us imbued with the power of God.
- What comes to mind when you think of the Holy Spirit?
- What do you think about relating to the Spirit as a person?
- Recall a personal experience of a time when you encountered the Holy Spirit.
ALLOWING GOD TO ACT IN OUR MIDST
Learning To Live By The Spirit
Because the Holy Spirit is active in speaking to his people, to his Church, and to the world he loves all around us, our job as Christians is to give the Holy Spirit permission to move in our lives and gatherings. This is the first step in learning to live “life in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-25).
The apostle Paul, in writing these words in the book of Galatians, is reminding the Church that the coming of the Spirit is the coming of God’s presence to his people. To live “in the Spirit” is to live aware of God’s presence – at all times, in all places.
The Bible reveals to us that when we are aware of, and responsive to, God’s presence in our lives, he will begin to change us from the inside out. As the Spirit shows us the love of the Father (Rom. 5:5), we learn to serve the Spirit of God rather than our own cravings and desires. Powerful drives within us toward money, sex, and power are put in their proper perspective by the Spirit of God as we learn how to walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
When we keep an open heart to the Spirit changing us, things happen in our life. The “fruits of the Spirit” above are ways the Spirit empowers us to live, contrary to our natural patterns, preferences, and prejudices.
And why do we need to learn how to live in a way that goes against what we grew up with, have learned from experience, or even prefer?
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” In other words, what got us here (bitterness, impatience, anger, white lies, harshness, and lack of self-control) won’t get us there (Christ- likeness, wholeness, joy, and peace). The Spirit gets us there – to Jesus.
Creating Space For The Spirit
Corporate worship experiences seek to create an intimate place of encounter with God where his Spirit can touch us and speak to us. We need not be in a “rush” to simply perform before God; we can value the moments where the Spirit speaks to us and changes us in profound ways.
Catalyzed by times of Spirit-led, non- hyped prayer ministry to one another, churches have been planted, bodies have been healed, broken minds have been set free, innovative business ideas have been inspired, and thousands around the world have been empowered to live like Jesus.
God works from the inside out, shaping new moral character in us over time, gripping our hearts and changing our desires to his own. For this reason, we both can and should create ample space in many of our church gatherings for the Spirit of God to speak to individuals – and to change us in ways we cannot change ourselves!
Why We Pray “Come, Holy Spirit”
When we pray “Come, Holy Spirit” in a time of corporate ministry or personal prayer, it is not because we don’t believe the Holy Spirit is already present and active among us. This prayer is a petitioning of God, a crying out for him to have his way in our gathering. We also work to neither hype up a time of ministry, nor be afraid of how people respond in their humanity to the Spirit’s activity in their lives.
Without the Holy Spirit active in our churches, and without our willingness to allow the Spirit to work in various ways in the contexts of our local churches, we have nothing to offer to the world.
As one leader has said, “…The Church of God needs the power of God to fulfill the mandate of God in the world.”
- What would your life look like if you truly lived by the Spirit?
- What are some areas in your life where you do or don’t create space for the Spirit?
- Are there times outside of worship or prayer where you could say “Come, Holy Spirit”?
LEARNING TO RESPOND TO THE SPIRIT
Putting The Spirit At The Center
As Christians, we can cultivate an awareness that we call “looking for what the Father
is doing.” When we see Jesus at work in someone’s life, whether it be a neighbor whose heart is becoming soft to God during a painful divorce, or a child beginning to lead his or her peers in faith, we want to be quick to partner with the Spirit in that work in the person’s life.
One story of healing illustrates this well. The late John Wimber recounted how he was praying for a woman after a service who had arthritis and some problems with her digestive tract. As John began to pray, he had a sense from the Lord that the woman was angry with someone. When he asked her about it, she definitively said she was not angry with someone.
John, listening to the Holy Spirit and the impressions forming in him, asked her if she was angry with her sister. The woman was shocked. “How did you know about that?” she asked. She went on to share the bitterness she was holding toward her sister. John prayed with her, encouraging her to forgive her sister. The woman went away and later wrote a letter to her sister. When the letter hit the mailbox, “her pain began to subside. Within three days, all the symptoms of her illnesses had disappeared.” (Wimber, Kingdom Mercy, p. 33-34)
Becoming Sensitive To The Spirit
As we grow in listening and looking for what the Father is doing, we can become increasingly more sensitive to the Spirit’s activity. If we believe that the Father is always at work, we as Christians can learn to perceive what God is doing and to join him in his work.
This takes practice. During encounters like the one described above, God uses our local church communities to reach people through these kinds of signs and wonders. One woman in a church committed to learning together how to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit had a picture show up in her mind of a part of someone’s body that needed healing. When she risked in faith, and shared that impression publicly in a time of prayer ministry, another woman in the room had that exact ailment and received prayer. And as the woman was being prayed for, she was healed! When people allow God to use them in others’ lives, Hope enters the room.
Learning to respond to the Spirit doesn’t just happen in church settings. As we cultivate a life of personal prayer, purity, and worship, our hearts are sensitized to the whispers of the Holy Spirit everywhere we go.
When we go out in public, in our neighborhoods, schools, grocery stores, and workplaces, God often has gifts he wants to give to those who don’t yet know him. This is one of the great privileges of learning to hear the Spirit’s voice. We can join him in touching someone’s life in a dramatic way.
The Holy Spirit can speak a very specific word of insight to a person, who then shares what the Lord has spoken to them with a non-Christian. Often, the insight is exactly applicable to that person’s situation, and they are so touched that God would care about them that much, they come to faith in Jesus. Sometimes people come to faith in Jesus when a believer, with a sense that they are to pray for an unbeliever’s illness, asks God to heal them. In many cases, they are completely healed! After someone is healed, they are very open to God’s leadership in their lives, and they often come to faith in Christ! We call these “power encounters,” and often God uses local church communities to reach people through these kinds of “signs and wonders.”
We Can All Welcome The Spirit
These average people in the stories above aren’t spiritual super heroes. They are just everyday Christians taking Jesus at his word. They are mothers, children, mechanics, business people, medical professionals and more – who are learning to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said he would send power from on high to equip his Church, and he was faithful to follow through. Now we, as the Body of Christ, can become people led by his Spirit in all of life. In our worship, in our prayers, we can be aware of God’s presence in us and with us.
- How can we be quick to partner with the Spirit’s work in the lives of those around us?
- What are some ideas and practices to become more sensitive to the Spirit’s presence and direction?
- What are some ways we feel inadequate to participate in Holy Spirit ministry?
BECOMING PEOPLE OF THE SPIRIT
As was said at the beginning, Christians are a “people of the presence of God.” We see our lives as Christians built on the Holy Spirit guiding us in life and ministry. The presence and activity of the Spirit is always pointing us toward the day when disease will be gone, lives will be restored, and God’s purposes for the world will be fulfilled. When we build our lives on the Spirit’s work in and through us, we are building our lives on God’s future kingdom.
Because of this reality, intractable issues in individual lives, such as disease or mental oppression, we see as opportunities to partner with the Holy Spirit in kingdom ministry. In social issues such as poverty, injustice, and sex trafficking, we address these with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit empowers us to work with him in humanizing and dignifying our fellow human beings.
As Christians, we value the Word of God, the Bible, as our guide in character, life, and practice. We also value the Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity, in our ministry and kingdom activity. As an old adage says, “The Word without the Spirit – we dry up. The Spirit without the Word – we blow up. The Word and the Spirit together – we grow up.”
When we then pray, “Come, Holy Spirit,” we become sensitive to the Spirit’s presence – ready to be used by God in beautiful, and often miraculous, ways.
Did you ever wish that you could hear the Lord’s voice better? Know His will more clearly? Learning to hear the voice of God, and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading, does not begin in our moment of need. Rather, it begins in the mundane daily activity of welcoming the Spirit into all the little corners of our life. We learn to listen one moment at a time. We practice stopping to hear the still small voice of the Spirit prompting our thinking, opening our eyes to new details, and turning our minds to thoughts that come from the mind of God.
Try getting up, every morning this week, and saying, “Good morning, Holy Spirit. I love You. My life is yours. Come, lead my life again today. I want to hear Your voice, see what You’re doing around me, and think your thoughts after You. I am ready to become who You intend me to become, and I am ready to be used today for Your glory. Lead me now, Holy Spirit.”
Then, practice saying “Yes” when the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for others. You’ll be glad you did!
- What would it look like for you to become a “person of the Spirit”?
- How do I invite the Holy Spirit’s perspective into my understanding of the world and its issues?
- Reflect on how the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit” could be new for you everyday.
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