Welcoming the Spirit

I have heard a number of people speak recently of the importance of “welcoming” or “inviting” the Holy Spirit to meetings. It is a phrase I am reluctant to use as I think it is open to misunderstanding.

It can sound as though it is for the Holy Spirit’s benefit, as though he needed some kind of permission from us to come to church, or that he was reluctant to come and needed a bit of persuasion. However, even though I have occasionally heard people “giving God permission” to do things, I don’t think this is what is generally meant by “welcoming” or “inviting” the Spirit.

The concept rather should be for our benefit. We need to remind ourselves of the reality of the presence of God, and Jesus’ promise to be with us when we meet together. He wants to meet with us, to bless and encourage, to correct and instruct through his word and by his Spirit. If we are to experience all he has to offer us, we need to cultivate an attitude of expectancy and openness. If those who lead meetings can in some way can say something to promote this attitude, then it is a good thing.

5 thoughts on “Welcoming the Spirit

  1. Many traditions include the concept of ‘invoking the Spirit’. The orthodox call it the ‘epiklesis’ (the calling down) and in latin one has the ‘veni creator Spiritus’ (come life-giving/creator Spirit).

    Although God is ‘in all and through all’ there is also the mystery of how he becomes personally ‘immanent’ with his people via his Spirit in reponse to their relationship with him.

    This is, perhaps, one of those liturgical areas which was ‘lost’ within the more simplistic reformed ecclesiology and which we see ‘restored’ within the newer ‘charismatic’ churches (and which was always there within the more traditional liturgies!!).


  2. I’m not against the concept of ‘invoking the Spirit’ per se – it is a powerful way of expressing our need for God, and our hunger to experience his presence. Some noncharismatic evangelicals I know would be very opposed to asking the Spirit to ‘come’ because he already came once for all on the day of Pentecost.

    Liturgical elements such as invoking the Spirit can in my view be a help or a hinderance. Where it becomes a magical or even superstitious phrase that is simply said at the start of a meeting because thats what you do, then I doubt it achieves anything. But if we can say it in a meaningful way that gives expression to our corporate hunger for the immanence of the Spirit, then it will prove helpful.

    If this is to become a charismatic liturgical element, then I would want it to be at least sometimes explained, and often expressed in a fresh way (and even sometimes left unsaid but assumed). Interestingly, it is already a recurring theme in charismatic songs and one of the most commonly heard sentiments in a prayer meeting that precedes a worship service.

  3. I was thinking today that basically we all ‘do’ liturgy – it’s just whether:

    a) We acknowledge this fact!
    b) It’s a ‘good liturgy’ (i.e. biblical)
    c) Involves ‘folk/osmosed theology’ or is explained and understood

    My experience (only last Sunday in fact) of local parish church anglicanism in my village was one of almost robotic, meaningless recitation of words which had immense meaning for me as I reflected on them. Perhaps within many churches things are just ‘said’ because that is what we ‘say’ – so called ‘folk theology’ – and our task (as those who have a degree of understanding?) is to teach and train and encourage deeper understanding of the truth behind the ‘words’?

    Within all liturgy there will be the danger of ‘magic/idolatry’ as some expect certain words to carry certain ‘effect’. But as so many people have said, the response to abuse must not be disuse, but proper use.

    Interestingly I’ve been doing some thinking about worship and liturgy. I was pondering the German word for it (Gottesdienst) whilst walking around Guildford Cathedral thinking, ‘?Service of God?’ and then noticed a sign saying that the ‘Divine Service’ was said in such-and-such place within the building. Then the penny dropped…

    Divine Service = Divine Liturgy = ‘Service’ (as in morning or afternoon church service)

    Thus the sense of ‘what we do in response to God’.

    Within this understanding our whole lives become caught up in God’s ‘service’ (Romans 12 – our ‘reasonable act of worship’) as a demonstration of his ‘worthy-ship’.

    Liturgy, thus, certainly includes all that we do whilst ‘at church’ (and not just the singing) but spills into our lives…’send us out in your power to live and work to your praise and glory’.

    Now….how to articulate this in song, prayer and exhortation whilst explaining it’s meaning and avoiding the pitfalls of ‘vain repetition’ or ‘magical idolatory’? Surely this is a challenge for the modern church!


  4. Dan, I read your article. I totally believe we ought to be hungry for more of the Spirit. My point was simply that we should acknowledge the sovereignty of the God to do as he pleases, rather than talking as though we control him.

    When we “invite” the Holy Spirit do we mean
    “Please come and do what you want to in us”
    “I command you to come and do what I want you to”

    Thankfully he is more than willing to meet with those who earnestly desire him. What we need is a genuine yearning in our hearts for more of the Spirit, not just an extra sentence we say at meetings.

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