As I read through the second chapter of Tongue of Fire, I gain even more appreciation for the faithfulness of the disciples in those tenuous days between the ascension of Jesus and the fulfillment of the Holy Spirit. Arthur does an amazing job of imagining the stresses of the mounting anticipation in waiting for such a gift as the Holy Spirit.
What happens when you hear that something great will come to be in your life? Very eagerly, we check the mail box, talk about the possibilities with our friends, daydream, and generally drive ourselves nuts with anticipation. Imagine the emotional rollercoaster of watching Jesus leave you as His instruction to go and wait rings over and over in your ears. Restored and renewed for the work of the Kingdom, I imagine the last thing the disciples wanted to do was wait. Yet, they found themselves in an upper room, waiting on the arrival of the Promise of Jesus.
Arthur’s telling of Christ’s ascension adds a beautiful sense of completion in the Jewish story: “Now that they had seen Him pass within the veil; seen the ushering angels attend His entrance, and heard the music of their voices; they would not feel as if He had forsaken them, but as they had often felt when the High Priest passed from their view into the holiest, bearing the blood of atonement, to stand before the Presence. ‘He is out of sight, but there before the Lord.’” I love the imagery!
Here I find the basis of my reflection this week. These followers of Christ waited in the void between Jesus’ ascension and the fulfillment of the Holy Spirit. How many Christians find themselves in that void waiting on the power of the Holy Spirit?
We know Jesus. We know His purpose. We know His word. We know.
Yet, we pray as if we have no power. We feel as if we have lost the ability to pray in the Spirit (maybe a few feel as if they never have). Maybe not all the time but in one season or another, we find ourselves praying and fretting as a people overrun with anticipation. When our anticipation continues without relief it so often turns to anxiety or resentment. That’s why so many throughout Christianity have found time to do as many still do today and observe a Holy Lent. Seasons of preparation, like Lent and Advent, remind us to take time to get life into proper perspective.
This journey for me has been more about spending time in reflection on heavenly things than about knowing the power of the Holy Spirit. Just the same, I realized the need to turn away from the caustic nature of politics and strife in our culture in order to turn to prayer and study. A season given specifically for spiritual practice helps us navigate the void.
The difference between the void we find ourselves struggling through and that of the first disciples lies in the simple truth that the first disciples were without the Holy Spirit. We may not understand, know, or feel the presence of the Spirit but the words of Christ and the Acts of the Apostles makes it clear that the Presence of God dwells among us.
Arthur reminds us that, “The altar had been the patriarch’s place of prayer. The temple…had been the center to which every praying Israelite turned.” Now, through the blood of Christ, we find ourselves reconciled to God and able to commune with His Spirit because of the righteousness Jesus provides. Here, I pray, if any of you find yourselves in a spiritual void, take strength from the truth that what Jesus did for the disciples in their day, He did for us today. Spiritually, we remain citizens of the Kingdom of God. Our physical beings age, succumb to illness, disease, and brokenness and thereby can wear us down spiritually. But the offering of Christ remains.
Pray in the Spirit. Pray with power. Pray unceasingly. Pray.