by Lynne Baab,
On Pentecost, we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit to the people gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival. You can read about it in Acts 2. Almost two millennia after Pentecost, we benefit every day from the presence of the Holy Spirit with us.
One of my seminary professor called the Holy Spirit the “shy” member of the Trinity. This professor was referring to the fact that the Holy Spirit’s role is to bring glory to the Father and the Son. Thus the Holy Spirit is the least visible person of the Trinity.
I invite you to ponder with me the role of the Holy Spirit in various Christian spiritual practices, to shine some light on this “shy” person in the Trinity.
Bible reading and meditation. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and ears so we can see God more clearly through the words on the pages of the Bible. The Spirit also helps us apply the passage to our lives, helping us see the relevance of the words to our exact setting and context.
Intercessory prayer. The Holy Spirit guides us to pray for the things God values, giving us eyes to see God’s priorities and purposes. The Spirit helps us to see the places God is working so we can join our prayers with God’s current activity and priorities. In addition, the Spirit brings people to mind who need our prayers and helps us remember specific situations where God’s presence is needed.
Prayers of confession. The Holy Spirit brings to mind our sins and shortcomings, and reminds us of God’s forgiveness when we confess our sins.
Praise of praise and thankfulness. The Holy Spirit helps us see God’s gifts in our daily life and reminds us of the big picture of God’s creation and redemption of the world.
Prayers of lament. The Holy Spirit grieves over the brokenness of the world and invites us into that grief and sorrow.
Various forms of silent prayer. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in silence, bringing to mind truths about God and speaking that truth into our situations.
Worship. All that I’ve mentioned above illustrates how the Holy Spirit enables us to engage in worship, both alone and with others.
Fasting. The Holy Spirit gives us guidance of when to fast, what to fast from, strength and endurance during the fast, and guidance in what to pray for during the fast.
Sabbath keeping. The Holy Spirit calls us into rest, reassuring us that God is keeping the world going even when we are not participating. The Spirit gives peace and the ability to trust into God’s hands the things we could be doing but aren’t.
Communal spiritual practices. The Holy Spirit draws people together and provides love for one another. The Spirit guides and empowers groups of people as well as individuals.
Gordon Fee wrote a wonderful book about the Holy Spirit called God’s Empowering Presence. For Pentecost this year, I invite you to ponder that title. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence with us. What does God do in us? Empower us to hear God’s voice, receive God’s direction, persevere in following that direction, and rest in God’s goodness and grace. The Holy Spirit is God present with us in dozens of ways that empower us.
I’ve listed some of the ways God, through the Holy Spirit, is present with us and empowers us as we engage in spiritual practices. I’m sure you can think of more ways.
Jesus says to his disciples in the Upper Room, the night he was betrayed: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13, 14, NRSV).
A prayer related to the Holy Spirit from the Book of Common Prayer: “O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”