"To God the Holy Spirit let us pray, For the true faith needed on our way, That He may defend us when life is ending, And from exile home we are wending, Lord have mercy!
"Transcendent Comforter in our ev'ry need, Help us neither scorn nor death to heed, That we may not falter nor courage fail us, When the foe shall taunt and assail us. Lord, have mercy!"
What petitions should we to bring before the Spirit of God? What work will the Third Person of the Trinity fulfill in our lives? One task of the Spirit is to "help us in our weakness" because "we do not know what to pray for as we ought" (Romans 8:26a). We are all too aware of our halting, stumbling petitions, and our hymn seeks to instruct us in prayer.
When Jesus' earthly work was finished, the risen Lord ascended to reign at the right hand of the Father, and Jesus' followers received the gift of the promised Holy Spirit, the Helper or Comforter, who came to dwell within us. It is the Spirit's task to convince the world of things that the world cannot and will not, on its own, acknowledge: sin, righteousness, and judgment. The Spirit came to guide Jesus' followers into all truth. The Spirit does not point to Himself, but glorifies Jesus (see John 16:7-15).
The Holy Spirit called us to faith through the Gospel, and it is only by His power that we are able to confess and proclaim that "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3). So it is only right that, in our hymn, we pray "for the true faith needed on our way." While we enjoy this created world as a gift from God, we know that we are exiles here, as "home we are wending." Like the saints of old, we acknowledge that we are "strangers and exiles on the earth" and we "desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (see Hebrews 11:13-16).
The Spirit, the Comforter, is transcendent, that is, the Spirit and the aid He provides come from outside our earth-bound experience. The comfort and hope we have is not self-help; the confidence of faith is not our own invention. On our own we would fail as we face the scorn of the world or the threat of death. Left to ourselves, we would falter and courage would fail us when "the foe shall taunt and assail us," as we know he will. The help of the transcendent Comforter is a rescue and a source of courage and strength that is not of this world! We will not falter in the face of ridicule and scorn, or stumble in faith at the approach of death, because the Spirit sustains us.
Even though faced with scorn and imprisonment, the apostles did not falter. They prayed for courage in proclaiming Jesus' death and resurrection and "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31b). That is our prayer as well, a prayer for true faith, for Spirit-given courage, and for steps that do not falter. Lord, have mercy!
THE PRAYER: Spirit of God, strengthen our faith and give us courage to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray," which is found on page 768 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. How do you sense the Holy Spirit working in your life?
2. How does the Holy Spirit defend us when life is ending?
3. Can you describe a time when you felt the Holy Spirit's comfort?
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