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Hey! We were just talking about you!



“Have you been with me all this time, and you still do not know me?” 
 
That was a line from the Gospel on Pentecost Sunday a few weeks ago, and was a question Jesus asked of his disciple Thomas.

Well – as I said in my Pentecost sermon – over the past few years, I’ve had a similar realization in regard to my individual relationship with the Holy Spirit, and the Episcopal Church’s relationship with the Holy Spirit.

We’ve been with the Holy Spirit (and the Holy Spirit has been with us) all this time, and we still do not know each other.

We baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we end prayers in the name of the Holy Spirit…

…each and every Sunday, when we stand and say the Creed, we say we believe in the Holy Spirit [as], the Lord, and as “the giver of life”

…but honestly, now: really?

Do you really relate to the Holy Spirit as your “giver of life” ?

IS the Holy Spirit lord in any meaningful, practical, daily way to you – in other words, is the Holy Spirit the main source (or even a chief source?!?) of direction for your daily plans, your weekly plans, your life-plan?

Is the Holy Spirit animating you and the church, driving you and the church, informing and directing our daily decisions?

I’m afraid that the brutally honest answer for most of us, most of the time, is “no, not really.”

So: we spend all this time in and around the Holy Spirit, but still do not know who the Holy Spirit is. 

And a consequence? We pray to God, even frequently, and still do not know what God wants!
 
But what if there was a way to pray, in the power of the Holy Spirit, so we know God’s will – and instead of praying FOR an answer to what we’re going through, we pray WITH an answer to what we’re going through? 
 
Well, there is:  
 
Praying in accordance with God’s will – it’s as ancient as Gregory of Nazianzus (300’s) and John of Damascus (early 700’s) (they called it entering into the  Perichoresis or mutual indwelling among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and it’s as recent as what Graham Cooke calls Crafted Prayer (to whom much of what I have to say here is indebted). 
 
The way to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit is to find out what God already wants to do in a situation and through you in that situation and pray for that.
 
Does this sound mystical, somehow unrealistic, or too mysterious to really try?
 
Well, again, as I shared in my sermon, here’s a practical way of praying this way:
 
Imagine yourself walking up to three friends of yours, who are talking.
 
You walk up, and all three turn to you at once, with smiles on their faces, and say, in unison* “HEY! We were just talking about you!
 
Well…wouldn’t you just be dying to know what they were saying?
 
Well guess what?  
·    

  • Jesus is talking about you, in love, to the Father and Holy Spirit. 
  • And the Spirit is talking, in love, to Jesus and your heavenly Father about what you’re going through right now. 
  • And your heavenly, tender, loving, joyfully-generous** Father in Heaven is talking, with delight and love,** to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus about you.   

So…what if prayer were simply your eavesdropping in on that conversation?***

The “given” is that within the Trinity of persons and One Being that is God, there is a conversation going on about you and your day. The “given” is, the Holy Spirit is with you…within you…for you.
 
The “variable” is, “have you been with me all this time and still do not know me?” 
 
So listen in.
 
Spend ten or fifteen minutes a day doing this exercise.
 
Jot down the impressions, ideas, or images you receive.
 
Then “test everything, hold fast to that which is true.” Test those impressions, ideas or images against by going back again and again to God, and saying “this is what I think I heard or received, is that coming from you, God?” Also: test what God seems to be saying to you in this exercise against what God says through scripture and in the church’s teachings, because a) you might just be hearing your own voice/self and b) more insidiously, you might be hearing some spirit other than the Holy Spirit.**** And finally, test what you seem to be hearing with a trusted, mature-in-the-faith spiritual advisor or friend – someone who is familiar with both you and God.

Give it try.

In return – over time – you’ll receive the joy of companionship with the Holy Spirit, who has been with you all this time.  




* It’s important to remember that “they” say this in UNISON because – lest the heresy police come after me – let me be clear that these three “persons’ are really only ONE being. 

**It’s important that you see God turning to you in delight and love and that you imagine God as joyfully abundant, because (see below) one of the ways our Adversary keeps us from conversational intimacy with God is to convince us that God is disappointed, angry, or distant. Who wants conversational intimacy with a disappointed, angry, or distant person? 

***For those who want, or need, the biblical background or authority for making such a claim,  Paul says in Romans 8 that the Spirit helps us in our weakness” and when we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
He also says that Jesus who died and was raised is at the right hand of God, interceding for us.
First John says that “if anyone sin, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” And the Book of Common Prayer (from 1 Timothy 2:5 and Romans 5”1) reminds us when we pray that Jesus Christ is “our Mediator and Advocate.”

****This kind of conversational intimacy with God is perhaps THE greatest threat to our Adversary, the Evil One, and that foul spirit will do everything in its power to keep us from intimacy with God. So if – when you imagine God talking about you – your first thought is “ut-oh!, I’m in trouble!” remember, if there are any accusations being cast against you, the only one who is accusing you, pointing out your human faults, is the Accuser, and NOT your Advocate, who is God.

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