Fear rushed upon the poor man as he frenetically searched his cupboards for bread to serve his unexpected guest. It was midnight and not a morsel of food could be found. Driven by the impending shame, he slips quietly out the back door, rushes to his neighbor’s house and frantically bangs on the front door.
“Go away. We are already asleep and the doors are locked!” an angry groggy voice sounds from inside the house. The man continues to pound and when the door opens he brazenly asks his irate neighbor for a loaf of bread. The desperate man does not return home empty handed.
This is what prayer should look like. Desperate. Bold. Shameless.
Jesus goes on to say in Luke 11.
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)
But this begs the question. Just what are we desperate for? We can remember times when we were driven to the point of desperation and we pounded on the doors of heaven. There was an illness, an accident or an exam that caused us to drop all inhibitions and lift up bold, shameless prayers. But for most of us these moments are too few because we are too wealthy. We have too many options. Credit cards if the money runs low. Medications if I am feverish, anxious or nauseous. These can all be blessings from God, but they can dangerously mask the deep dependence we fear. There is a deeper need beyond health, economic security and family peace. The question is whether we have the sensitivity to perceive it.
So we return to the question: What are we desperate for? Look closely at what Jesus points to.
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13)
We are desperate for the Holy Spirit, but we don’t know it. I didn’t. That is until God began to maneuver me into places of powerlessness. I became a husband and without the Spirit of God I will continue to be the selfish, self-centered, arrogant 20 something I was when I got married. I am a father to a son and four daughters. I can’t make them follow Jesus, let alone model Jesus to them. Only the Spirit will kindle their faith as he did mine. I am a pastor and have found that all the preparation and planning means absolutely nothing unless he shows up. I cannot heal, open minds, convince someone to believe the gospel or make someone change.
Slowly, God has exposed my weakness while revealing the superior power of His Spirit. Gradually, my desperation has grown and with it prayers for the Holy Spirit. He is the breath animating our dusty bodies. He is the rain craved by drought stricken cornfields. He is the heat that ignites the flame. The truth is inescapable: we need him and we need to ask for him boldly, desperately and shamelessly.
The other day I shared my desire to pray consistently for the Holy Spirit with my friend John Tully. He graciously handed me a copy of a prayer adapted (to fit our evangelical tradition) from the “Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit” which he prays every morning. Think about using it your times of daily prayer.
O Holy Spirit, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always submissive to Thy heavenly inspirations; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory forever. Amen.