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Sunday 24 July 2022: Trinity 6, Seventeenth in Ordinary time, Proper 12

Praying through the gift of the Spirit
Luke 11:1-13

By Carol Tomlin
an educator, ordained minister and visiting fellow at the University of Leeds; principal of Kingdom School of Theology and senior leader of Restoration Fellowship Ministries; author of Preach It: Understanding African Caribbean Preaching (SCM)

Context: part of a series on the topic of prayer. The all-age congregation is primarily African Caribbean
Aim: to explore the act of praying through the power of the Holy Spirit

My topic today is ‘Praying through the Holy Spirit.’ I define prayer as a communicative strategy that connects us to heaven. We heard Luke 11:1-13, where an individual (Sam) is persistent in asking his friend (Harry) for three loaves of bread late at night when Harry has gone to bed. Despite not wanting to get up to give Sam the loaves of bread, Harry does so because of Sam’s persistence. We are sometimes persistent in prayer, thinking we can twist God’s arm to get anything we want, but Jesus was saying that God wants to give us our ultimate need, which is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Christmas is a few months away but many of you have children and you know how they can go on and on and on about you buying that new bike or PlayStation, etc., etc., etc. Jesus says if you, being good parents, know how to give your children gifts, how much more will your heavenly Father give you the gift of the Holy Spirit if you ask him. The Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead, makes our prayers more effective. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is ‘paraclete’. I love that word in Greek. I love the amplified version of John 14:26, which explains the functions of the Holy Spirit: ‘But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor-Counsellor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name [in my place, to represent me and act on my behalf], he will teach you all things. And he will help you remember everything that I have told you.’ Wow! Do we need a comforter as we go through these challenging times with COVID still knocking on our door? We need an advocate to present our challenges to the Father. We need an intercessor, someone to intervene on our behalf. It is great to have counselling, but we need the ultimate counsellor, the Holy Spirit. When our strength is depleted and we feel overwhelmed, we need the strength of the Holy Spirit. Some of you will remember the secular song ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E King. Although it is a love song, the point is the Holy Spirit wants to stand by us. He is the ultimate teacher. When we possess the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need, as the Bible says, for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), in other words, to live a wholesome life.

The Lord wants us to be prayer warriors, active in combat, wrestling to defeat the demonic forces through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord wants us to fight every evil force coming against us, trying to destroy our lives. Those of you who, like me, grew up in a Caribbean home know that you had to watch wrestling matches or, as some of the older folks would say, ‘wrastling’ – practically every single Saturday. You had no choice. Our parents would join in the match by using their fists to wrestle in the air. We are in a wrestling match, but we don’t have to ‘beat the air’ pretending that we are in the match. Ephesians 6:12 says we wrestle not against flesh and blood or human beings, so our fight isn’t just against our spouse, children, or boss (though these fights are real, these individuals need to be challenged when they’re not acting right) but there is an unseen battle, evil spiritual forces, the demonic realm. Jesus says we should keep on knocking at his door. We can be persistent in prayer, but our persistence is not necessarily about asking God for this, that and the other, as he desires to give us the resources of heaven. God wants to bless us like any good parent. The text is really about yielding to the Holy Spirit, the wonderful gift God has given us. The power of the Holy Spirit will enable us to face the challenges of life. Prayer is the divine strategy to win the spiritual wrestling match. We do not have to be afraid of our opponent when we have the Holy Spirit, comforter, counsellor, advocate, strengthener and intercessor standing by us. We don’t have to back down or beat the air pretending that we are in the match. We can be victorious as we continuously draw on the well of the Holy Spirit. We know, as the song says, ‘The Comforter has Come…’

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