Praying in the Spirit: 17 November

Praying in the Spirit, our midweek course at church, continues to bring encouragement. Our key text is Ephesians 1:17-19:

‘I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in coming to know Him, illuminating the eyes of your heart, to give you knowledge of the hope to which He has called you, the riches of glory to which He has called you among the saints, and of the immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.’

Your Bible probably reads ‘give you a spirit of …’ The Greek reads ‘give you spirit of …’ in the same way that in John 20:22, and other places, Jesus says ‘Receive Holy Spirit…’ I think that Paul in Ephesians is deliberately echoing and rephrasing Isaiah 11 – ‘the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might…’ So the best translation in English is ‘give you the Spirit…’ Otherwise what does it mean? What spirit is Paul praying for here? Are we anywhere encouraged to pray for any other spirit than the Holy Spirit?

Having explained all this in Burton Joyce, I found myself praying with someone away from Burton Joyce, someone who had not heard any of the above teaching. We began with him looking to see Jesus’ arm round his shoulder, a picture he can go to easily. He saw Jesus’ fingers curled round the top of his right shoulder. As he relaxed, he also saw in front of him a figure in a long robe standing in a farm gateway looking away from him. He recognised this was Jesus, in a somewhat cartoon-like picture. Next to Jesus was a little boy about 12, dressed in blue, whom he understood to be himself. He looked to where Jesus was looking and saw a dove sitting on the fence of the field in front of Jesus. The dove was in no way a cartoon, no stylised dove, but a sharply real dove with beady eyes, looking round jerkily and shifting from foot to foot. He understood that he was being invited to focus on the Holy Spirit.

We invited the Holy Spirit to come closer. This invitation is always worth issuing. He usually waits our invitation: ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’ Adrian Plass says that this is a silly prayer implying that the Holy Spirit is sulking in the porch. No so. We need to restate again and again our desire for the Holy Spirit to come closer, despite the many ways in which our unholiness has pushed Him away. We need to live consciously aware of the light, inviting the light, not assuming it is there all the time.

Having prayed, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ I saw my friend put his arms round his tummy as though hugging himself for comfort. ‘What’s happening?’ I asked. ‘I’m cradling the dove,’ he replied, his head bent over his chest. As he cradled and embraced the dove, the whiteness and the liveliness of the dove started being absorbed into him. Later, as we reviewed, I named this white and lively influence the ‘doveness’ – the doveness of the dove flowing into him. The name didn’t seem right to him. ‘Can we call it the blubbly? It feels lovely and bubbly.’ At the time, welcoming and embracing the dove, the blubbly slowly filled him, radiating through his body from his tummy. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ said Jesus. We need actively to take Him in.

After the sense of being filled, he began to see cloud-like purple curtains, rising and falling in front of him. We welcomed this new vision and looked for more. After a while, he saw what looked like heaven. He tried to describe what he was seeing but it was too complicated, too difficult to put into words. I encouraged him simply to look and enjoy.

I sat contented, enjoying what the Holy Spirit was doing. It occurred to me that here was an enactment of Ephesians 1:17-19. The Holy Spirit had come to him afresh, the Spirit was revealing things to him, through the eyes of his heart, revealing to him the ultimate hope to which we are called, the riches of the glory of heaven. Having spoken much about Paul’s prayer I would have been pretty thick not to notice the connection. I said ‘Thank you Father for sending the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.’ My friend started visibly. I asked him what was happening. ‘Three seconds before you spoke, I was thinking that I was being given wisdom, wisdom in making decisions in life. Wisdom was uppermost in my mind, and then you said “Thank you, Father, for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” ‘ Alleluia!

Roger Harper

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