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When you pray—No. 3
By Stanley M. Horton
We know that God is present everywhere, and He manifested His glory in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and the temple. He even told Israel, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).
Yet as we pray to our Father, we first recognize that He is in heaven. He manifests His presence and His glory in a special way in heaven. John saw His throne there encircled by an emerald halo (Revelation 4:2,3). His blessings come to us from heaven. In fact, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). We can depend on Him.
Stephen, the first martyr, was still full of the Holy Spirit as he was being stoned (Acts 7). He looked up into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (the place of authority). Other passages speak of Jesus seated at the right hand of the Mighty One (Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69). First John 2:l says Jesus is there as our Helper, our Paraclete [Greek, parakletos], interceding for us, speaking to the Father in our behalf. We can depend on Him.
While Jesus was still on earth He told His disciples that though He would be leaving them, He would not forget them. He would ask the Father, and the Father would give them another Helper, another Paraclete who would never leave them (John 14:16). They could depend on Him. This Paraclete Jesus identified as the Spirit of truth (John 14:17) and as the Holy Spirit. As the Paraclete and Guide into all the truth, He would convince the world with respect to sin, show things to come, and glorify Jesus by taking the things of Christ and showing them to His followers (John 16:13–15). Later we read that the Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria “was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit” and “it grew in numbers” (Acts 9:31). The Holy Spirit thus brought heaven’s power for the spread of the gospel and the growth of the Church both spiritually and in numbers.
I have elaborated on this in my book, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit (GPH, 1976, page 123): “In another sense, without distracting from the promise of a future Second Coming, Jesus indicates that He himself comes to us in the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit mediates both the Father and the Son to us (John 14:18,20,23). When Jesus says, ‘I will not leave you comfortless [orphans]; I will come to you’ (John 14:18, KJV), He means by the Holy Spirit. Yet by calling the Spirit another Comforter, Jesus sharply distinguishes between himself and the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person. Jesus is not the Spirit. As the risen Lord, Jesus sends the Spirit (John 15:26; 16:7).”
The Holy Spirit is also an intermediary in our worship as we look to our Father in heaven. The Spirit knows what is going on in the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:10,11). In the weakness of our present bodies we often do not understand what God wants for us, nor do we understand ourselves or our own needs. The Spirit, as our Paraclete, our Helper, is right there to help us. Though we want to do God’s will, we often do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit as our Helper “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he [God] who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with Gods will’ (Romans 8:26,27).
Again I quote from my book mentioned above (pages 189,190): “These groanings are not expressed in words, not even in tongues (though the Spirit might well be interceding in these inexpressible groans while we are speaking in tongues or while we are praying or praising God). But they do not need to be expressed in words. The same God, the same Heavenly Father who knows what is in our hearts also knows what is in the mind of the Spirit. So there is perfect communication between the Father and the Holy Spirit without the necessity of words. Moreover the Spirit knows what the will of God is, so we can be sure that His intercession is according to the will of God. In other words, we can be sure His prayers will be answered. No wonder Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Actually, the Spirit is a wonderful Paraclete or Helper in all of our worship. When we pray in tongues our spirit prays, for our hearts are going out to the Lord while the Spirit is giving the utterance, even though our minds are unfruitful. But the fact our minds are unfruitful does not mean we should stop praying in tongues, for we are being edified and God understands what we are saying So Paul says, “I will pray with my spirit [that is, while the Holy Spirit is giving the utterance in tongues], but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:2,4,15).
There is a value, too, in meditating on the things of God, contemplating the things of heaven. The Spirit helps us in this too. He directs our minds toward heavenly things (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:1,2). Everything around us is trying to draw us away from eternal things. The world keeps putting pressure on us to live like the world. But the Spirit sanctifies us and enables us to purify our souls “by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers” (1 Peter 1:2,22). Furthermore, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7).
Let us not forget that the present world system is going to be destroyed by the judgment of God (Daniel 2:34,35,44; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation l8:2). “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). In the meantime, through the Spirit we have a first installment of our future inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:12). It lets us know we have a glorious inheritance, so glorious that Paul was able to say, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17,18). Heaven is glorious because God the Father and God the Son are there, and the Bible promises that we shall share His glory (1 Corinthians 15:43; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:27; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Peter 5:l). We can depend on that.
Stanley M. Horton, Th.D, is distinguished professor emeritus of Bible and theology, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.