OceanSide church of Christ

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Holy Spirit, Luke 11:13

Victor M. Eskew


            In Luke 11:13, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit.  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children:  how much more shall you heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”  If this passage is lifted from its context, many might think that they should pray for the Holy Spirit today.  Let’s see if we can come to an understanding of Jesus’ teaching.

            In the context, Jesus also instructed His followers to pray for the kingdom to come (Luke 11:2).  The kingdom was to come with power (Mark 9:1).  This power was associated with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).  Thus, if one were praying for the kingdom to come, he could also pray for the Holy Spirit.  However, since the kingdom, the power, and the Holy Spirit have come, there is no need to pray for them today.

            In Matthew 7, we find a parallel passage to Luke 11:13.  Matthew 7:11 states:  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto you children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  In this verse, “good things” are substituted for “the Holy Spirit.”  These “good things” are things which proceed from the Holy Spirit.  Luke 11:13, therefore, contains a figure of speech known as a metonymy.  The cause of the good things, the Holy Spirit, is put in place of the good things themselves.

            The question now becomes:  “What are the good things the Lord tells His disciples to pray for?”  Acts 8 gives us the answer.  The city of Samaria had the Word of God preached unto them by Philip the evangelist (Acts 8:5, 12).  The Holy Spirit, however, had fallen upon none of them according to Acts 8:16. “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:  who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost…Then laid they their hand on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-15, 17).  The Samarians received the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the apostles’ hands.  These were the “good things” the Holy Spirit imparted.  Note, the apostles first prayed for the Holy Spirit.  They were following the instructions of Christ as revealed in Luke 11:13.  After they prayed, the good things of the Spirit were bestowed upon the disciples. 

            Praying for the Holy Spirit involved praying for the Spirit to come in miraculous ways.  Ephesians 4:7-16 and I Corinthians 13:8-10 reveal that the age of the miracles has ceased.  What once was essential to pray for is no longer necessary for God’s children today.