Allan P Grant
Luke 3: 21, 22; 11: 13
Philippians 1: 19
Jude: 20, 21
I have been thinking of the feature of prayer that these scriptures refer to and the way that prayer, the spirit of dependence, makes way for the power of the Holy Spirit. Our brother prayed at the beginning of this meeting that there would be room for the Holy Spirit. I think it is a principle we see perfectly, first of all, in the Lord Jesus Himself, as a Man here entirely for God’s pleasure. Matthew, Mark and Luke give us the Lord’s baptism at the commencement of His public service. Luke adds a touch that He was praying, which is in keeping with the way that Luke’s gospel presents the dependent Man. Then we have the Holy Spirit coming upon Him. There was nothing in Christ that would hinder or disturb the Spirit. Everything was perfectly in accord with God’s will and with the Holy Spirit’s perfect feelings. It says, “the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon him”. We know the dove speaks of sensitive feelings of the Holy Spirit. It says, “a voice came out of heaven”. This is a remarkable scene, involving three divine Persons, the Father’s delight expressed in Christ, and the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ as Man, the perfect expression of all that God looked for in man. Luke says of the Lord, “having been baptised and praying”. This was the time of John’s baptism of repentance, not that there was anything in Jesus that needed repentance, but in a lowly way He identifies Himself with a repenting people.
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came upon a company that was marked by prayer. It says in Acts 1: 14, “These gave themselves all with one accord to continual prayer”, and it was upon such a company that the Spirit came, a company that was in accord with divine thoughts, a company of persons who were like Christ, the fruit of His work.
We read in Luke 11. This section begins with the disciples asking, “Lord, teach us to pray”, v 1. The Lord summarises this instruction in verse 13 with His word as to the readiness of the Father to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. He speaks of “the Father who is of heaven”, suggesting that the Father’s character is “of heaven”, the heavenly Father, One who is ready to dispense blessing. The Lord is encouraging the disciples to ask the Father for the greatest blessings. He is suggesting here that the greatest blessing that could be given to men is the gift of the Holy Spirit. We know how ready parents are to give gifts to their children. The Lord uses this as an illustration of the Father's readiness to “give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him”.
The Scriptures speak of various ways that the gift of the Spirit is known by persons: those who obey the glad tidings (Acts 5); those who were hearing the word (Acts 11); also to those who have faith (Gal 3); but in Luke 11 the Spirit is given on the basis of prayer. There is that longing for, and the feeling of the need of, divine power. Our brother referred to Caleb and to Achsah, Caleb’s daughter. It says she asked for “springs of water”, Josh 15: 19. We could say she felt the need of divine power. She had been given a heavenly inheritance: “for thou hast given me a southern land; give me also springs of water”. She was an example of one who felt the need of the Spirit, the power to enjoy divine things. We have been given the greatest things, we have them by faith, but then we need the power of the Spirit to enjoy them. “Then he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs”. The “lower springs” are often connected with the Holy Spirit in Romans 8, the power we need that our walk here might be according to the divine pleasure, that we might “not walk according to flesh but according to Spirit”, (v 4); and then, “the Spirit life on account of righteousness”, v 10. Righteousness is a feature to be seen in believers. That can only be through the power of the Spirit.
The Spirit is also spoken of in the epistle to the Ephesians. Paul bowed his knees to the Father that the saints might “be strengthened with power by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3: 16), so that we might know the greatness of the divine realm, the greatness of divine thoughts and divine love, that we might have the capacity to appreciate the greatness of divine thoughts and be responsive in that heavenly realm. I think that is what the “upper springs” refer to. It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit that the heavenly realm can be appreciated and known. How necessary is this feature of prayer! May we be maintained on this line of asking that the Lord spoke of to His disciples.
We read in Philippians of “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”. How much Paul had suffered in Philippi, but he overcame “through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”. I was impressed by the way Paul puts those two things together. Paul valued the prayers of the saints. In most of the epistles he asks the saints to pray for him. He felt the need of the support of the prayers of the saints. There is also the answer to the prayer in the supply, “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”. What an infinite supply, the Spirit of that Man, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, referring to the order of Man that was here for God’s pleasure. What a blessing to draw from that supply! Our brother spoke of the resources available to us, and Paul knew what that was. We see in Acts 16 how Paul was marked by the Spirit of Christ. When he was suffering, he and Silas “in praying, were praising God with singing”, v 25. He was thinking of the blessing of those who persecuted him; that is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. No matter how difficult the testing, or how difficult the situation we may be in, there is power in this supply to be an overcomer, “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”, and it is connected too with “your supplication”. They were praying for him, earnestly praying for Paul, and it says that the preaching of those who were seeking “to arouse tribulation” for him would turn out “to salvation” for him through this supply; so may we be helped as drawing from the “supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”! It is seen specially in time of testing. Stephen too is a model for believers in the way he was marked by the Spirit of Christ in suffering, praying for his persecutors.
Then Jude refers to “praying in the Holy Spirit”, that particular character of prayer, prayer in the power of the Spirit. Jude is writing about a very dark day. He says first of all he meant to write as to “our common salvation” (v 3), and I think that this verse that we read would describe what that “common salvation” is, what we enjoy with one another. “Beloved, using all diligence to write to you of our common salvation, I have been obliged to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”. That was because of what had come in in the way of apostasy, but in this dark day, as we are in now, he turns to them here in verse 20 and says, “But ye, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith”. He speaks of the value of what we have through one another in the way of building up and edification, “building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit”. That would be a prayer that was in freshness, not marked by mere formality, but prayer in accord with what the Spirit is doing, as John says in his epistle, praying according to the will of God, 1 John 5: 14,15. That kind of prayer is heard. That would be a similar thought here, “praying in the Holy Spirit”. That character of prayer, I think, is particularly appreciated by God, “praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God”. That is a service we can render to one another, helping to keep one another in the enjoyment of the greatest things, things that belong to God’s love and to divine purpose, and then, “awaiting”; that is the character of the present time. It is the time of waiting, “awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life”.
I have been impressed with these references to the spirit of dependence and the Holy Spirit’s power. This dispensation is characterised by the indwelling Spirit. Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, suggesting the abundance that there is in the Spirit. It is available to us. There is room for the Spirit as we are maintained in this dependent and lowly attitude, making way for divine power.
So may we be encouraged for His Name’s sake!
Word in a Ministry Meeting, Dundee
15th March 2016