Sunday, May 31, 2009


"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
-Romans 8:26-27

wrote a nice post about how ex-Pentecostals are sort of wary about today's feast day, understandably so. I'm sort of wary of the Holy Spirit myself. In many churches - but especially Mormonism in which I was raised - emotional responses are generated (even manipulated) and subsequently the participants are told that that is the Holy Spirit. Ours is no exception, because "smells and bells" can be a replacement "high" for repetitive jam sessions at a strip-mall Assemblies of God congregation. This is a dangerous error to make, because once the believer's "religious high" wears off (as it invariably does) he or she must seek ever-increasing forms of religio-emotional satisfaction, whether that means upping the amount of incense in the thurible or rolling around on the floor and crying.

In my experience, the Holy Spirit often works absent of emotionally charged experiences, and his presence can only be observed in retrospect. I can look back at times in my life when "the Spirit" guided my path with an unseen - perhaps even painful - hand. I did not recognize them until much later. God tells Moses that God can only show God's backside to mortals, that is, "where God has already been." In other words, hindsight is 20/20, right?

I didn't want to go to church today, and was generally grouchy and judgmental of everything and everyone while there. So many days I "do not know how to pray as [I] ought" but mercifully the Spirit intercedes with "inexpressible groanings." I like that. To know that we are saved by our hope of salvation. Not our imperfect belief.

"O God, from whom all good doth come: Grant that by thy inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen."


Thom Curnutte said...

You nailed the tough part- getting past our emotions. A good mantra is "emotions are chemicals. emotions are chemicals."

Tamie said... know, in some churches they refer to the Holy Spirit as "She" because the word for "spirit" in Greek is actuallly feminine. The thought being that the Holy Spirit is the feminine part of God.

And yes, it does seem that God often works beyond our emotions---although for us emotional types, I think it can be really hard to move beyond the sense that we should feel a certain way if God is really working in us.

eric said...

Tamie, that is so true. I've caught myself trying to manipulate my own emotions (either purely in my mind or with candles and incense and other aesthetic "props") so that I "feel like I'm praying." Which is fine, but then they become the focus, and end up being distracting and unhelpful. Oy vey! And oh yes I like that -- She speaks through the Prophets!

Thom, that could be a helpful mantra to know!

Tamie said...

Mhm. I think we all do it, one way or another. I was just listening to James Finley talking about what it was like in the monastery with Thomas Merton and he says that one time Merton said, "The problem in this monastery is there are too many men in here who want so badly to be holy men." Indeed! Even in a monastery! Too many monks parading around, posturing, trying to be (and feel!) holy.

I guess we can take comfort from the fact that even monks, who have dedicated their whole lives to God, struggle with the same stuff.

Thom Curnutte said...

We jyst always make the distincting between aids to prayer, and praying to the aids, or feeling helpless without them. I mean, look at my home altar- and that was without the incense! What can I say, it helps me. But I can just as easily say my offices in my car on a break at work, which I do frequently.

Thom Curnutte said...

*must always

Thom Curnutte said...


Good heavens.