Sunday 27th May 2012 – 9.30am at The Parish Centre
Rev Tim Storey – “Prayer Through God the Holy Spirit”
I have watched Star Trek since I was a boy but have never mastered speaking Klingon. But that is not a
problem as I do not think that there are many who would understand me if I suddenly lurched into
speaking it. Today we are thinking about Praying in the Spirit and about communication with God and we
have to bear in mind something fundamental about what happens when one person speaks to another:
We need to be able to decode what is being said to us.
As I am speaking to you my brain is taking my thoughts and coding them into a set of sounds
accompanied by a tone of voice a series of facial expressions and my body language. You then have to
decode it. Easy - isn't it? The code my brain has been trained to use is that of English, rather than
Klingon, which is why our brains say "Uh-oh" when people start speaking Kilingon. Because your brains,
most of them anyway, have also been trained to use English to decode the sounds I am making. Indeed,
you are sending messages back to me which my brain is decoding as he is bored, she is asleep and he
hasn't a clue what I'm talking about.
We have been talking about Prayer over the past few weeks and we have talked about Praying to the
Father, about Praying in the Name of Jesus the Son and now we say that we are Praying in the power of
the Holy Spirit. There are times when we believe that God is speaking to us and we talk about things like
Preaching, Teaching, and Prophecy and we have to get over the idea that somehow these are messages
that arrive by fax or e-mail. God speaks to His Church and the Church attempts to decode the thoughts
of God into languages we can understand.
And the world has attempted for years to find a formula so that it can magically decode messages from
God. A few years ago, there was the most ridiculous book that claimed to have found the Bible Code so
that we could read what God was saying. It claimed to be able to read messages in the original Hebrew
Text just as Enigma could read German messages in the last war. Except that the Hebrew Text is an
assimilation of books in a variety of ancient languages most of which were carried through the
generations by word of mouth. And if you want to know why there are millions and millions of books on
the Bible it is that the Bible itself needs unpacking: God didn't sit there dictating it to Moses and co. We
believe it was inspired by God and now we are getting closer to what we are looking for.
The word "inspire" means, literally, "inhale". When we talk about God-breathed scripture we are
describing the aroma of God being detected in all that we find in scripture. And it is not a whiff - it is
the distinctive smell: the purity of God we find.
So already we have talked of communication in terms of ideas in terms of being unpacked and in terms
of aromas. That is why trying to understand what God says to us is not a precise art. To introduce yet
another metaphor, it is the sailor out at Portland catching a breeze and running with it to see where it
takes him. We want God to speak just as Elijah wanted him to speak in 1 Kings 19 when he sat in a cave
waiting for God. Elijah wanted God to speak in the earthquake, the wind and the fire but God chose to
speak in the soft breeze that follows.
But what about us hearing God directly? Times when God speaks in much more subtle ways: into areas of
our lives that are nothing to do with what other people are actually saying. I remember the night I sat in
church and knew that God was calling me to be ordained. I couldn't tell you what the person preaching
that night actually said - God spoke through their words. It was the breeze on which the words were
carried that I felt in my heart. But we want to hear God's voice as clearly as we can hear the voice on
the radio oth TV.
So which language does God speak ? I said earlier that our brains code our thoughts into a set of sounds
which we call English. And those listening need to be able to decode what is being said in order to
understand it. So when God's thoughts are coded what code does He use? Often it is in English, thankfully
but sometimes God will chose to use another language. And that language which we call Tongues I would
like to think of as the Language of Heaven. When that Gift is given it is a gift that enables the Recipient
to speak to God in the language of Heaven and the Angels. It is a Gift that is used at the moment when
our brains are simply unable to cope with the enormity of God and what he means to us. Words no longer
are enough, and God gives us the capacity to communicate directly in his own language. People ask what
is the purpose of Tongues if we cannot understand what we are saying. The answer, very simply is that
God does understand and that is what matters.
The Gift of Tongues enables us to communicate at a level that we would ordinarily be completely
unable to. Some find this all too scary and I guess we can understand that. Some are sceptical but there
is a story I heard recently which I thought was helpful.
Mike Pilovachi is a speaker at New Wine and Soul Survivor and a year or so ago he came to the end of a
talk and was praying whilst people were receiving ministry from others. There was a Pastor from a
Church in Romania there who was deeply sceptical about the idea of speaking in tongues and when the
ministry started to happen, he got up and started to leave as he heard people talking gobbledygook
around him. Mike knew nothing of this and then he started to pray, talking to God in this “language of
heaven”. The Pastor stopped dead in his tracks. Mike was speaking in Romanian. Not only that, he was
saying a Romanian poem. Not only that, he was saying a poem, which was tattooed on the body of the
Pastor’s own father. Coincidence? If you want it to be. God changed that Pastor’s life that day.
There are times I cannot find the words to praise God enough. It comes in the gift of tongues. I do not
know what to pray for this person, I feel their pain so deeply and yet I do not know how to pray for them
effectively - It is there in the gift of tongues. I know God wants to give a message but I do not have the
words to bring it as succinctly as He wants use the gift of tongues.
So far, we have looked at what happens when God speaks to us. We’re thinking about Prayer and far too
often we concentrate on how we speak to God, so it is good that we start this way round, because it
enables us to ask “If God speaks to us in various ways, how does he want us to speak to him?” There are
various ways in which we do speak to him in ways which are straightforward: Through liturgy.
Through set prayers. Through lists of what we need or want. But how DO we speak to God?
In our image of a thought being coded into words, it brings into play the question as to whether there are
ways we can speak to God. And first and foremost, we need to think outside the box. We are praying to
our Heavenly Father, the eternal creator of all that is. We are praying through Jesus Christ who took the
sin of the World on the Cross and made clear the path enabling us to have a relationship with our
Heavenly Father. If we confine our prayers to using set prayers and liturgy that, in some cases, is 350
years old - Is there something wrong here?
God the Holy Spirit is the living embodiment of when Jesus said So if the Son sets you free, you will be
free indeed. John 8:36 And Paul wrote Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
Learning to pray in the Spirit brings freedom, total freedom. But beware. It means letting God the Holy
Spirit prompt us at any time of day or night to pray for someone or some situation, it means being open
to his prompting of things we need to repent of, relationships we need to repair, and issues we need to
Romans 8:26 describes it as follows: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not
know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words
So how can we do it? How can we truly pray through the Spirit? Firstly we must want to do so. God never
forces himself on people, it is up to us. Secondly, we must be ready for the cost. We are giving the Holy
Spirit the keys to our inmost thoughts. And, thirdly, it takes time. Go back to where we started.
Communication as a set of thoughts coded and decoded into a set of noises we call language.
I have two great nieces, aged 3 months and 9 months and they have both got intelligent parents who
want to communicate with them. At present, it comes out as a set of interesting noises, with little form
and no recognisable language. Over the coming years, that will change. They will learn the art of speech
and they will learn the joy of communicating and sharing their lives with their parents.
How much more does the Holy Spirit enable us to communicate at a deeply profound level if only we
want to, and if we are ready to let him do so, so that we can experience the wonders of a deepening
relationship with God, day by day by day.