Three Things to Ask as You Pray for the Filling of the Holy Spirit

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No matter who we are, mission can happen through us because Jesus has ascended to the Father. Because he ascended and is enthroned, all authority has been given to him. And because he ascended into heaven, he is not limited by space and time; he is everywhere, always, personally present with us. Furthermore, because he has ascended, he sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us, joining us to himself, to his authority and his presence, so that we can be his witnesses and make disciples of all nations.

Every Christian has been invited to join Christ in his mission and be involved in his Great Commission to “go make disciples.” He has called us to be his witnesses in our homes, workplaces, communities, churches, societies, cultures, and nations. What then is the mission Jesus desires to accomplish through you? What does fulfilling the Great Commission mean in your life? Where is your mission field?

We often assume that will mean doing heroic, extraordinary things for Christ. The truth is, in making disciples and being his witnesses, most of us are called to do ordinary things in ordinary places with ordinary people. We are not called, however, to do them in ordinary ways. We are called to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways! And it’s because of the ascended Christ himself, his authority and his presence, working through us, that ordinary people like us can do extraordinary things.

Jesus told the disciples that would only happen “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). So just before he ascended, he promised he would be “sending upon [them] what [his] Father promised” (Luke 24:49). And in his final instructions he told them to “stay here in the city [Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

The disciples took his instructions to heart. Their recent failures in abandoning and denying Jesus made them painfully aware of their inadequacies. So this time they did exactly what he said. After Jesus ascended, they went back to the upstairs room in Jerusalem where they were staying, and for the next ten days, along with “certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as [Jesus’] brothers,” they “constantly [devoted] themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). And then on the day of Pentecost, the ascended Christ fulfilled his promise. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon them (Acts 2:1–4).

I believe the ascended Christ wants to send the Holy Spirit upon you so that together with him you can accomplish his mission. But right now he may be calling you to do what the disciples did—to wait and devote yourself to prayer until you are endued with power from on high.

E. Stanley Jones often said that “unless the Holy Spirit fills, the human spirit fails.” Perhaps some of your recent failures in your efforts to serve Christ have made you painfully aware of that. As never before you realize that without the Holy Spirit, what Christ is calling you to do is mission impossible!

Like the disciples, then, you need to tarry and wait. You need to ask the ascended Christ to send the Holy Spirit upon you, to clothe you with power so you can be his witness and join him in his mission. If so, don’t be in a hurry. Devote yourself to prayer. Find others who will pray with you. Search your heart. As you pray, ask Jesus to increase three things in you.

Ask for a Greater Desire and Fullness

First, ask him to increase your desire for more of himself and more of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. “Before we can be filled with the Spirit,” said A. W. Tozer, “the desire to be filled must be all consuming . . . The degree of fullness in any life accords perfectly with the intensity of true desire. We have as much of God as we actually want” (A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest [Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1950], 124.) In speaking about the Spirit, Jesus himself said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me” (John 7:37). Ask the ascended Christ to make you thirsty by increasing your desire for more of the Holy Spirit.

Ask for a Deeper Surrender and Less Control

Second, ask Jesus to increase your will to surrender and give up control. Richard Neuhaus was right: “It is our determination to be independent by being in control that makes us unavailable to God.” (Richard J. Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon [New York: Basic Books, 2000], 90.) In order to experience more of the Spirit’s presence in our lives, we need to surrender areas of our lives in which we are insisting on being “independent by being in control.” Where in your life does self need to be dethroned and Christ enthroned? Are there also areas of unhealed hurt and pain where you are holding on to anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness? Ask the ascended Christ, then, to empty you of anything that’s preventing the Holy Spirit from being in control. Ask him to increase your will to surrender all to him.

Ask for Increased Faith in the Promise

Third, ask Jesus to increase your faith in his promise and the heavenly Father’s promise to give you the Holy Spirit. Jesus described this promise of the Father’s when he said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). In asking him, then, to fill us with his Holy Spirit, we can be confident that the Father wants to give more than we want to receive. The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him. We don’t have to overcome his stinginess or reluctance to fill us with the Spirit—just take hold of his willingness.

And Christ the Son’s willingness too! He himself told the disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away . . . if I go I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you” (John 16:7). “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised” (Luke 24:49). It is his ascension, as we’ve already stressed, that has exalted him to the place where he joins the Father in sending the Holy Spirit. As Peter declared in his Pentecost Day sermon, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

The heart of the Father longs for you to experience the person, the power, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. And the Son, through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, has accomplished everything necessary for that to happen. Ask that your faith and confidence in the Father and Son’s promise to pour out the Spirit on you will increase. Stand upon their promises.

Devote yourself to prayer, as the disciples did. Ask the ascended Christ to send the Holy Spirit upon you so that you can join him in participating in his mission. Ask him to intensify your desire, deepen your surrender, and increase your faith. Persevere in prayer. Cry out like Jacob did as he wrestled all night with the angel, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me!” (Gen. 32:26). You can be confident that our ascended Lord will bless you if you do. He will give you the Holy Spirit. He will bless you so that, as he fulfills his mission through you, you will truly become a blessing to others.

Steve Seamands writes more about the ascension of Jesus and how this relates to everyday discipleship and mission in The Unseen Real: Life in Light of the Ascension of Jesus. In this book individuals and groups will: 1) Gain an appreciation for one of the lesser discussed dimensions of Jesus’ ministry; 2) Understand the missional implications of Jesus’ ascension in a new way; 3) Learn what the ascension means for our everyday discipleship. Get your copy from our store here. Volume discounts available.

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Dr. Stephen Seamands is professor of Christian Doctrine at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he has served since 1983. He is also the author of several books including, Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (InterVarsity Press, 2005), Give Them Christ: Preaching His Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Return (InterVarsity Press, 2012).

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