True Praying in the Holy Spirit (1)
By G. H. C. Macgregor
"I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication." --- Zech. 12:10.
In our inquiry into the relation of the Holy Spirit to the prayers of believers, the first thing we have to deal with is a definite DIVINE PROMISE. The verse quoted above reveals to us that the man who looks for and relies on the help of the Holy Spirit in his prayers, has behind him a definite Divine Word. God promised of old that He would give to His people His Holy Spirit to enable them to pray according to His will. The terms of the promise are most remarkable. Speaking by the prophet, God said: "It shall come to pass in those days, that I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication." This was a promise given in Old Testament times for fulfillment in New Testament times. No doubt there will be a literal fulfillment of it in the day when Israel shall turn unto the Lord; but the example of Peter in dealing with the prophecy of Joel warrants us in applying these words to the day of Pentecost, and to New Testament times generally (Acts 2:16-21).
This promise, therefore, is ours. We have a right claim it, and to make it the measure of our expectation. But when we do this, its richness staggers us. We are like beggars coming on a hidden treasure. We are amazed at the extent of our riches. For see what this promise means.
It is the promise of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace. God sends His Spirit to His people as a token of His love. He is given in God's grace to be the revealer of God's grace to the soul. He comes forth from the Father to dwell in the child's heart, that He may reveal to the child the glory of the Father. And the glory He reveals is the glory of love. As we listen to His voice, we hear Him say, "The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exod. 34:6). He reveals to us God as reconciled in Jesus Christ, and sheds His love abroad in our hearts.
Nor is this all. Having revealed to us the love of God, He proceeds to awaken within our hearts as intense love to God. As the Spirit of grace He is the Author of grace in us. He causes us to delight in God, and fills us with longing for fellowship with God. Then He assures us of our Heavenly Father's favor, and gives us access into His presence (Eph. 2:18).
This, then, is part of our promise. Shall we not as we read claim it, and turn it into prayer, ---
"Come, Holy Spirit, come;
Let Thy bright beams arise;
Dispel the darkness from our minds,
And open all our eyes.
"Convince us of our sin;
Then lead to Jesus' blood,
And to our wondering view reveal
The secret love of God."
This promise is the promise of the Spirit as the Spirit of supplication. What this means we can determine by the method of exclusion. When the Spirit is called the Spirit of supplication, it cannot mean that He prays for Himself, for such a supposition is inconsistent with His absolute Deity. Nor can it mean that in His own person He prays for us, for that is the priestly work of Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. It can only mean that He prays in us, assisting us in prayer, helping our infirmities, so as to make our prayers acceptable and prevailing before God.
That this is the true meaning of the phrase is further shown by the word here use for "supplications." It is a word used of prayers for mercy and for deliverance. The supplications here referred to are literally appeals to that God whom the Spirit of grace has revealed as a God of love.
The first work of the Spirit as the Spirit of supplication is to fill us with the desire for prayer. He dwells in the child's heart to fill him with longing for intercourse with the Father. By His power all that natural aversion and disinclination to prayer, which is such a hindrance to spiritual progress, is removed. He brings us into and keeps us in a frame of mind in which prayer is not only possible but also delightful. He delivers us, if we yield to His working, from that awful feeling of "cannot be bothered," of which so many Christians complain. He fills the heart so full of thankfulness that its natural outcome is praise. As He does His gracious work within us, we go to our closets with a holy joy, saying: "I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise unto my God while I have my being. My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be gad in the Lord" (Ps. 104:33, 34).
Having filled us with the desire to pray, the Spirit of supplication next gives us power to pray. He actually strengthens us in the act of praying that we may make our requests known unto God. How He does this will be explained in future chapters. He gives us words; He voices our needs and our desires. The words He gives us may be broken words--in some cases they may be the groanings of an overburdened soul--but they are the words needful to discover to the Father the necessity of the child.
Now all this is included in God's promise to His people. This help in the act of praying we may confidently look for.
This promise is a promise of the Spirit "poured out." These words which tell us of the manner in which God promises to bestow His Spirit on His people should not pass without notice. There are several phrases used in the Bible to indicate God's manner of bestowing the Spirit, and none of them is without significance. In some places God is said to give His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13); in some places to send His Holy Spirit (John 14:26); and in some others to minister His Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:5). But in the verses before us, and in several other verses, God is said to pour out His Holy Spirit. Now wherever this phrase is used, it is implied that the Spirit is given in plentiful measure. The words "pour out" always speak of Divine bounty. The Spirit who is promised to believers to help them to pray is the Spirit "poured out richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Tit. 3:6, R.V.).
Further, the words "pour out " speak of Divine power. When this phrase is used, it is implied that there is some work to be done which calls for Divine power, and it is implied that the power put forth will actually accomplish it.
This, then, in all its fullness, is the Divine promise, which is the first thing we have to deal with in studying the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Is there not infinite encouragement in it? Difficult as is real prayer, it is assuredly not impossible. The Spirit will help our infirmities. God has promised this. Faithful is He who has promised, who will also do it. Let us claim the promise, let us rely on the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and let us increasingly give ourselves to prayer.