The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Bible Book: Acts  2 : 1-4
Subject: Prayer; Prayer Meeting; Holy Spirit and Prayer
Series: It Was Just A Prayer Meeting
[Editor's Note: All scripture in this sermon comes from the KJV of the Bible.]

Have you ever been in a long meeting in an enclosed room, then leave the room for a few minutes and upon returning to the room realizing it is very stuffy? The people in the room don’t realize how stuffy it is in the room, why is this? The people in the room have gotten use to its atmosphere.

I am afraid this is the issue with many of our churches, we have gotten used to operating in an atmosphere that is powerless and unproductive. It seems that many churches are stuffy, dead, and dull, but nobody wants to admit it. The church needs a breath of fresh air.

Moody was to have a campaign in England. An elderly pastor protested, "Why do we need this 'Mr. Moody'? He's uneducated, inexperienced, etc. Who does he think he is anyway? Does he think he has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?" A younger, wiser pastor rose and responded, "No, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on Mr. Moody." (Source Unknown)

Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, "How can I get the air out of this glass?" One man shouted, "Suck it out with a pump!" Moody replied, "That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass." After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. "There," he said, "all the air is now removed." He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by "sucking out a sin here and there," but by being filled with the Holy Spirit. (Today in the Word, September, 1991, p. 30.)

Acts 2:1-4- “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

In Acts 2 the early church had an experience that was unique and undeniable. When the Holy Spirit swept into that upper room, business was about to pick up in a mighty way.

I – The Holy Spirit Symbolized

In the bible we find various symbols depicting the Holy Spirit.

A) Symbolized as Oil

Most Christians regard oil as a symbol of the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament we see oil being used for holy purposes. The priests were consecrated and ordained unto God as oil was poured upon their heads …

Exodus 29: 7 "Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him"

During such ceremonies oil was used abundantly, for it ran down the priest's beard and clothing … "It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments" (Psalm 133:2). The kings of Israel were also anointed with oil as they took up office.

Oil was used to keep the lamps burning in the Holy Place, and it was vital that they should never run dry … "And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always" (Exodus 27:20). Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and churches, spiritual darkness soon overtakes us.

The large quantity of oil used reminds us of the New Testament Baptism in the Spirit. We do not need a volume of oil in order to have the presence and power of the Spirit poured upon and within us.

Oil can be used to anoint the sick also … "Anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them … Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (Mark 6:13; James 5:14).

This reveals to us that the Holy Spirit must be involved in every area of the believer's life. Just as oil enlightens and lubricates, so the Holy Spirit wants to illuminate and eliminate friction in our lives. We should ask the Good Shepherd to anoint our heads with oil (Psalm 23:5).

B) Symbolized as a Dove

This symbolism is taken from Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit descends upon the Lord Jesus Christ in the form of a dove at His baptism. The dove is used here to reveal the gentle, yet powerful, workings of the Holy Spirit. A dove is a gentle creature that is easily shooed away, so no wonder Paul warns the church against grieving the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30).

Where there is a rejection of His ministry, the Holy Spirit will not remain for long. Through the gentle workings of the Holy Spirit, God points out our failures and nudges us in the right direction. The dove is used today as a symbol of purity and peace.

The Holy Spirit, coming as a dove, is gentle and a symbol of peace. What the dove did is important as well—the dove came and rested on Jesus (Matt. 3:16). The Holy Spirit wants to come and rest upon you and me. Not sweeping throughout the world as a tidal wave of revival, but to come to each of us personally.

C) Symbolized as Living Water

Jesus compared the presence in the believer's life as being like "Rivers of living water" (John 7:37-39). The one who is filled with the Holy Spirit has this "living water" flowing from his innermost being.

This analogy is found in the Old Testament too … "For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring … And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit" (Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29).

Just as water is important for existence, so too is the Holy Spirit if we are to maintain our spiritual life. The Spirit washes, purifies and refreshes wherever it goes. This corresponds to the ministry of the Holy Spirit also.

D) Symbolized as Wind

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:2-4).

This symbol is not lost on the disciples, since Jesus had spoken of the Holy Spirit in a similar way … "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

The Holy Spirit, coming as wind, depicts His power and His guidance. When Jesus tells Nicodemus about the new birth experience (John 3:8), He tells him that it is not like a tangible birth where you can see the baby is born and check the clock for its time of arrival.

The work of the Spirit breathes into a life, and something transpires that people cannot recognize. There’s a dynamism but also a gentleness, like the wisp of a breeze. You can’t necessarily see where it came from or where it goes, but all of us can attest to times when God has come and dealt with us, and no human being knew how it happened.

At Pentecost (Acts 2:3), it wasn’t a wind that blew in; it was the sound of a rushing wind—like a hurricane. That sound, not the sound of the people speaking in tongues, is what drew the crowd in. The Holy Spirit as sovereign God is dynamic, irresistible, and unstoppable.

E) Symbolized as Fire

If we compare two passages of Scripture we soon realise why fire is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire" (Matthew 3:11) and "There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:3-4). Fire refines and can change material from one form to another. Fire purifies, warms and illuminates.

F) Symbolized as Rain

Rain has a dual implication. First as refreshing where there has been dryness and barrenness (Joel 2:23-29). Second, as restoration where there has been loss (Isa. 28:11-12).

The “pouring out” Peter refers to at Pentecost (Acts 2:17) is not an abstract use of the word; it has to do with “latter rain” that brought about the hastening of the harvest and fruitful crops. The Lord is saying that He will send rain to fields [people] that are totally barren as a promise of hope.

Needing to be refreshed doesn’t mean that I’ve backslid or sinned. When the lawn endures a hot day, it dries up and needs the refreshing of rain. The Holy Spirit, coming as rain, comes to bring refreshing and restoration.

G) Symbolized as Wine

Ephesians 5:8 draws an analogy for the symbolism of the Holy Spirit as wine. In the Gospels, Jesus describes the new work of God, conveyed by the ministry of the Spirit, as new wine coming into old vessels. So it’s a perfectly appropriate symbol in light of the Word. Still, let me ask you, what does it take to excite your life? The issue isn’t just alcohol; the issue is, how much of what the world offers does it take to get you going?

The Bible doesn’t say we are disallowed from enjoying a number of the things that come with life, but you can find out how much a person is living the Jesus life by how much they need the stimulants of the world. The separated, holy Christian life is not a call to isolation but to insulation. You live in the world, but His Spirit in you keeps out the world’s pollution.

A woman sees a father shopping with a fussy two-year-old in his grocery cart. “Be patient, Billy,” he whispers. “You can handle this, Billy. It’s okay, Billy.”

The woman said to him, “I don’t mean to interrupt your shopping, but I just had to tell you how wonderfully loving and patient you are with little Billy.”

The man replied, “Actually, my son’s name is Patrick. My name is Billy.” (The Holy Spirit will whisper to us if we will listen to his precious words)

Have you heard the story of Charlie Riggs? Over 50 years ago, he came to Christ and was discipled by a young man named Lorne Sanny, who himself was being discipled by Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators.

Charlie was willing to grow in Christ, but he was a bit rough around the edges and didn’t seem very promising as a Christian leader. When Lorne wrote to Dawson, he told him that Charlie Riggs was the only man he was working with and he felt discouraged by the prospects. Trotman wrote back and said, “Stay with your man. You never know what God will do with him.” So, Lorne Sanny continued to work with Charlie Riggs.

A few years passed and a young man named Billy Graham came on the scene. In 1952, the Navigators “loaned” Charlie Riggs to the Graham team to handle the follow-up in their early crusades. He planned to return to the Navigators eventually. However, he worked out so well that he stayed with Billy Graham.

In 1957, on the eve of the famous New York City crusade at Madison Square Garden, the crusade director suddenly had to be replaced. Who could they get? The lay chairman suggested Charlie Riggs, but Billy Graham wasn’t sure if he could handle the job. “All he does is pray and quote Scripture.”

The layman insisted, Charlie Riggs got the job and the rest is history. The New York campaign became a model for the many crusades that would follow in later years. Billy Graham said, “I didn’t think he could do it. But I had this peace—that Charlie so depended on the Holy Spirit that I knew the Lord could do it through Charlie.”

Charlie Riggs retired after many years of effective service to the Lord. What was his secret? How could a man with little formal training rise to such a high position and hold it for so long?

He says, “I always asked the Lord to put me in over my head . That way, when I had a job to do, either the Lord had to help me or I was sunk.” God was delighted to answer this prayer time after time. He put Charlie Riggs in over his head—and then bailed him out. (From “On the Father Front,” Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1995)

II – The Holy Spirit Studied

In this portion of our study we will examine the Holy Spirit and its impact from three various aspects, historically, doctrinally, and personally. In studying these three important areas, we will have a much deeper understanding of the impact of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches.

The early church had dynamic encounters with the Holy Spirit and they fully realized its significance and place within the church. It is true that in today’s society many have been extremist in teaching and talking about the Holy Spirit. It is not right for us to minimize the working of the Holy Spirit because some groups have erred in their understanding and filling of the Spirit.

A) Studied Historically

Acts 8:14- “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:”

Acts 8:15-17 “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they [their] hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”

In the first 10 chapters of the book of Acts the church was experiencing a transition for God’s program. The program was moving from Israel as the center of God’s plan to the church being God’s new chosen vessel. In Acts 1:8 we find the venue that would be used to achieve this transition.

Acts 1:8- “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

In Matthew 16: 19 we see that the Lord gave Peter they keys of the kingdom of God. In reading the book of Acts we see him using these keys to offer the gospel to the entire world.

Matthew 16:19- “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

1 – Acts 2 Peter took the Gospel to the Jews (Jerusalem)

2 – Acts 8 Peter took the Gospel to the Samaritans (Samaria)

3 – Acts 10 Peter took the Gospel to the Gentiles (Judaea)

Acts 10:43-45- “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

We must be sure to not get our Doctrine from Acts 1 – 9 concerning receiving the Holy Spirit. In some instances they had to be baptized to receive the Holy Spirit, but in other cases they received the Spirit by the laying on of hands; but from Acts 10 on they always received the Holy Spirit by believing.

Ephesians 1:13- “In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

In this portion we see the historical relationship between prayer and the Holy Spirit. One does not have to now pray to receive the Holy Spirit; the moment you’re saved you will immediately receive Him. We do need many refreshings, renewals, and fresh fillings of his power.

B) Studied Doctrinally

Now let us consider the doctrinal aspect of prayer and the Holy Spirit.

1 – The Holy Spirit Indwelling

Zechariah 12:10- “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.”

Here the Spirit is called the spirit of grace and supplication. In this we see his link with prayer. The Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of Prayer, I find this comforting to know.

Galatians 4:6- “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

The moment I got saved, I immediately received the power and passion to pray to the one that saved me, why is that possible? The Spirit of Prayer dwells within my soul and makes my soul long to talk to my heavenly father.

Romans 8:15-16 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

I am now in the family of God and have a divine privilege to speak to him in prayer. It is a divine right that God blessed me with the moment I was saved.

2 – The Holy Spirit Interceding

Romans 8:26-27- “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what [is] the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.”

C) Studied Personally

Are you saved? Is the Holy Spirit functioning in your prayer life? Do we allow he him to lead us in prayer or do we allow our prayer life to be nothing more than vain repetitious words? We need to take a close look at the link between The Holy Spirit and our prayer life.

Jude 1:20-21- “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

1 Thessalonians 5:19- “Quench not the Spirit.”

1) to extinguish, quench

a) of fire or things on fire

1) to be quenched, to go out

b) metaph. to quench, to suppress, stifle

1) of divine influence

Ephesians 4:30- “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

1) to make sorrowful

2) to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow

3) to grieve, offend

4) to make one uneasy, cause him a scruple


It is our duty as Christians to listen to the Holy Spirit as we pray. The Holy Spirit will guide us, guard us, and even grieve us when we are in error. I like the following story of how a pastor received a wonderful blessing by listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the north had brought winter’s chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town squire. The food and the company were both especially good that day. As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street.

There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be caring all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read "I’ll work for food." My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways.

I had errands to do and quickly set to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back into my car. Deep within me, the spirit of God kept speaking to me: "don’t go back to the office until you’ve at least driven once more around the square." And so with some hesitancy, I headed back into town.

As I turned the square’s third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from god: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s visitor. Looking for the pastor? I asked. Not really, he replied, just resting. Have you eaten today? Oh, I ate something early this morning. Would you like to have lunch with me? Do you have some work I could do for you? No work, I replied. I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to! Take you to lunch. Sure he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked him some surface questions. Where you headed? St. Louis. Where you from? Oh, all over; mostly Florida. I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark and clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, "Jesus is the never ending story."

Then Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times earl in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a big tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God. Nothing’s been the same since, he said, I felt the lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now. Ever think of stopping? I asked. Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But god has given me this calling. I give out bibles. That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and bibles, and I give them out when the spirit leads. I sat amazed.

My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a minute and then I asked: what’s it like? What? To walk into town carrying all your things on your back and to show you a sign? Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome.

But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of other folks like me. My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned and said," come ye blessed of my father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in." I felt as if we were on holy ground. Could you use another bible? I asked. (Pastor Randy Aly – Sermon Central)