Appreciating Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost means “the fiftieth day” and each it is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday. That’s this Sunday! “Dear Holy Spirit, blow on us and breathe in us like a refreshing wind.”

Unfortunately, for many of us who are not part of a Christian liturgical tradition Pentecost Sunday may come and go without us even realizing it. In the same way perhaps we neglect the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate on Pentecost — yet, he is part of the Trinity! And Pentecost is one of the big three on the Church calendar, following Advent and Easter.

Perhaps we miss the Holy Spirit because he’s the shy one, always putting the spotlight on the other members of the Trinity. Continually he prays, “Abba Father we love you!” and “Jesus is the Lord!” (my paraphrases from Gal. 4:6 and 1 Cor. 12:3). Some of us are hesitant about the Holy Spirit, perhaps he seems mystical or strange because the behavior of a few “Spirit-Filled” Christians has turned us off.

The Gift of the Father

But the reality is that the Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father to us. Recall Jesus saying, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [Strengthener] to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth… [He] will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:16-17, 26) What a blessing! The Holy Spirit is with us, helping/empowering us, guiding us into truth, and reminding us of Jesus’ words.

The Holy Spirit is “the Breath of God within us,” according to Henri Nouwen. He writes:

When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we speak about the breath of God, breathing in us.  The Greek word for “spirit” is pneuma, which means “breath.” We are seldom aware of our breathing. It is so essential for life that we only think about it when something is wrong with it.

The Spirit of God is like our breath. God’s spirit is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. We might not often be aware of it, but without it we cannot live a “spiritual life.”  It is the Holy Spirit of God who prays in us, who offers us the gifts of love, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, peace, and joy. It is the Holy Spirit who offers us the life that death cannot destroy. Let us always pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, come.” (Daily Meditation by Henri Nouwen, May 18, 2014)

Holy Spirit is a Divine Person

My friend Joe Johnson reminds us that Holy Spirit is a divine person so it’s important to relate to him as a person, not an “it.” To do that it’s good to recognize his name! We can call him “Holy Spirit”, dropping “the” from before his name as I did in the last sentence. I like to call him “Parakletos,” which is related to the Greek word “Paraklete,” which our Bibles translate “Advocate”, “Comforter”, or as I paraphrased above, “Strengthener”.

We can pray to the Holy Spirit, just as we pray to God as Father or to Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s traditional to pray to the Father, in Jesus’ name, and by the Holy Spirit, but the three are one and the one are three so when we pray to one it gets to the other two!

A Breath Prayer

To connect with Paracletos, join in with his praying, and honor him on Pentecost or any day you could pray Galatians 5-25 as a Breath Prayer in this way:

  • As you breathe in, pray, “I live by Paracletos…”
  • As you breathe out, pray, “I keep in step with Paracletos.”

If you spend a few minutes practicing deep breathing and praying in this way you’ll be amazed at how refreshing and healing it is. It’s easy then to return to the prayer as you go on with your day.

More Breath Prayers

To pray a short verse or paraphrase of Scripture as a Breath Prayer is refreshing and empowering. It helps you learn to practice God’s presence all day and stay in tune with the peace of Christ. I’ve selected key verses of Scripture and developed step-by-step instructions for meditation, breathing rhythms, and prayer in “Breath Prayer Guides.”


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