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"Lord, teach us to pray"  (5)

 

Prayer and the Holy Spirit

 

In our last session we identified together that Jesus Christ has made it possible for sinful man to approach a holy God. He has opened that new and living way which gives us access and audience with God, our Heavenly Father. We saw that we have One in heaven who represents us.   In this session we learn that we have another Advocate, One who is resident within us - the Holy Spirit. Also in this session we begin to make the transition from what has been largely theoretical/theological considerations to the more practical and immediate aspects of our prayer life.  

 

Prayer is primarily TO the Father, THROUGH the Son and IN the Holy Spirit. That is not an inflexible rule but rather a Biblical pattern. We have considered the first two aspects and now we turn to the third...the place or function of the Holy Spirit in prayer.  

 

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit and prayer are often closely linked. Let's note the following verses and you write any comment that you think appropriate beneath each.  

* Luke 11/13 ____________________________________________


* Acts 4/31 ______________________________________________ 

* Acts 13/1-4 ____________________________________________

* Rom, 8/15,16 _________________________________________

* Rom. 8/26 ____________________________________________

* Eph. 6/18 ____________________________________________

 

The last reference prompts the question, 'What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?' Some would say that it is a deep,free and intensive kind of prayer that is oblivious to time and that it is a prayer marked by praise and unusual boldness. Others would want to say that it is a reference to the gift of languages (tongues) and that praying in the Spirit is to pray in a language that the person praying has never learned.

 

There may be elements of truth in both those perspectives but prayer in the Spirit cannot be restricted to either or both. To pray in the Spirit is to pray from a heart inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is prayer that springs from an awareness of God in His greatness and of Jesus Christ as our High Priest and the Holy Spirit as our helper. Whether such a prayer is verbal or not is of little consequence. It may be a prayer of praise & joy or it may be a cry from an aching heart .... as in Gethsemane (Mark 14/32-35)  

 

It is a great comfort to know that the Holy Spirit is present within us to enable or empower us in our praying. He not only knows the mind of God (1 Cor.2/10,11) but He also knows the minds of Christians (Rom. 8/27). He knows there are times when we find it hard to pray. He knows there are times when we feel things so deeply that we cannot frame our petitions in adequate words. He knows that we are often unsure what is the Will of God and therefore we cannot pray with clarity or boldness or confidence.      

 

It is here that the promise of Romans 8/25 becomes such an encouragement to us. "...the Holy Spirit HELPS us..." While He prays for me (v.27), He does not pray instead of me. Rather He helps me to pray. Apart from Him, my prayers become mechanical, stale and self centred.  

 

If we are so dependent upon the Holy Spirit in prayer, we must avoid quenching or grieving Him. Consider three of His titles and write alongside any opposing  attitude or response that would quench His ministry to us.  

*Spirit of Truth ___________________________________________

*Spirit of Love ___________________________________________

*Spirit of Holiness ________________________________________

 

The Holy Spirit has been given to us for a diverse ministry…

 

1.  to assure us…of our relationship with God (Romans 8/15)

2.  to teach us…about Jesus and his Kingdom (John 14/26)

3.  to change us…into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor 3/18)

4.  to empower us…especially in prayer (Romans 8/26).  

 

NOW LET'S BEGIN TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE IMMEDIATE NEEDS IN PRAYER .....  

 

It is evident that a majority of people sense that their feelings and emotions play too great a part in their prayer lives. This becomes a very real issue when we are discussing the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives - especially our prayer lives. We have all heard people make statements like, "The Lord told me to ..... " OR  "When I was praying God said to me ....."   Feelings range from a simple "can't-be-bothered" to strong impressions that perhaps surprise us as we pray.

 

How much credence do we give to feelings and impressions? How reliable are they? From whence do they come? How much should they guide us in decisions etc.?   Let's note the following comments about impressions ......  

 

1. We are "feeling"people by design - our emotional life and responses are real and we deny them at great risk to our total well-being.  

2. We live in a 'feeling-orientated' society which places great emphasis upon what feels good etc. There is a pressure there for us to be conformed to that same pattern.  

3. Our feelings are the shallowest part of our nature and God doesn't do His deepest work in our shallowest part.  

4. Our feelings are the most changeable and unreliable part of our nature - to make decisions based solely or primarily on feelings is to invite disaster.  

5. Impressions can come from three sources....  

a)  From God - these are the promptings of the Holy Spirit  

b)  From Satan - who exploits and abuses our emotional life in damaged areas

c)  From Ourselves - temperament, personality .... even physical causes  

 

6.The Christian who accepts his/her impressions at face value (i.e. uncritically) is extremely vulnerable to false leading and devilish mischief.  

7. An over-dependence on feelings/impressions is not only dangerous but is also an evidence of immaturity & childishness.  

8. As a general principle, impressions should be regarded as little more than 'hunches' that cause us to pay closer attention to a specific situation. As we do so, an impression that is from God will grow into a conviction - quiet, settled and strong .... NOT urgent & impulsive  

9. John Wesley: "Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose that dreams, voices, impressions, visions and revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see if they are of God."  

 

HOW CAN I EVALUATE OR TEST THOSE IMPRESSIONS/PROMPTINGS?  

 

1. ARE THEY SCRIPTURAL? Are they in harmony with the general teaching of the whole Bible - even 'proof texts' have to submit to that test.  

2. ARE THEY RIGHT? Are they "proper" and "compatible" in terms of my already accepted commitments from God? eg. my marriage and family responsibilities.  

3. ARE THEY PROVIDENTIAL? If the prompting is from the Holy Spirit, the way to obey or follow that prompting will open before me; I won't have to knock down the doors.  

4. ARE THEY 'REASONABLE'? Do they fit in with spiritually enlightened judgment?...or is the prompting something that is ridiculous to the point of absurdity?  

5. ARE THEY IMPULSIVE? Sudden, strong impressions that demand an immediate response are rarely from God. We are called to test such things and often this takes time. The devil would rush us into impulsive action. God would have us wait on Him.  

6. ARE THEY CONFIRMED? Do other mature and spiritually sensitive Christians confirm to you the 'rightness' of your action as proposed by that inner impression?   With the exception of the first one (and then only carefully), none of the above guidelines are infallible in isolation. However, the more that line up with the inner impression you have about a particular situation, the better.
 

FOR YOUR OWN EXPLORATION THIS WEEK

    1. What do you learn from the following verses about guidance? (if anything)  

a)  1 John 4/I: _________________________________________________________  

b)  2 Cor.11/14 ________________________________________________________  

c)  John 7/17 __________________________________________________________ 

d) Romans 12/1,2 _______________________________________________________    

 

2. Consider the following two scenarios and imagine that each person is telling you of their experience. How would you respond to them? What questions would you ask them? What advice, encouragement or warning would you give? (Write your comments below)  

 

SCENARIO No. 1   "My name is Harry Bloggs and I am 34 years of age. I am married and have three school-age children, I am a Christian but my wife is not. The other evening as I was praying I felt the Lord was calling me to be a missionary to Alaska, As I have prayed about that I feel a deep peace that this is right. It will mean leaving my wife and family but I believe God will provide for them. Besides, it says in the Bible that we cannot be Jesus' disciples if we don't hate our father & mother and wife and children."                    

 

SCENARIO No.2 "My name is Gladys Quartz and I am 22 years old, single and a committed Christian. I am earnestly seeking God's Will for my life and one of the matters about which I have been praying is whether or not God wants me to marry. An amazing thing happened this morning which has left me disturbed and uneasy .....I had a 'phone call from a young man who has dated me on two occasions now. He said that the Lord had spoken to Him and told him that I was the one he was to marry. He said the Lord told him this while he was asleep...in a dream, I guess. I like the man but I have not thought about marriage; but I don't want to go against the Lord's will. What should I do?

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