“…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” —Luke 11:13
What would God’s answer to this prayer look like? What do we miss out on from neglect of asking for the Holy Spirit from our Heavenly Father?
This invitation to ask for the Holy Spirit concludes a block of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11. Our Lord’s instruction came in response to His disciples asking Him to teach them to pray.
Jesus had been praying with His disciples present. Evidently, seeing His prayer prompted a dissatisfaction in their own prayer lives. Perhaps, it exposed a deficiency.
So they ask Jesus to teach them to pray, in essence, saying, “We want to learn to pray as You do.”
Jesus begins in Luke 11 by giving them a model for prayer, similar in form to the one He taught on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. He then illustrates persistence in prayer through a parable of a begrudging friend, concluding with the invitation, “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
In teaching on prayer, Jesus directs our attention to the God we entreat. The model prayer focuses us on the Father. The parable shocks us at God being compared to a begrudging friend, and encourages us to petition a Father who freely gives, when we persevere in asking. Jesus also assures us that what we receive from His hand is undoubtedly “good,” despite appearances to the contrary.
That means we need to regard God’s denial of a request as for our good, as that good is determined by our Heavenly Father. That puts the rejection letter from the college we so desperately wanted admission or the job that we thought just right in a whole new light.
Finally, in His teaching block, Jesus directs us to the Father in order to seek Him for something we likely never thought to ask—that He would give the Holy Spirit to us. For many of us, that is not on our wishlist.
Plus, don’t we have the Holy Spirit already as regenerate sons and daughters of God? Isn’t that Jesus’ point when He speaks in John 3 of being born again of the Spirit? Isn’t that what qualifies us as “of the Spirit” and not “of the flesh,” qualified for the kingdom of God?
Perhaps one way to approach an understanding of what Jesus is urging us to ask for is to look at those Scriptures that tie together prayer and the Holy Spirit. We can note five passages that stretch across the spectrum of the Christian life.
Mission—“And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)
Evangelism—“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,” (Acts 8:14–15)
Adoption/Prayer—“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
Spiritual Warfare—“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18)
Edification—“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 20)
It is the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ for salvation. It is the Spirit who brings to us all the blessings of salvation procured for us by Christ. It is the Spirit who actualizes God’s workmanship of grace through sanctification. It is the Spirit who makes effective our efforts for the building up of the church and expansion of the kingdom of God and His Christ.
And, it the Spirit who will make our praying like the praying of Jesus in intimacy with the living God. Isn’t that what the disciples most wanted?
The Father will grant the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. But we must ask.