Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Holy Spirit in the Prayer Books: Part 5 in the Fall 2016 issue of Anglicans for Renewal

Getting good at something means being prepared to do it over and over again, to the point of boredom and then beyond. Practice makes perfect, the saying goes. Musicians do it. Dancers, basketball players and golfers do it. Olympians do it—endlessly (as I write they are competing in Rio). Practising the faith is no exception.

Praying needs repetition. Holy Scripture requires it. Jesus told the parable of the Persistent Widow to the effect that we ought always to pray and not lose heart (Lk 18.1). Be constant in prayer (Ro 12.12), Paul adds, continuing steadfastly (Col 4.2), without ceasing (1 Thes 5.17) and at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6.18). This is exactly what our prayer books are designed to do for us. Praying the offices keeps our praying constant, continuing, ceaseless, repeatedly and in the Spirit.

Needing It

Consider this versicle (isn’t that a lovely word—like something tasty and on a stick) and response in The Book of Common Prayer, THE ORDER FOR MORNING and EVENING PRAYER DAILY THROUGHOUT THE YEAR both, for example:
O God, make clean our hearts within us; And take not thy Holy Spirit from us (p11 & 23).
Two things to note about this prayer. First, I am reminded that God can take and has taken his Spirit away from someone with whom he is displeased; King Saul for example (1 Sam 16.14). If Saul, the Lord's anointed, was capable of acting in ways that brought about such dire consequences, so am I.

Second, I need the Holy Spirit. So do you. The Prayer Books turn our need into a prayer. So I pray, earnestly, and ask God not to take the Holy Spirit from me so that he will keep me on track and warn me when I'm following too much the devices and desires of my own heart (BCP, p4 & 19).

A Prayer for the Queen’ s Majesty

King Saul needed the Holy Spirit, you and I need the Holy Spirit, so does the Queen. "Replenish her with the grace of thy Holy Spirit," we pray, "that she may alway incline to thy will, and walk in thy way: Endue her plenteously with heavenly gifts" (BCP, p12).

What is the grace of the Holy Spirit and why would Queen Elizabeth need it? Grace is God’s empowering presence to be who he made her to be and to do what he calls her to do. Queen Elizabeth has been a royal and faithful witness for God and the Church throughout her long reign. By association, we can pray the same Holy Spirit replenishment for our federal, provincial and local governments, all of whom govern on her behalf.

I like and frequently pray the alternative Prayer for the Queen and the Commonwealth that follows. Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, I can add my heartfelt “Amen!” to the prayer for those “set in authority under her; that they may order all things in wisdom, righteousness, and peace, to the honour of thy holy Name, and the good of thy Church and people.” It covers all the bases. When God’s holy Name is honoured, good things happen for the Church and all people, whoever they are and whatever they believe, whether they know it, or not.

And speaking of people…

A Prayer for the Clergy and People

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Send down upon our Bishops and Clergy, and all Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing. Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ (BCP, p13).
There it is again. The healthful Spirit of grace which empowers you along with the Bishops and Clergy to be who he made us to be and to do what he calls us to do. That healthful Spirit comes with Gifts and Fruit—Gifts which empower us to be more than we know how to be and do more than we know how to do, and Fruit for the good of all.

A Prayer for all Conditions of Men (and Women)

More especially we pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. (BCP, p14)
If we want our Church to enjoy a “good estate” it needs to be guided and governed by the good and Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will teach us all things, remind us of all that Jesus said (John 14.26), bear witness about Jesus (John 15.26) and convict us concerning sin, righteousness and judgement (John 16.8). The Holy Spirit will guide and govern us as to what’s what with Jesus.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not only, or even mainly, about spectacular manifestations of the Spirit—miracles, signs and wonders—although they can be fun and fruitful, it is about ordinary Christians (including Anglican ones) like you and me just knuckling down in worship, prayer and service to be who God made us to be and to do what he calls us to do. Day after day after day. Amen.

I write what I write in the spirit of the following:

A General Thanksgiving 

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, To whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen. (BCP, p15)

2 Corinthians 13. 14.

THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore. Amen. (BCP, p15)