Our Rich Liturgical Heritage
God the Holy Spirit
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
There are many references to God the Holy Spirit in our liturgies that remind us of how fortunate we are to know the triune God. Five from Morning Prayer combine to show us that the supernatural work of our Lord’s conception: conceived by the Holy Spirit, continues in the lives of believers revitalising us more and more as we seek to live for him.
The first comes in the absolution. Following the declaration to God’s repentant people, of the forgiveness of their sins the minister prays: therefore let us ask him to grant to us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that we may please him, and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy. God’s forgiveness is always dependant on our repentance. Our repentance will be evidenced by our continuing desire to change our ways. This change is possible because of the Holy Spirit’s ministry within us. We are not alone in our discipleship, nor are we powerless to make changes in the direction of obedience.
A second is found in the Apostle’s creed: I believe in the Holy Spirit. Belief in the Holy Spirit is confirmed in our daily experience. He always convicts us of sin and points us to Jesus as our Saviour. Our objective belief in the third person of the Godhead is based upon Scripture and subjectively proven by us as we wage war against our own sins. In this way the Christlike fruits of the Spirit blossom in and among us.
The next is found in the last of the six verses and responses from the Psalms. This request is from Psalm 51:10-11 and runs: Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew us by your Holy Spirit. The believer will never be content with forgiveness alone. As marvellous as this is we will always be seeking a new and clean heart. This renewal can never come from our efforts alone. But God the Holy Spirit will do an ‘inside job’, so to speak, transforming our self-centred, impure motivations into God focussed affections.
The fourth, so appropriate at the time of the coronation of Charles the III has the petition: and so replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that he may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way [BCP]. Here is a model way to pray for others, Monarchs, Prime Ministers and citizens alike. Strictly speaking this petition is for believers, as replenish would suggest. But since we are bound by the apostles Peter and Paul to pray for leaders, believers or not, here is a prayer that the Holy Spirit might incline their hearts to respond to the Lordship of Jesus. God’s desire is that all might be saved through trusting Jesus, and that the surest way for any leader to fulfill their ministry of governing is to walk in God’s way. Praying citizens do more good for the nation than they can ever imagine. As a healthy by-product we will be kept from our national pastimes of grumbling about and expecting far too much from governments.
‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore’ reminds us that we are never alone as we leave our time of worship to serve God in our daily work, families and communities. Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit is totally dependent on God’s loving grace to us in Christ. Joyful obedience and willing service come through the person of the Holy Spirit who dwells within all who have turned to Christ. Our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is strengthened and enriched, as we bear one-another’s burdens, exercise the Spirit’s gifts in sacrificial service and display the Christlike fruits of the Holy Spirit in all we do.