Do You Ask for the Spirit Every Day?
A few years ago at Pentecost I preached about praying for the Holy Spirit. The text was the words of Jesus in Luke 11:13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
As often happens when I get into a text for sermon preparation, I was amazed by this Scriptural truth: the Father will give the Holy Spirit when we ask Him! And as often happens, I found that this text wasn’t only encouraging for God’s people in the pew, but for me as a pastor and preacher. In so many ways I need the Holy Spirit—to deepen insight into Scripture, to bless me with wisdom when counselling, to help me love God’s people, to give joy in the gospel—I need the Holy Spirit, and I need to pray for the Holy Spirit! And the marvel is that God promises to give Him to those who ask.
This promise is part of Jesus’ words about prayer. His disciples had asked for a lesson on praying, and Jesus replied with what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer. What are the core things we should be doing with our time on earth? And what is the essential equipment for doing these things? We have to pray for God’s name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come, and His will to be done in our life. That’s our core task. Then we also have to pray for daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, and protection against the evil one—our core needs. The Lord’s Prayer shows that everything we do should be oriented around God, and that everything we require comes from God. It’s striking then, how the Spirit is a part of that. In Luke 11 the Holy Spirit is counted among God’s essential gifts, a gift for which we have to ask the Father. And Jesus says that more than any earthly father, God will give us what is good and right.
Why is the gift of the Holy Spirit so needed? Because when a person has the Spirit, they are led to see the glory of Christ, to trust Him, and to worship Him. When a person has the Spirit, he hates sin and he pursues holiness. In short, the Spirit brings life—life in Christ! No wonder Jesus says we need this good gift as much as we need our daily bread. Like we pray every day for food and drink, and we pray every day for forgiveness, we ought to pray every day for the Holy Spirit.
The text (and the sermon) encouraged me, I said. It was clear that I needed to be asking specifically for the Holy Spirit just as often as I ask for the Father’s protection while my family travels each day, and just as often as I ask God for physical health. So for a while after Pentecost I made it my daily prayer to ask for the Holy Spirit, and not just as a minister, but especially as a child of God—to be filled with faith, hope and love, and to be equipped with His gifts. And the Father answered my prayers.
It has now been a while since Pentecost and the lesson of Luke 11:13. And I have to admit that my prayers for the Holy Spirit have diminished. I certainly don’t need Him any less. But I ask less, whether simply out of forgetfulness, or out of self-sufficient pride, or because I don’t see the specific need. When I haven’t asked daily for the Spirit, God hasn’t withheld Him—like a patient and generous Father, He gives good gifts even when His children don’t ask! But that’s not the point, is it? He wants us to ask. The Father wants us to live in close and daily reliance on Him for every aspect of our life.
My own experience makes me wonder how it is with others. Do you ask specifically for the Holy Spirit? Is this your daily prayer, like your prayers for food and forgiveness? Do you see how much you need the Holy Spirit, and do you ask the Father for this gift?