Lesson 18—I Recognize the Holy Spirit
Sometimes I don’t even know how to pray for a person. Sometimes what the person is going through is outside of my experience or understanding; beyond what I can imagine. It is during those times that something wonderful occurs: the Holy Spirit takes over my praying. I end up praying Scripture I’d not thought about. I end up praying for things that would not occur to me to pray for. I end up praying in a manner or depth that I wouldn’t have considered doing on my own. Because it is no longer me praying; it is the Holy Spirit praying through me.
Let me stop and be honest. The first time this happened, I was nearly overwhelmed with myself. It actually didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t me praying. Surely it must have been my hard work reading Scripture that accounted for the way I could so easily pray Bible verses. Surely it was my compassionate nature that directed the mercy I felt for those people for whom I prayed. Yup. Praise God! I surely was all that. Not.
The Lord very quickly reminded me:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).
Ah, so it wasn’t me doing that amazing praying after all? That fact is actually even cooler when you think it through. When the Holy Spirit is leading prayer it is God Himself—the Holy Spirit as one-third of the Holy Trinity—praying. God, Himself is praying to God Himself. That should give us special confidence in prayer, knowing that if God is for us, no one can be against us. (Romans 8:31)
We learned that it was a rare occasion before Jesus’ time when people were gifted with the presence of the Holy Spirit. So back to Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).
When Mary—pregnant with Jesus—arrived at Elizabeth’s home, Elizabeth’s unborn baby, John leapt for joy inside her because John, who came to prepare the way for Jesus, recognized that Jesus was there. Unborn baby John recognized the divinity of unborn baby Jesus. Elizabeth verbally acknowledged that her unborn baby recognized Jesus as Lord. When she did—wham—the Holy Spirit indwelled in Elizabeth also.
How might the presence of the Holy Spirit have led Elizabeth in her life after that point? Would she have felt empowered? Would the Holy Spirit have guided her prayer in ways she did not understand—perhaps guiding her to pray for her son’s ministry as well as for that of Jesus? In what supernatural way would the presence of the Holy Spirit in Elizabeth’s life have made a difference in her life, in her family’s life, in her world?
Personally, I may be unaware of what is happening in another person’s life, but if God is urging me to pray for that person, I can be sure He is aware of what’s going on. When the Holy Spirit urges us to pray for someone—even if we don’t know how or why—it’s a sure sign the person needs prayer. Even if that person isn’t aware of their need; God is. We don’t have to worry about how to pray or for what. We only have to recognize our responsibility to pray in intercession for that person.
When the Holy Spirit (God) uses us to pray to Him, will He not answer our prayers; since they are really His prayers in the first place? We may never see or know the answer, but we can trust that God hears our prayers; hears His prayers prayed through us and is at work. Even if the answer is ultimately “no,” the process of our approaching God in communication is a blessing of eternal consequence. It is a matter of developing a relationship between the Creator and His children.
Being led in prayer by the Spirit is one thing. Recognizing the leading of the Holy Spirit in life is sometimes harder. Often we will feel a nudge. We may get a softening or determination in our heart. We may hear God speak through Scripture. We may hear seven different people say the same thing to us in three days. We may hear God’s voice in a dream or in our mind or even in an audible form.
We sometimes second guess this leading. We sometimes argue against this leading. We sometimes totally ignore this leading. I confess I’ve responded in all those ways. I’ve learned to continually ask God to attune both my heart (emotions) and mind (intellect) to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps by continual prayer, over time we increase our ability to recognize when the Holy Spirit is at work. And then it becomes easier to jump in and be a part of whatever He is doing.
Sometimes God whacks us over the head with circumstances and people to get our attention. In Elizabeth’s case, God sent an angel to her husband. Not something easily ignored. Other times the Holy Spirit whispers. Are we able to recognize the Holy Spirit when He is whispering?
If Elizabeth were here she would say this was her story. She recognized the Holy Spirit when He came upon her. Her recognition of the Spirit’s presence is recorded in Scripture for all time.
Who are we to God? When we are able to recognize the Holy Spirit at work in and around us, or even when we can do no more than seek to recognize Him, we understand how God might see His women of faith. We can respond:
I am like Elizabeth.
For Thought and Discussion
- Was there a time when you felt the Holy Spirit leading you but you ignored that leading? What happened? Did the Spirit give you another chance or find someone else to do the work?
- Was there a time when you felt the Holy Spirit leading you and you followed? What happened?
- How might you better attune yourself to the leading of the Spirit, both in prayer and in your daily life?
PRAYER: Holy Spirit, we know you are with us each moment of each day. Forgive us when we are not able to sense your presence or worse, when we try to ignore your leading. Please help us be more sensitive to you and follow your lead today. Amen.