Roughly a year and a half ago I was a part of a pretty close knit group of friends. We met regularly to worship and pray together outside in the amphitheater on campus. We did other things together of course, but it were our times of worship that drew us together so quickly. We would sit on the steps or in the grass, someone would play guitar and sing, and then we would take turns praying as we felt led. It was a very free flowing and beautiful time. Some nights went longer than others. Some nights were pretty brief. Some nights it felt as if the heavens had opened. Other nights were pretty ordinary and sometimes even awkward. I remember one night specifically when we sat outside and sang the song "Holy Spirit" by Brian and Katie Torwalt. We got caught up in the music, riding the melody like a wave. It didn't feel like overkill to sing it repetitively because it felt so beautifully natural, like taking a breath. It felt like we couldn't possibly have sang it enough to accurately express what was going on in our hearts.
"There's nothing worth more, that could ever come close, nothing can compare, you're our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I've tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves, when my heart becomes free, and my chains are undone
Your presence, Lord
Holy Spirit you are welcome here, Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere, Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overwhelmed in your presence, Lord.
Let us become more aware of your presence, Let us experience the glory of your goodness"
We sang it over and over while we took turns praying for our friends, our campus, our concerns, our fears, our hopes, and our desires. I remember we took turns laying hands on one another praying that the Spirit would fill us, guide us, lead us, empower us, strengthen us, and cause us to fall more in love with Jesus. I looked at my watch after we sang the chorus for the last time and two hours had passed.
I remember going to bed on some of those nights feeling so full of praise and joy, that I could do nothing but pray until I fell asleep. Then the morning would come...and I still didn't understand Chemistry, the Wilmington humidity was still brutal, and life continued. This is why I love that the church calendar takes us from Pentecost right into Ordinary time. I can identify with this. Perhaps Pentecost is supposed to prepare us for Ordinary Time. Perhaps Pentecost prepares us for our coming and going, our workdays, our 8 hour shifts, our swiping of credit cards, our painting of walls, our taking of notes in class, or our preparing for tests. Perhaps Pentecost is supposed to prepare us for washing dishes and sending emails and the ordinary routine of life.
The Spirit saturates the whole Earth, making everything Holy. Only we're not always aware of the Holiness around us. When the praise parties end and the emotions subside, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that God’s no longer present, but that couldn't be further from the truth...
"Let us become more aware of your presence, Let us experience the glory of your goodness."
I’m inclined to believe that our asking for the Spirit to come is more for our benefit than God’s. I've always had a pretty good relationship with the Holy Spirit. Some folks get weird-ed out by any talk of the Spirit, but that hasn't been the case with me, especially in recent years. If there's anything I'm guilty of, it's probably overemphasizing the Spirit.
This summer I’ve been working a maintenance job from 7am to 4pm every day, which requires me to get up around 4am if I’m going to get in a workout and spend some time reading. Getting out of bed at 4am is grueling, but once I’ve made my coffee, I to sit in the common room, turn on the lamp next to my recliner, open the window so I can listen to world outside, and curl up in a blanket. I sit and lend my ear to the birds and the occasional train in the distance. Often I'll just sit with my hands open for a little while and ask for the Spirit to come. I ask Him to fill me, guide me, strengthen me, and to renew my joy. As I face tough situations throughout the day or encounter someone who is carrying a burden, I’ll ask for the Spirit to come.
I don't think the Spirit needs us to invite Him, but I feel like He enjoys being welcomed. But I will offer this warning: the Spirit cannot be tamed. He has a knack for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. He speaks over dry bones and they come to life, almost zombie-like. When the Spirit brings resurrection, it's not guaranteed to be the most appealing sight, but it is resurrection nonetheless.
“Living God, eternal Holy Spirit, let your bright intoxicating energy, which fired those first disciples, fall on us to turn the world again.” (New Zealand Prayer Book)