Praying for the Holy Spirit

As we were singing in worship this morning, that old hymn by Edwin Hatch “Breathe on me Breath of God” – I could not help but think back to the words of the Puritan John Owen regarding our need to pray for the Holy Spirit. This hymn fills just such a role – but I hope none of us stop at that, but pray continually for the Spirit’s work in our hearts and lives. On that subject, Owen wrote this:
“We are taught in an especial manner to pray that God would give his Holy Spirit unto us, that through his aid and assistance we may live unto God in that holy obedience which he requires at our hands, Luke 11:9–13. Our Saviour, enjoining an importunity in our supplications, verses 9, 10, and giving us encouragement that we shall succeed in our requests, verses 11, 12, makes the subject-matter of them to be the Holy Spirit: “Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,” verse 13; which in the other evangelist is “good things,” Matt. 7:11, because he is the author of them all in us and to us, nor doth God bestow any good thing on us but by his Spirit. Hence, the promise of bestowing the Spirit is accompanied with a prescription of duty unto us, that we should ask him or pray for him; which is included in every promise where his sending, giving, or bestowing is mentioned. He, therefore, is the great subject-matter of all our prayers. And that signal promise of our blessed Saviour, to send him as a comforter, to abide with us for ever, is a directory for the prayers of the church in all generations. Nor is there any church in the world fallen under such a total degeneracy but that, in their public offices, there are testimonies of their ancient faith and practice, in praying for the coming of the Spirit unto them, according to this promise of Christ. And therefore our apostle, in all his most solemn prayers for the churches in his days, makes this the chief petition of them, that God would give unto them, and increase in them, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, with the Spirit himself, for sundry especial effects and operations whereof they stood in need, Eph. 1:17, 3:16; Col. 2:2. And this is a full conviction of what importance the consideration of the Spirit of God and his work is unto us. We must deal in this matter with that confidence which the truth instructs us unto, and therefore say, that he who prayeth not constantly and diligently for the Spirit of God, that he may be made partaker of him for the ends for which he is promised, is a stranger from Christ and his gospel. This we are to attend unto, as that whereon our eternal happiness doth depend. God knows our state and condition, and we may better learn our wants from his prescription of what we ought to pray for than from our sense and experience; for we are in the dark unto our own spiritual concerns, through the power of our corruptions and temptations, and “know not what we should pray for as we ought,” Rom. 8:26. But our heavenly Father knows perfectly what we stand in need of; and, therefore, whatever be our present apprehensions concerning ourselves, which are to be examined by the word, our prayers are to be regulated by what God hath enjoined us to ask and what he hath promised to bestow.”
Owen, John. The works of John Owen. (Ed.) William H. Goold. . Vol. 3. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.
2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.
4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.

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