November 22, 1994
An Edmonton community newspaper ran this “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” in its classified section: “...You who makes me see everything and... shows me the way to reach my ideals... and who can give me the divine gift to forgive and forget all that is done to me... You who are in all the instances of my life with me... I want to thank You... and to confirm once more, I never want to be separate from You no matter how great the material desires... I want to be with You and my loved ones.”
The ad went on to say if a person prayed this for three consecutive days without asking for their wish, after the third day, their wish would be granted, no matter how difficult it was. They must also promise to publish this as soon as the favor was granted.
Whoever wrote this prayer recognizes the Holy Spirit has the ability to help them understand. They also recognize the Spirit of God gives the ability to forgive, is with them, and to be thanked. The Bible affirms these things.
The author also seems to believe they cannot tell the Spirit what to do directly, but if they pledge some sort of allegiance and offer this prayer, He will do what they want Him to do.
In this regard, this prayer does not match what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit or about prayer. One point about His role; it is not to show us how to reach our ideals but point us to Christ and help us reach His goal for us.
Second, while the Holy Spirit does help us forgive, biblical forgiveness is not forgetting. Rather, forgiveness means choosing not to hold anything against those who wrong us. God forgives our sins and in a metaphorical sense says He remembers them no more yet it is utterly impossible to conceive of the God of the Bible having no knowledge about anything. He “remembers no more” in the sense that when Christ died, all our sins were put on Him. He paid the penalty for them. Once we accept that for ourselves, He then has grounds to never hold our sins against us. We are set free from His judgment of sin.
Third, any who know God find the struggle is not between material desires and being with the Spirit. Jesus guaranteed the Spirit’s abiding presence when He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” Instead, our struggle is between our sinful, selfish desires and what the Spirit wants us to do. We need His help to say no to sin and yes to Him.
Another role of the Holy Spirit is to teach us to pray when we do not know what to say. Since He is “the Spirit of truth,” those prayers will not contradict what God says elsewhere. In a prayer like this, an incantation or formula has been devised to convince God to do whatever the praying person wants. However, no matter how we pray or how often, God is powerful and wise. Our selfish purposes will not prevail over the good He desires for us. Prayers such as these test the Almighty.
In other words, expecting the Spirit to “grant wishes no matter how difficult they may be” usually have nothing to do with being righteous and following the will of God. When Jesus was encountered by a similar notion that offered personal gain in exchange for His homage, He said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”
People who want to follow God can learn how God operates and know what kinds of prayers He wants us to pray. A good place to start is by examining the prayers of Scripture, not those placed in an ad in a newspaper.