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... From the Goodnews archives, November/December 2004


Asking Shamelessly for the Holy Spirit

Do we really want God to act in our lives or are we content to rely on our own gifts and strengths?


Roy Hendy,one of the founders of the House of the Open Door Community, reflects on Luke 11 and the importance of prayer and radical dependence of God


Roy Hendy I feel although we in Charismatic Renewal talk a lot about prayer. We can talk about it more than do it. Yet it is prayer (and it doesn't matter what kind of prayer - praise, the rosary, adoration of the blessed Sacrament) that is the key to everything, to that anointing of God that we need if we are to be effective at all in what he has called us to in our lives. Recently I was speaking at a big conference in Hungary, and as I went up I was really pleading with God to give me a rhema word for the people there. He drew me to speak on Luke 11. This is one of the few times when the Lord actually taught his disciples how to pray. The first part is Luke's version of the Our Father. Then he goes on to tell the story of the man who goes late at night to his friend to ask for three loaves of bread because a visitor has arrived at his house. Initially the friend doesn't want to help because he and his children have gone to bed, but Jesus goes on to explain, "if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence." In the Knox version of the Bible which I really love "persistence" is translated as "shamelessly asking".

God gave me an insight at that moment into his heart - that he really wants us to shamelessly ask for the Holy Spirit. The problem is so often, particularly if we are capable, that we settle for our own loaves of bread instead of the Lord's loaves. And the Lord's loaves we can only get by persistence and shamelessly asking. It's as if God is testing us on how much we want Him and His Spirit. We have to really want it and he almost waits for us to be desperate for Him.

It is significant that the man is not asking for bread for himself but his visitor, for someone else. This is a reminder that the gifts of the Spirit that we so urgently need are not for ourselves but for service of others. To pray for the Holy Spirit and for the gifts of the Spirit is a dangerous prayer to pray because if God gives us the gifts he expects us to use them, and this will mean sacrifice of our comforts and many of the things we hold dear.

BreadIn fact as I was about to call on some people in Hungary to stand if they wanted to receive a fresh outpouring of the Spirit and the Spiritual Gifts, I felt the Lord telling me to warn them of the sacrifice that this would entail and not to stand up lightly. It was almost as if he wanted me to caution people. It is a dangerous prayer because God will take us at our word. When we ask for more of the Holy Spirit, we tend to think of things like peace, and joy and love. But God gives us His Spirit not for our own fufilment but for others. He is calling us to be his hands and feet and the more of the Spirit we receive, the more gifts we receive, the more we are responsible before God for what he has given us for our neighbour. He will then show us the people in need. But are we willing to give up our own comforts? We could be watching TV or doing something we enjoy and someone will come to our door, and we will need to put them first. We lose our rights to ourselves and our time. The three loaves can be interpreted in many different ways. It could just be a smile on the street to a stranger which could bless them. Just recently Tom, another member of the community, and I were in Burger King. I asked the girl at the counter if she was having a nice day. She told me she was having a terrible day because she had had an awful headache all morning. I asked her if I could say a prayer for her. She agreed. Afterwards when we were eating our food we heard her telling all the customers who came in the restaurant how I had prayed for her and how her headache had gone.

The question God asks is are we prepared to look at people and see their need? So often we don't really look because we are afraid that we won't be able to help them, because their need is too great. But it is precisely at that moment when we can't help them that we have to pray in desperation to God to help us to help them. That's when we experience his anointing and his help. That's when we start moving charismatically in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have learnt from experience that there is an anointing that only comes with prayer and if I don't pour myself out in prayer before I go anywhere to speak, I might as well not bother going, because helpful as they might be, the words I speak, will just be my words and will not have the convicting power of God. I thank God that in myself I don't have many natural loaves and this means I always have to cry out to God for his loaves so I can give the people what He wants them to eat.


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