Willard Cantelon quotes Yale theologian, Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his introduction to The Gift of God.
THE GIFT of GOD part five
WE KNOW NOT WHAT TO PRAY FOR AS WE SHOULD
Up until this time, religion in every demonstration and display, was dependent upon the understanding of the human mind working in chorus with the revelations of God's interaction with time and history. But in the "Pentecost" experience, a new dimension is reached. Paul confesses in his letter to the Roman church,
We know not what we should pray for as we should... (Romans 8:26)
Now the Spirit of God had been sent to "make intercession" for us. Our limitations had been transcended in this experience. Our hearts, in worship, adoration, and praise, could touch heaven. Our weary minds could be comforted and find rest as our spirit made contact in prayers and songs. Luke, who penned the story in the book of Acts, records,
...they were all together in one place (which was an upper room). Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming: and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them flames, as it were of fire. And these tongues of fire touched or rested on them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit: and they began to speak in diverse languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them new speech. (Acts 2:1-4)
As is mentioned in the prologue, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the late Sterling Professor of Oriental History at Yale University, commented that this (Pentecost) occurrence transformed the disciples. He writes, "...from discouraged, disillusioned men and women who sadly looked back upon the days when they had hoped that Jesus would become the new world leader, they were made over into a company of enthusiastic witnesses, adding to their numbers, other Jews, Romans, Greeks, Ephesians, the educated, and the slave. Like other men and women, these remained human. Yet in them burned a power and a life which came through Jesus by the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and this power worked moral and spiritual transformation within them. That power proved contagious, even as it does today.²
Few would argue that this mysterious, somewhat mystic experience has not proved contagious. From the cathedrals of Münich, where I had the privilege of teaching, to the university halls, Oxford's Debating Hall, Germany's Beethoven Hall, London's Royal Albert Hall, and in churches of many denominations, the "Glossilalia" or "Pentecost" experience has infused hearts and minds with a new spiritual vigor. At the time of this writing, many thousands of people are experiencing the Holy Spirit experience daily.
Michel Serés wrote, "Everything, even time, moves out from us in all directions. We are governed in this world, by the possible, the actual, the eternal, and the necessary."
Reading this, I meditated that in this four-walled cathedral God dwells. He dwells in the possible, the actual, the eternal, and the necessary.
Sinead O'Connor, the Irish singer, performs a song that begins, "these are perilous times." Sadly, she can point to little evidence to contradict such an outlook. This being true, we can understand the necessity for a great move of the Holy Spirit in our lifetime. In these times of peril, we truly need fresh strength in our spiritual walk. God, being the eternal God of the possible, and the God of necessity, has greeted us with this refreshing outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the actual world. He is not the God of antiquity, but the God of the here and now. ]
If I pray in a new language (tongue), my spirit prays...this is not a language known by man. For in such a prayer, one is talking to God and not to man, and Paul says, no man understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
Paul also makes it clear that his natural mind did not know what is being said when he prayed in this fashion. He explains this by saying,
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
Over the years, translators of the Pauline letters have amplified this statement from the first letter to the Corinthians , chapter 14, verse 14, in the following way:
If I pray in a new tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is without fruit. (Catholic Vulgate Translation)
If I pray in this way my spirit prays indeed, but my mind has no part in it.
If I pray in a tongue my spirit is praying, but my mind is inactive.
If I use such language in my prayer, the Spirit in me prays.
Paul knew that his own understanding (or mind) was limited when it came to truly knowing or understanding the depths and needs of his own spiritual being, let alone the things of God. He knew that in his own experience, he did not, "...know not what to pray FOR..." as he should. (Romans 8:26)
Various translators present us with this rewording of Paul's words,
The Spirit also helps us in our limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily, but the Spirit within us is actually praying.
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how we ought to pray. (New English Bible)
We cannot choose words in order to pray properly. The Spirit himself expresses our plea. (Jerusalem Bible)
For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how to pray as we should; but the Holy Spirit prays for us. (The Living Bible)
In this "glossilalia" experience, God does not search the mind to know what is prayed. God searches the heart. We read this in Paul's letter to the Roman church (8:27):
God . . . sees into the hearts. (Today's English Version)
God . . . searches our inmost being. (New English Bible)
Paul also states about his "praying in the Spirit":
My mind has no part in it. (1 Corinthians 14:14)
Paul goes on in this passage to write this marvelous statement...
...God looks past the limited mind of man, and sees the MIND OF THE SPIRIT. (1 Corinthians 14:14)
In all of the various translations, this amazing truth is made exceedingly clear.
He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit. (New International Version)
God who sees into the hearts of men, knows what the thought of the Spirit is. (Today's English Version)
The pleas expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God. (Jerusalem Bible)
What the Spirit is saying is in harmony with God's own will. (The Living Bible)
This being true, what a wonderful breakthrough such a prayer experience would bring to each of us, expanding our horizons beyond the repetitive working of our mind. Each hour that we pray in our own understanding, we express the needs and desires of our natural mind. But when we pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit accompanies us, guiding us in our prayer for needs and desires that are unaavailable to our mind.
She shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
And when Christ began his ministry, he said,
The Son of man is come to save that which is lost. To save means to rescue, to preserve from harm and destruction. (Matthew 18:11)
Jesus came not only to open the gates to eternal life and heaven, he came as God's gift to save man from destruction, even as is written in the most memorable words of John's gospel ,
God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
When Jesus spoke of heaven, he invariably spoke of hell. Conversely, whenever he spoke of eternal death, he spoke of eternal life. This was true throughout his teaching. He admonished his listeners,
Enter in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, broad is the way that leads to destruction. Many there be that go in thereat: because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13, 14)
When Christ instructed his disciples to "...go into all the world and teach the Good News,," his final command to his followers was,
Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that believes not shall be condemned. (Mark 16:15, 16)
Jesus also said,
The Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11)
It is impossible for our human mind to fully comprehend what it means for one to be lost. Describing the state of the lost, Jesus spoke of
...darkness where there will be weeping and great sorrow. (Matthew 8:12)
Jesus described the departure of an unsaved man from this world into the regions of the lost, saying,
The rich man died and was buried. In hell he was in torment....when he realized he had reached an eternal destiny from which there was no return, he pled that one would go to his father's house, and warn his brethren, so that they will not also come to this place of torment. (Luke 16:28)
The Gospel makes it clear that man can be eternally abandoned. At the heart of Christ's mission on earth, his longing was that none should be condemned to such exclusion. Yet, in our own selfish manner of thinking, we are not normally concerned about the spiritual fate of our neighbor. Humankind does not exhibit a natural state of love for the souls of others, even those who are dissolute. Such a love can only come, as Paul says,
When the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)
Paul speaks of praying in the Spirit,
...with groanings that cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
By this he refers to the work of the Holy Spirit interceding for the lost and abandoned souls of those around us. This kind of love transcends the human experience and represents one of the highest peaks of spiritual attainment.
Beyond this work of intercession and spiritual concern, the Spirit can bring us to even "love our enemies." Jesus said,
You have heard it said 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, Love your enemies as well. (Matthew 5:43,44)
None of us possess the power or ability to love those who despise us. This is contrary to every level of human personality. Such a love must be imparted to us. This is what Paul means when he writes,
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given to us. (Romans 5:5)
Paul was not theorizing about some theological ideal. As much as anyone, he could address this subject from personal experience and demonstration. To the Roman church he wrote,
I have (had) great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart for the sake of my brothers. (Romans 9:2,3)
Here he is not speaking of his fellow followers of Christ. Paul is writing about his brothers who tried to kill him in Damascus at the time of his conversion (Acts 9:23). He was alluding to those who whipped him with chains, expelled him from the city of Antioch of Pisicia, and stoned him with stones at Iconium until he was thought to be dead. (Acts 14:5-19)
Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Why do you call me good? None is good, save one, that is God. You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother.
To this answer the man responded,
All these I have kept from my youth up until this very day.
When Jesus heard these words, he said unto him,
Yet you lack one thing: Sell what you have and distribute unto the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Luke tells us that when the ruler heard what Jesus had to say, he was filled with sorrow and turned away, for he was a very wealthy man. Jesus said,
How hard it is for those that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:18-24)
Peter watched the despondent young man as he walked away, and he said to Jesus,
We have forsaken all and followed you; what shall we have therefore?
To Peter's question, Jesus answered,
Anyone who has left brothers or sisters, father, mother, or children, land or houses, for the sake of my name, will be repaid many times over and gain eternal life. (Matthew 19:27-29)
It is not the possession of money that is sin. It is as the apostle Paul said, The love of money is the root of all evil,
...which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. They that will be rich fall into the temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10)
John, the disciple, said,
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Paul writes in a similar vein to Timothy,
In the last days perilous times shall come, and men will be lovers of their own selves. They will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. Men will be without natural devotion. And there will be those that will degenerate to the condition of not even having normal affection for those around them. (2 Timothy 3:2-4)
Jesus goes perhaps even further than Paul does in his letters. He says,
You have heard it has been said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that spitefully use you. That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45)
Many who read this will remonstrate, "I cannot love my enemies. I cannot be expected to overcome the weakness of my human nature."
Others might say, "All of life's cares and concerns are pressing in around me...I cannot give myself to the reading of God's Word. Nor can I find time for prayer. "
Some might respond, "I cannot witness to the lost."
Those with wealth, as well as those with little to spare, will assert, "I can't easily give from my material goods to God's work. I can't seem to overcome the need to keep living my way."
ALL of these statements will be true. Paul describes the life of those before they were born of God's Spirit by saying,
You used to follow the (natural) ways of this world . . . following its desires and thoughts. (Ephesians 2:2, 3)
But the moment we are born "of the Spirit," the old, natural way of being is forever changed. This is not only true for a few sainted persons, but for everyone who has their heart touched by God's spirit. Paul writes,
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
And John adds,
To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (power) to become children of God. (John 1:12)
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)
For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
As the hour drew near for Jesus to return to his Father, he said to his disciples,
You now have sorrow. But I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man can take from you. (John 16:22)
He also said of what he taught them,
These things I speak in the world that you might have my joy fulfilled in your lives. (John 17:13)
The Psalmist David also wrote these poetic words,
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5, 6)
As we study the scriptures we find many passages pertaining to life's pleasures which endure for only a moment. This temporary indulgence is always contrasted with the blessings of God which are everlasting. As our hearts are remade by the working of God's Spirit, we come into a new way of understanding.
Paul not only prayed that he would know Christ in the power of his resurrection, he also prayed that he would know Christ,
...in the fellowship of his suffering. (Philippians 3:10)
Paul had a unique understanding of the significance of sacrifice as it pertained to spiritual truth. He knew that men and women could only experience the joy of resurrection power after they had "died" to their own self-interests, and the appetites and agendas of their own nature. To "...know Christ in the fellowship of his suffering" is to share the compassion of Jesus for a seemingly irreclaimable world.
Paul spoke of "...warning men night and day with tears, and praying with groanings." Uninstructed in spiritual things, one might ask, "How could such a man also write of joy?" But Paul not only declared that he had joy, he said,
My joy knows no limits. (2 Corinthians 7:4)
At a period in history that was anything but peaceful, Peter speaks of,
...being glad, with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13)
The disciples not only spoke and wrote of joy, but they emphasized this by declaring this new way to be filled "...with exceeding joy." This gladness of heart superseded external events. Suffering persecutions, imprisonment, and opposition, they were able to rejoice in Christ. Paul spoke of being,
...sorrowful and yet always rejoicing. (2 Corinthians 6:10)
Peter spoke of a exultation that was,
...inexpressible (an unexplainable) joy. (1 Peter 1:8)
To many observers, this rejoicing spirit must have seemed in direct opposition to the events that surrounded the early church. Imagine the prison warden, hearing songs of praise echoing from the damp prison cells where the Christians were being kept.
In our modern age we have similar examples of this phenomenon. In China, for instance, during some of the more oppressive political regimes, Christians were often imprisoned and persecuted for their faith. A respected journalist reported the story of a group of Christian prisoners singing and celebrating in prison to such an extent that their jailers had them released. They could not stand to keep watch on such happy prisoners.
The person without the Spirit of God cannot understand these things. Paul wrote of this to the Corinthian church,
...these things are foolishness to such a person, and they cannot understand this (joy), because it is spiritually understood. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
For good reason Jesus said,
If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God. (John 7:17)
When we put these truths into operation in our lives, we find our very quickly and effectively whether or not this is just another "self-help" program, or truly a divine promise. When prison walls can no longer keep us from singing, we will have moved past mere doctrine, into a place where we know experimentally that even in the midst of trouble and persecution, the joy of the Lord makes us rich and adds no sorrow.
On the voyage to Rome, the ship on which Paul was traveling encountered a severe tempest. When all on board despaired of reaching land, and thought they were doomed, Paul declared,
Be of good cheer. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen j ust as he told me. (Acts 27:23-25)
Before Paul left Jerusalem, he knew in his heart that he would safely reach Rome. He knew this because the Lord had stood by him in the night, and said,
As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome. (Acts 23:11)
Paul remained in a state of peace, knowing that God had a perfect plan for his life. He knew that Jesus had sent the Holy Spirit to guide him, and enable him to fulfill the ministry committed to him. In today's vernacular, we might say that Paul was "focused." He had only one goal in life. He said, This one thing I do
. . . I press toward the goal. (Philippians 3:14)
The apostle had only one burning desire. It surmounted any personal longings or wishes that he might have had. The "apostle of apostles" lived and breathed to do the will, or bidding of his Lord. The "goal" that he "pressed toward," was the perfect will of God for his life. Bounty or bonds, peace or perilous venture, it mattered not. What mattered to Paul was that he remain firmly within the center of God's purpose for his life.
Paul told his followers they could know the very same peace if they would follow his example. He said.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me . . . put in practice. And the God of peace will be with you . . . the peace that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:9, 7)
This peace that Paul enjoyed was meted to him in the same measure as was the divine love that enabled him to love his enemies. These were not human qualities. Nor were they attributes that could be obtained by merely "seeking." There was a certitude to Paul's behavior and belief. He knew by experience, not merely by theory.
The secret to his depth of peace and love was the result of Paul's having received the Spirit of God into his life. Paul wrote to the Galatians,
The fruit of the Spirit (or the nature of the Spirit) is love and joy and peace. (Galatians 5:22)
Our first step to spiritual birth is just as Christ described it to Nicodemus. It involves a dramatic change of heart, for unless we are "born of the Spirit," we cannot come into the "kingdom of heaven." Thus justified by faith, we will know the peace of God, and our lives will begin to operate, or function, within the realm of possibilities opened to us by the Holy Spirit.
Baptism in the Spirit is not just about man receiving more of God:it is about man making his life more available to God, with the Holy Spirit acting, as it were, as the administrator. The kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom of meat and drink, but it is a spiritual kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Just as one is born of the Spirit by yielding to Christ, asking for his redemptive power to transform the heart, so one comes to know the broader dimension of peace and joy and power by acknowledging the Holy Spirit.
I pray the Father He will send to you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever. He dwells with you and shall be in you. (John 14:16, 17)
We acknowledge the Holy Spirit by faith, and receive him by faith, just as we received Christ into our hearts and lives by faith. This is what Christ instructed his followers to do. To ignore the Holy Spirit and what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit would be to grieve the Spirit. There is no greater injury inflicted on an acquaintance or friend than to ignore his presence. Jesus himself extended very open recognition to the Holy Spirit as the one who empowered him, and the one he would ask his heavenly Father to send to comfort his followers.
Ananias came to Paul (who, at that time was known by his pre-conversion name, Saul of Tarsus) immediately following his conversion, and said to him,
The Lord Jesus has sent me so that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:17)
When the people in Samaria were converted under Philip's ministry, the apostles sent Peter and John to them,
...and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:17)
In Ephesus, Paul placed his hands on the new believers who had gathered, and at that moment,
... the Holy Spirit came on them. (Acts 19:6)
The disciples waited ten days in an upper room in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost had come, for the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. In every example that follows, however, the believers were baptized in the Spirit when they accepted him by faith.
Faith in the heart to believe we receive is the key. When Paul was preaching in the city of Lystra, there was a man lame from birth. We read:
Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed, and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. (Acts 14:9, 10)
Whether it is receiving salvation, the baptism of the Spirit, or healing for the body, the secret to receiving all of these blessings is faith in the heart. Many people wait for feelings to come first. The Bible makes it clear that faith comes by hearing the word of God. By acting on God's words, we receive God's gifts. The entire "testament" of the apostle's acts, their letters, and combined history, calls out to us now, "Stand up on your feet." Accept this great truth and rise up from your place of stumbling. Reach out and accept what is yours.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The thief on the cross, at the time of Christ's crucifixion, turned to Jesus, and gasped,
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (Luke 23:42)
From the cross Jesus answered,
I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Because he asked for forgiveness of his sin, the thief on the cross, who was a thief and a murderer, entered into heaven without sin. Even so, if we confess our sins, we are cleansed from all transgression. John emphasizes this great truth when he writes,
The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Just as salvation (spiritual birth) is God's gift, so is the baptism in the Spirit God's gift. Peter preached this message to thousands who listened on the day of Pentecost,
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
The disciples spent three years with Jesus, and then another ten days waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem before they were baptized in the Spirit. In contrast, the members of the household of Cornelius were reborn in Christ and baptized in the Spirit on the same day. Peter said,
God showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8, 9)
Jesus said that in the end of the age,
Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)
The last book of the Bible is known either as the Apocalypse, or the Revelation of John. On Patmos, the Greek island where the disciple was exiled, John records Christ's reproof to the church at Ephesus,
You have forsaken your first love. (Revelation 2:4)
Paul had a co-worker named Demas, who forsook him. He wrote of his former colleague,
Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world. (2 Timothy 4:10,)
Spiritual love can grow cold. Sadly, we are capable of leaving behind our first love. This is true in the natural life as well as in the spiritual existence. Keeping this warning to heart, let us never forget the important admonition found in the book of Jude:
Keep yourselves in God's love. (Jude 21)
This does not mean that we entirely possess the power to keep ourselves in Christ, but there is something we must do to retain the power that keeps us in this place of blessing and peace. Jude makes this clear when he says,
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20)
Paul wrote of days in his experience when the early believers,
...were under great pressure, far beyond their ability to endure, so that they despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
To "persevere" means to maintain a purpose, or to persist and continue steadfastly in spite of difficulty. Paul's source of strength was fixed firmly in his persevering prayer life in the Spirit. Addressing the spiritual conflicts of his day, Paul writes to the Ephesians,
We should pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and keep ourselves in this state with all perseverance. (Ephesians 6:18)
Just as faith works by this love, and such works produce good fruit. This kind of persevering prayer builds strength and keeps us in the love of God.