Prayer And The Spirit

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Luke 11:11-13

Always remember it. The great work of the Spirit is to unite us to Jesus so that all that is in Jesus for us and our salvation can be made reality in our experience.

A LIFE-SHAPING, WORLD-CHANGING PROMISE

Today I have a life-shaping, world-changing promise to share with you. Are you ready for that? It’s Luke 11:13, the words of Jesus with which he concluded this marvelous section of teaching on prayer. It goes like this:

If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?
You know, I would like you to memorize that, this very day, so that before the end of the day you’ll have it in mind. Now say it after me, phrase by phrase:

If you then who are evil
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the heavenly Father
give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?

Now, friends, that is a life-shaping, world-changing promise. I can tell you it has surely shaped my life and changed my world. For decades now I’ve called this promise to mind and prayed over it every day!

Now there’s an incidental teaching in this verse that’s quite interesting about our common human sinfulness. Jesus says, “If you then who are evil. . .” In other words, this includes everybody out there, all different in many ways, but all sharing a common human frailty and failure. It’s almost an aside but he’s saying, “even the best of you are in this situation.” Then he goes on, “If you who are evil can be good to your children” as many of you parents are, wonderfully so, “how much more the heavenly Father?” He speaks of God’s fatherly generosity, as far greater than that of the best human parent. He argues from the lesser to the greater. If we who are bent out-of-shape people are good to our children and do good things for them, how much more God? It seems to me that here is a place where we often fail to understand. We often treat God as though he were not even as kind as a good earthly parent. Actually every kind of goodness, generosity, care and grace in earthly parents is just a little glimpse of the Father’s heart. And these words promise the best of all gifts, the Holy Spirit. We’ll come back to that thought.

But now think for a moment of a parallel passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew 7:11, where Jesus says at the end of a teaching on prayer, “If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good things (or good gifts) to those who ask him?” Note, it’s interesting to think about that. What are the “good things”?

I was reading about Solomon at Gibeon when the Lord woke him up at night and said, “Solomon, ask what I’ll give you.” Here’s a blank check. Here’s a blue-sky promise. Whatever it is, Solomon, just ask and it will be yours. And do you remember what Solomon asked? He said, “I’m young. I’m inexperienced. I have to rule this so-great people. Give me wisdom to know how to rule them.” God really liked that response of Solomon. He said to him, “You haven’t asked for riches. You haven’t asked for long life. You haven’t asked for the life of your enemies. I’m going to give you all of that, too, because you asked for this good thing.”

What would you ask for if God woke you up in the midst of the night? I’m not thinking now of what you would ask for somebody else that you love or for God’s kingdom in the world, but just what would he do for you? What good thing would God do for you that you would most delight in? Maybe you’d pray for wisdom in the things that you have to face, or joy that would keep springing up even in the midst of pain. Maybe it would be patience to deal with problems confronting you. Or maybe as you reflect on it even more, what you would ask for most would be the power to love, to love God and to love people. If God would give you that, that would be wonderful.

WHY THE GIFT OF THE SPIRIT IS SO SIGNIFICANT

Well, friends, all of these and many others that you might think of are gathered up in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the bestower of gifts. He is the change agent, God in us. Think about why the gift of the Holy Spirit is so significant. In John’s witness we read about the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide who brings to our remembrance the things Jesus has said and guides us into all the truth. This is the Holy Spirit’s work. In Paul’s witness, the Holy Spirit carries on a wonderful, life-transforming work in us, a sanctifying work which makes us more and more like Christ, liberates us from the power of sin, brings forth in us the character of Jesus. In Galatians that is called “the fruit of the Spirit,” Christ-like character. Then in Luke’s witness, in the first chapter of Acts, Jesus is saying, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses, witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Power to share the good news, to proclaim, to turn the world upside down!

Now how does the Holy Spirit do all these things? Teaching us the truth? Delivering us from the power of sin? Enabling us to be mighty witnesses to Jesus? Here’s the heart of it: the Holy Spirit unites us to the risen Jesus Christ. All these good things flow out of our union with Christ as the Holy Spirit makes that real. I mean, think of Jesus as the dynamo of electric power, far above us, and here are our powerless lives down below. Well, it’s the Holy Spirit who makes the connection, who’s the bond of union between us and Christ.

Or think of Jesus as the reservoir of living water, and we’re down here with our parched barren lives, thirsty. The Holy Spirit is like the aqueduct who brings the living water that is in Jesus Christ into our hearts. Always remember it. The great work of the Spirit is to unite us to Jesus so that all that is in Jesus for us and our salvation can be made a reality in our experience.

HOW WE CAN BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

All right, how can we be filled with the Holy Spirit? You remember Jesus’ experience when he was being baptized? Luke tells us in Luke 3:21 that in the moment of his baptism as the Spirit was descending upon him, Jesus was praying. Then later he is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness. After the temptation he comes back in the power of the Spirit. Then you see him as we noted in the first message, always praying. I ask you, are you experiencing the filling of the Spirit in answer to prayer? Remember what happened with the disciples in that period before Pentecost when they were all with one accord praying continually. They were asking God to fulfill his promise and send the Spirit (Acts 1:14; 4:31).

For this to be real in your life, you need to turn from every kind of sin. You can’t be filled with the Holy Spirit if you’re holding on to something in your life that you know grieves the Spirit, that you know is displeasing to God. (See Ephesians 4:30-31.) So it’s a matter of confessing what’s wrong and turning in your heart away from it if you want to be filled with the Spirit.

There’s a commitment also to obey. We read in the book of Acts (5:32) that the Holy Spirit is given by God to those who hearken to him, to those who obey him. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfectly obedient, but you do need a heart committed to the Lord, wanting to do his will. But then there’s this great thing that we read about in this wonderful promise. It’s persistent, believing prayer. In this text, when Jesus says, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” That word “ask,” remember, is in the present tense which in the Greek language means a continuing action. Jesus is really saying, “How much more will the Father keep on giving the Holy Spirit to those who keep on asking him.”

GOD’S SELF-GIVING

Now every Christian has received the Spirit. You can’t be a Christian without having the Spirit living within you. But the filling of the Spirit is something that happens over and over and over again. It means God’s fresh anointing and empowering, his coming upon us to guide us. This happens as we pray. We breathe out prayer and we breathe in the wonderful ministry of the Holy Spirit. So God’s giving of the Spirit is his self-giving to his people. That’s why the Holy Spirit is the best gift, in that, when God gives us the Spirit, he gives his own life to us. He imparts himself to us. He draws us into fellowship with him. He fills us with his wonderful fullness.

Just think about being filled with all the fullness of God! I hope that you will make this promise a part of every day of your life. You never have to face another crisis, you’ll never have to encounter another witnessing opportunity, you’ll never have to deal with another puzzling problem without the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit’s coming, filling, guiding and empowering are as near as your prayer. You lift that prayer to God, and you have his promise that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. So you keep on asking. You breathe out prayer. You breathe in the Holy Spirit.

We have a prayer team in our congregation. Our pastor has talked about the fact that we can’t imagine doing anything significant in the work of the gospel without carrying it all on by prayer. So, friends, you keep on asking and the Father keeps on giving, for every day, for every need and forever.

It’s not that we get more of the Spirit, but the Spirit gains more full possession of our hearts and lives. And that’s the way you’re meant to live. You’re not meant to live any day, any hour, without the Holy Spirit making the life of Jesus a reality in your mortal bodies so that he shines out through you. His love, life, joy and power radiate from you because you are being filled with the Holy Spirit. That’s what we want to be, friends, followers of Jesus, people who heed his promise that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who keep on asking. You want to manifest his life, love and power every moment, don’t you? Well, it’s yours, literally, for the asking.