6th Sunday of Easter. May 14, 2023.
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1Pet 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
We prayed the Holy Rosary frequently while growing up in my family. I never really understood then why we began the Rosary prayers with the following invocation to the Holy Spirit:
“Come, Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Sprit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”
Why invoke the Holy Spirit to help us to pray prayers that we had already memorized? I mean, many of us could recite the Rosary prayers and mysteries half-asleep! Was the Holy Spirit being invoked to help us keep awake during the praying of the Rosary?
I found the answer much later in life when I came across this hope-filled passage, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”(Rom 8:26)
Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we cannot pray as we should. Our prayers are much more than the rituals we perform, the prayers we memorize, or the daily devotionals we do. It is more than attending the Novus Ordo or the Traditional Latin Mass. All these, essential as they all are, must also be avenues where the Spirit prays in us and through us. On our own, without the aid of the Spirit inspiring and sustaining our prayers, our prayers are useless.
How does the Spirit help us to pray as we should?
Firstly, the Holy Spirit leads us to pray to God as our loving Father. In the words of St. Paul, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5)
When the Spirit inspires our prayer, we pray to God primarily out of love for Him as His beloved children. Our prayer is primarily relational and not primarily to get Him to do things for us. We express our love and confidence in Him through our prayers. We speak to Him from our hearts without fear of being ignored or rejected. We do not try to hide anything from Him.
Spirit-guided prayer does not have room for worry and anxiety because we know that God will provide for all our needs. We are aware of His abiding presence with us all the time. We can also accept God’s silence when we pray because we know that He always hears us even if He does not give us what we expect from Him.
The Spirit inspires in us an unconditional love for God. We come to Him in our sinfulness and brokenness and not hide from Him in shame like our First Parents Adam and Eve. We are not afraid of failures or making mistakes in His service because we do not see Him as a taskmaster but a loving Father.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit brings us to submit to Jesus as the Lord of our lives. In the words of St. Paul, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1Cor 12:3)
When we allow the Spirit to guide our prayers, we begin to surrender to Jesus and to follow in His footsteps. We listen attentively to His will because we want to keep His commandments out of love for Him, “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’” (Jn 14:15) This firm resolve to do the will of God at all cost is a sure sign that His Spirit is alive and praying in us.
Spirit-inspired prayer is not sentimental, focused on our feelings and desires only. It is not a prayer that is focused on our consciousness or spiritual insights. On the contrary, we begin to seek for the will of God no matter how we may be feeling about it. We want to do the will of God with His grace and for His own sake alone.
The Spirit also prays in us in a way that we also begin to follow Jesus in His suffering and pains. We begin to do and endure all things out of love for Him,“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”(1Pet 2:21) Such prayer helps us to face and overcome our fear of suffering.
Thirdly, our prayer makes us more docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:27)
When the Spirit prays in us, we begin to sense the will of God for us and those that we are interceding for. We are not blinded by our desires or the needs of others. We can pray and accept whatever God gives us because we see His will for us in all things. We do not give up on prayer or doubt its efficacy because our prayers have not been answered the way that we want.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we do not pray as we should, we cannot live as we should. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray as we should so that there is a life-giving harmony between our prayers and our daily life. Without this help of the Spirit, we can pray well and even fervently and still be mediocre in our spiritual lives, lacking true freedom that the Spirit alone brings. This is why scandals and hypocrisy abound when the Spirit is not present and active.
This is why Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth whom the world cannot accept.” There is nothing in the world that can sustain us in life-transforming prayer if we are devoid of the Spirit or resisting His actions in our lives. We must first pray in the truth that God is our Loving Father, Jesus is our sovereign Lord, and the Holy Spirit is our guide in all our choices.
Let us first remove the obstacles to the Spirit’s actions in our lives. The most important obstacles to His action are unrepented sins, lies, and that self-sufficient attitude that pretends we can pray on our own without the aid of the Spirit. Then let us fervently invoke the Spirit in our prayers and we will begin to pray as we should and also live as we should.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!