Or do we? How often do we use the word “implore” anymore? “Implore” seems to fall into a category with ideas like “appeal”, “beg”, “petition”, — all of which suggest that the implorer/appellant/ beggar/petitioner is empty, desolate, impotent.
Perhaps a more popular translation might be phrased: “We Currently Requisition God…” As a society we’re not very comfortable with the idea of beggarliness. We favor terms like “empowerment”, “leverage”, “human potential” — anything that implies that we have some sort of bargaining power that will win another’s favor.
It’s not surprising that this is the case in our convenience-oriented society. Speed, ease, and efficiency are the key words for many. I have friends who tend to think that anybody who’s somebody must have an e-mail address. If you don’t have one — if you don’t even know what e-mail is — don’t feel bad. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have one either. And He gets along just fine without it.
Beware Of Obstacles
But how well do we do without the Holy Spirit? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the heart of true fellowship with God. The Corinthians were told that, while His gifts are many, His primary gift is the creation of true faith: “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Conversely, He is described to the Romans as “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15). In other words, He makes both input (knowledge of the Lord) and output (the gift of prayer) possible for us.
Clearly then it is of interest to us to receive the Holy Spirit. But that is where we must beware of obstacles to His coming — obstacles that are fundamental to human nature. The book of Acts gives us an example in the case of Simon (chapter 8:9-15).
Simon was known as “The Sorcerer” because he had astonished the people of Samaria with his black arts. When Philip arrived in town, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and verifying his testimony of Christ with miracles and signs, Simon believed, and was even baptized.
But a little while later the apostles arrived and laid their hands on the new believers in apostolic blessing. The Holy Spirit came on the Samaritan church, evidently with some visible manifestation, perhaps as on Pentecost.
At this point Simon’s blacker instincts took control. He saw the power of the Holy Spirit as an opportunity to increase his influence with the people (and most likely the size of his bank account). He approached the apostles, cash in hand, saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”
The response could hardly be called a “polite refusal”: “Your money perish with you, because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money…” The case of Simon is a crass example, but in its finer forms such a rejection from the Lord comes to all those who suppose they either merit the graces of the Holy spirit, or desire them for less than God-glorifying purposes.
Which brings us back to the question of praying for the Holy Spirit. The word bitten in the original wording of Luther’s hymn (TLH 231) means “ask”, “beg”, and yes, “implore”. The coming and working of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the nature of the kingdom of Grace — a kingdom where spiritual beggars, appealing to God for mere morsels of mercy, are stunned to find themselves heirs of the whole kingdom instead.
The Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to all who come to this conviction that we have nothing — nothing but Christ, whose righteousness alone justifies us before God. For that reason we often will want to test our thoughts and goals for their true motives: a pastor, for instance, does well to take a moment to consider whether he prepares his words to win the admiration of his listeners, or to convict sinful hearts and edify the penitent with the gospel. A church member will consider: does he or she interact with fellow members with the mind of a helpless one who has been helped by God, or are stubbornness or pettiness allowed to quench the Spirit?
At roughly the same time as Simon’s attempt to play “Let’s Make A Deal” for the Holy Spirit, there was another man, astonished, waiting, blinded by a heavenly light. Saul had reason to be afraid, since until now he had violently opposed the doctrine of Jesus as the Christ. He had once considered himself a Pharisee’s Pharisee; now he was the poorest of the poor. He could only pray that the Lord be merciful to him.
There was a knock at the door. A man was led into Saul’s room. He came with only words, and a gift: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be fulled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).
Shine in our heart, O most precious Light,
That we Jesus Christ may know aright,
Clinging to our Savior, whose blood has brought us
Who again to our homeland hath bro’t us.
Lord, have mercy! (TLH 231:2)