Aug 26 2017

Part32: The Second Stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit P.7, 7- The Holy Spirit and Prayer (part 2)

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ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY

Dr. Nos’hi Abdel-Shaheed

Part Thirty-Two

CHAPTER 5

The second stage: Christ the Sender of the Spirit.

(Part 7)

7 – The Holy Spirit and Prayer (Part 2)

Asking for the Holy Spirit in Prayer:

The Church teaches us to pray asking for the renewal of the Holy Spirit inside us, this same Spirit that we obtained through Baptism and Holy Chrismation.  Praying to ask for the renewal of the Holy Spirit inside us does not mean we did not take the gift of the Holy Spirit when we were baptized as children and anointed with the Chrism, on the contrary, if someone does not have the gift of the Spirit within him or her, he cannot ask for this in his prayer.  This request  can only be asked by the children of God, who were born of the Holy spirit of God, i.e., born of water and the Spirit, as the Lord Himself says that he gave a right to those who received him, to become children of God, that is to say, those who believe in His name (see John 1:12).  Praying is an expression of spiritual thirst for God. This thirst is quenched by Christ, glory be to Him, for those who come to Him and drink, as he said, “…’If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.” (John 7: 37-39).

And the “rivers of living water” are the rivers of the Holy Spirit, which the glorified Lord Jesus pours since His ascension in our hearts.  This is explained by St. Athanasius when he says [when we are thirsty for Him, He quenches our thirst as He was the one who stood on the last day of the feast, and cried out saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”  Because this is the love of the saints at any time, they do not stop providing their permanent sacrifice that they unceasingly offer the Lord, and always thirst asking Him to drink.  The Apostle Paul tells us, “Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.”  Those who are busy praying, they are always waiting for the Lord saying: “Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.  His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.” (Hosea 6:3).  He satisfies them, not only in the morning, and gives them, not only to drink whenever they ask, but gives them with abundance and generosity according to the multitude of his loving kindness, giving them the grace of the Spirit all the time. And He explains what they long for saying, “whoever believes in me” because He is “as cold water to a weary soul” according to Proverbs (25:25), and therefore the coming of the Spirit to those who believe in God is better than any refreshing or rejoicing.1

The hermit fathers give great importance to praying for the acceptance or receiving of the Holy Spirit.  St. Anthony the Great says to his children: [This Great fiery Spirit that I accepted, you too accept. And if you want to receive Him and let Him dwell in you, first offer the sufferings of the body and the humility of the heart, and lift up your thoughts to heaven day and night, and ask with all your heart for this fiery Holy Spirit, and then He will be given to you.2

And St. Makarius urges us to [the persistence of praying to God and that our prayers should be with faith, hope and love, praying without ceasing and with awaiting and consistency, so that God would send His Spirit into our hearts … and we would be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can bear fruits of the Spirit].3  He also says, emphasizing the request for the Holy Spirit through praying and noting the strength of the Spirit’s work in our spiritual life: [we should ask God with all our heart and faith, so that He gives us to find in our hearts this richness, the real treasure of Christ, by the true power and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit].4  [Let us beseech God in faith and love and so much hope so that He gives us the divine grace, the grace of the Spirit, so that, this same spirit rules, controls, and leads us to the will of God and to recover and revive us so that by the work of the Spirit and the effectiveness of grace, and the spiritual fruit, ‘we proceed to know the wholeness of Christ’, as the Apostle says, “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).  Also the apostle says “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).  The Lord promised those who believe in him and ask him rightly to give them the mysteries of the communion with the Spirit, which cannot be uttered].5

Prayer in the Holy Spirit:

If the prayers addressed to the Holy Spirit and the prayers asking for the descent of the Holy Spirit, are few in the Orthodox Church, yet we can practice what St. Jude commended in his epistle by saying: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 1:20).  Thus, prayer in the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to build ourselves on the holy faith.  So what is the meaning of praying in the Holy Spirit?

This means two things: either that the purpose of prayer and the words of prayer are not ours, but are given us by the Holy Spirit within us.  This means that the Holy Spirit is the internal motivator of praying in the depths of our hearts.  When we mean to pray either through thoughts and intentions or through certain words to express ideas or requests, we are then united with the movement of the spirit of the prayer; the Holy Spirit within us.  So our prayer is through the Spirit or in the Holy Spirit, that is, we enter with our hearts into the Holy Spirit, and have the Holy Spirit surrounding, sheltering and compelling us with love.  The Holy Spirit is the true worshiper and we integrate ourselves in Him, and so by the work of the Spirit we pray real strong prayers from the depths of our hearts.

St. Makarius the Great says on prayer and the Holy Spirit: “The Christian should force himself, or herself, to pray when he does not have spiritual prayers and so as God sees him striving and forcing himself … God then gives him the true prayer of the Spirit …” 6 And the Holy Spirit gives him, or her, the same modesty, love and gentleness, and teaches him the true prayer …, so let us force ourselves to pray and implore God unceasingly, with hope and steadfastness to send His Spirit into our hearts, so we may pray and worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  So the Spirit would pray in us and teach us the real prayer which we did not get yet. 7

And the other meaning of prayer in the Holy Spirit is to be in a “quiet prayer” or praying without a sound, when the self is in union with a hidden unperceived prayer; a continued unabated prayer that is driven by the Holy Spirit within oneself.  And we know from those who practiced “the prayer of Jesus” or “calling upon the Lord Jesus name,” that they experience some sort of a wonderful inner peace, or what they call “the latent presence of the name of Jesus” in the soul.  This case of “inner prayer” means that the Holy Spirit has become the only and true worshiper inside our souls.  This may be what the Apostle Paul means when he says, “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. … He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (see Rom 8:26, 27).

St. John Chrysostom also says about this intercession: “The soul that gains the talent of praying intercedes to God and groans.  Because whoever is worthy of a blessing like this, stands in front of God, in a grieved conscience and cries out a lot, and also with mental groans (i.e., without sound), and falls before God, and asks Him beneficial things for all people … So that we learn to pray for things due, and ask God what agrees with His will … So this is all to gladden those who turn to Him, and give them an excellent education.  He who prepared the talents, and who gave other countless blessings is the Spirit, the Comforter, as the Apostle says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things” (1 Cor. 12:11).8                                                                                                                       (To be contd.)

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Footnotes:

  1. St. Athanasius, The Easter (or Festal) Letters No. 20 N.& P.N. Fathers Vol. IV, P. 548
  2. The Letters of St. Anthony. Published by The Orthodox Patristic Center. Second Letter, P. 67-68, 2004
  3. St. Makarius the Great’s Sermons. Sermon 19, 4th edition p.196, 201
  4. Ibid, Sermon 18, p. 192.
  5. Ibid, Sermon 18, p. 195.
  6. St. Makarius the Great Sermons. Trans. Dr. Nosḥy Abdel-Shahīd. Published by The Orthodox Patristic Center, Sermon 19 p. 198. 4th Edition 2005, Cairo.
  7. Ibid Sermon 19, p. 201,202.
  8. Homilies on Romans of St. John Chrysostom, Hom. XIV, No PN. Fathers 1st series Vol. XI, P.447.

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