June / July 2018 - Vol. 98
                  will pour out my Spirit
Worship in Spirit and Truth
by Steve Clark

If we are spiritual people who want a charismatic spirituality, we will approach various areas of the Christian life in “a charismatic way”. Worship is one of them. To be sure, worship is only one area affected by being charismatic. We could also, for example, speak about evangelism and how it could work more effectively as a result of a charismatic orientation. However, worship is especially central to the charismatic experience, for reasons considered below.

Responding to the work of the Holy Spirit is only one aspect of our communion with God and our corporate and individual prayer life. Other things also go into relating well with God, like listening to or reading scripture. This chapter does not contain a full treatment of Christian worship and prayer. Nor is it a chapter on how to have a good prayer time or lead a good prayer meeting. Rather, it considers the foundation of good prayer — the work of the Holy Spirit in making it possible for us to worship well.

New Covenant Worship: In (by) the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit makes possible the new covenant relationship with God. His role is commonly designated in the scriptures by a phrase which can be translated “in the Holy Spirit” or “by the Holy Spirit”, depending on the context. There is a Greek word [en] in that phrase that can be translated “in” or “by”. Like our word “in”, it is used for indicating a spatial location, but it is also used for indicating agency and then can be translated “by”. Scripture tells us that many things happen in or by the Holy Spirit and that we are to do many things in or by the Holy Spirit. If, then, we understand the phrase better, we will understand better how to respond to the work of the Holy Spirit, including his work in Christian worship.

The role of the Holy Spirit in worship is spoken about in the passage in John 4 about Jesus and the woman at the well that we have already considered. As we have seen, Jesus first spoke to her about the gift of God, the fountain of living water that he would put inside those who turned to him. The conversation then in verse 19 turned to worship:
The woman said to him,
Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on [en] this mountain; and you say that in [en] Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

Jesus said to her,
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in [en] spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

The woman said to him,
I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.
Jesus said to her,
I who speak to you am he.
Note, first of all, that the same word is used in Greek for “in” and “on”. The three places it is used are on marked on the text above. The use of this word means that Mt. Gerizim, Jerusalem, and the Holy Spirit [“spirit and truth”] are spoken about as parallel to one an-other, and so are being compared with one another.

The Samaritan woman spoke about this mountain, possibly pointing to Mt. Gerizim, which was right above the place where they were conversing. This mountain and in Jerusalem refer to places of worship, places where there were temples, although the temple on Mt. Gerizim was in ruins at the time. The temple on Mt. Gerizim was the Samaritan place of worship, and of course the temple at Jerusalem, built on Mt. Zion, was the Jewish place of worship. These were places where the respective groups believed God could be “met” or contacted, and where offerings would be accepted and prayer heard.

In an attempt to say that she did not have to be concerned with Jesus because she was Samaritan and Samaritan worship was different than his, the woman contrasted Mt. Gerizim and Jerusalem. Jesus, in response, replied that this was no longer a difference that had the same importance as previously, because both Mt. Gerizim and Jerusalem were even at that moment being replaced. He used an unusual phrase, the hour is coming and now is, to indicate that a change would be happening in the near future. He was speaking of the “hour” of his crucifixion and resurrection, as we now know. But even at the moment he was speaking to the Samaritan woman, that hour was starting, because the new covenant was beginning by his ministry and would be definitively established shortly.

He then spoke about what would replace it. True worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. Spirit and truth may be interpreted as “the Spirit of truth” or “the Spirit and the truth [which Christ teaches and brings]”. Either way, the phrase includes a reference to the Holy Spirit, so Jesus is speaking of worship in/by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, then, is a “place” or means of contact with God. He has replaced the physical temple(s) central to old covenant worship. New covenant people do not need to go to a physical location to make contact with God and worship him in the way he wants. We can make contact with him by means of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who is within us.

Likely, therefore, the Holy Spirit is understood to be something like a medium or means of communication, as a physical place can be the means of putting people into communication with one another or, in old covenant understanding, with God. To use an example, when we want to get across the Atlantic, we can go “by” air or water. Air and water are media that can enable us to make connection. We are in them and therefore move by them. In an analogous way, when we worship “in or by the Spirit”, the Holy Spirit makes a connection between the Father and us.

Or to use a different example, the Holy Spirit is like the airwaves that allow us to make radio contact with someone in a distant spot. In this case, he allows us to make contact with God, to come into the heavenly presence of God so that we can make connection with him in a way we could not have otherwise. Put in a more Trinitarian way, the Holy Spirit enters into us, dwells in us, and so enables us to come into the presence of God the Father, because he himself is one with the Father and always with him.

There are two other passages in the New Testament that speak about the role of the Holy Spirit in worship in way that develops what was said in John. The first is in Ephesians 2:17-18:

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

The second is in Revelation 4:1-2:
After this I looked, and lo, in heaven an open door! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne!
Access in Ephesians 2:18 is a ceremonial word. It was used to speak of the way a priest could approach God’s presence in the holy of holies in the temple. Most Israelites could only come as far as the court of Israelites in front of the temple building. Priests, however, could enter the building itself when they were offering incense. The high priest could even enter the holy of holies itself once a year. These differences in ability to approach God were sometimes spoken about as degrees of “access” to God’s presence, with the high priest having the greatest access of all.

According to Ephesians 2:18 the blessing of the new covenant means that both Gentile Christians, those who were far off, and Jewish Christians, those who were near, can have direct access to the Father. We can come more immediately into his presence than old covenant people could. And we can do this in one Spirit because the Holy Spirit in us is a means of contact with the Father.

What Ephesians describes in theological terms, Revelation describes in narrative terms. John in chapter 4 was receiving a vision. He saw an open door in the sky and a voice invited him to come to heaven, the place of God’s presence. He then was in the Spirit and as a result he found himself in heaven, having been given access to God’s throne. The Spirit, in other words, put him into the presence of God in heaven.

John saw in a vision what happens to all new covenant people, even though we cannot see it with our eyes. In the phrase in Ephesians, we can have access to the Father, that is, we can come into his presence. In his fifth sermon on the Nativity of the Lord, Leo the Great said, “If we are indeed the temple of God and if the Spirit of God lives in us, then what every believer has within himself is greater than what he admires in the skies.” C.S. Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia, gives a picture of this with a wardrobe, a piece of furniture for hanging up coats and similar pieces of clothing. The children in the story go into the wardrobe and find a world inside that is much greater than the wardrobe itself.

In a similar way, we can “enter into ourselves” and find there a world much greater than ourselves, heaven itself. We can “turn to the Lord” and find ourselves standing in his presence. We might describe this as heaven coming down into us or as our going up to heaven. Both descriptions are true at the same time, because we are talking about a change of relationship with God that changes our ability to make contact with him. That change is produced by the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in us.

This all raises a question. We know that God is everywhere, “omnipresent” to use the technical term. In what new way, then, does the Holy Spirit put us into God’s presence?

The answer to that question comes from what we have already said. God is always with us and always sees us, but he does not always make it possible for people to turn to him and make contact with him. Those who are “living in sin” are shut off from him and at best can send off an appeal to him, like sending a letter to a distant shore. Old covenant people could pray to him, but the fullness of interaction, “meeting God” could only hap-pen in certain places, in fact, only one place once the temple in Jerusalem was built. New covenant people, however, can “come into his presence” when they wish to turn to him. The door is open, so to speak. As a result, new covenant people can turn to the Lord and enter his presence in prayer, confident of making contact with him.

There is something else that the Holy Spirit does when he comes to us that is also important to worship. This is described in Galatians 4:4-7:
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, he does not just put us into contact with God. He also changes us so that we can interact with God in a certain way once we are in his presence. He does this by giving us a new relationship to God, adoption as sons, a relationship with involves a new aptitude for relating to God. As a result, we can receive and know how to respond to the impulse or inspiration of the Holy Spirit that moves us to address God as Father.

If the work of the Holy Spirit is analogous to the way telephone wires or the electric impulses traveling through those telephone wires allow our computers to make contact with people far way, it is also like the installation of an internet access program. Without such a program, no matter how good the connection, we could not communicate. Something has to be changed on our side, in our computer. It needs to be programmed so it can receive certain communications. In an analogous way, we need to be changed inside so that we can respond as sons and daughters of God once we come into God’s presence. This the Holy Spirit does.

The Holy Spirit, then, makes worship — new covenant worship, spiritual worship — possible. He does that by making a very fundamental change in how we can relate to God. In order to make such a change in an ongoing way, he has to dwell inside of us. His indwelling presence in us, then, makes new covenant worship possible.

Connection Between the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Worship

The connection between the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and new covenant worship can also be seen in the scriptural accounts of what happened when the Holy Spirit was given. There are three main passages in which the coming of the Holy Spirit on new Christians is described with enough fullness that we can see how people knew that someone had received the Holy Spirit.

The first we already considered in the first chapter of this book, Acts 2:3-4, the description of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:
And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The second is in Acts 10:44-48, the description of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first group of Gentile believers:
While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
The third is in Acts 19:1-7, the description of a group of disciples of John the Baptist who become disciples of Christ:
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.
If we look at these passages, we will see that three things are mentioned: tongues, prophecy and extolling God. In other words, when the Holy Spirit came on people for the first time, they began to pray in tongues, prophesy or extol God. Those watching them saw a change happen and one sign of that change was they were inspired to praise God, since speaking in tongues, prophecy, and extolling God were probably all ways of praising God.

We can see the fact that when they spoke in tongues they were praying by the way Paul spoke about speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. He said, For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit (v. 2), and, For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful (v. 14). Moreover, in Acts 2:11, when the onlookers described what they were hearing when the first group of people baptized in the Spirit were speaking in tongues, they said, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. Likely, this means they were praising God.

Prophecy can also be prayer, as we can see from Luke 1:67, where it says, And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has visited and redeemed his people…That means that when the disciples at Ephesus were baptized in the Spirit, they probably were also praising God, since the prophesying that happened, like their speaking in tongues, was an initial response to the presence of the Holy Spirit in them and did not seem to be directed to Paul or anyone else who might have been with him. And, of course, extolling God is just another way of saying praising God.

The initial indication of the gift of the Spirit, then, seems to be “inspired praise”. Those who have been baptized in the Spirit begin to praise God. This is the “natural” (spiritually natural) response to being put into experiential contact with God. Worship and an ability and desire to worship, therefore, is a sign of being baptized in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, so to speak, installs “the worship program” into us so that we can worship in a way we could not before and, in addition, he begins to inspire (work in) us to use it. This is an indication that worship is central to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Corporate Worship in the Holy Spirit

The worship of God that the Holy Spirit brings about is not just individual worship, but corporate worship as well. We have already seen that the Holy Spirit does not just work in individuals separately, but also unites people into something corporate, one body. We already considered the section of Ephesians 2:21-22, where it speaks about …Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The result of his unifying men and women in Christ includes unifying them in worship, because that is what we do in a holy temple.

We can also see that the Holy Spirit creates a unity in worshipping by putting together again a passage from Paul that speaks theologically with a passage in Revelation that presents the same truth in narrative form. The first is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans 15:5-6:
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The second is from Revelation 14:1-3:
Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty–four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their fore-heads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty–four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are chaste; it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are spotless.
As Paul says, the Holy Spirit unites us so that we can worship God together with one voice. The same Spirit is in all of us, and he therefore gives us all the same orientation. When he makes us be in accord with Christ Jesus, in tune with him, we are in harmony with one another. The result is, or at least can be, unified worship.

Revelation provides a picture of this in operation. The Lamb is standing on Mt. Zion, the place of the temple, and the 144,000 are with him. These are the disciples of the Lord, those who belong to him. The number seems to indicate that they are the new covenant people of God. They worship God together, singing one new song. They are able to do that, because they can hear the worship in heaven, and what they hear there, they reproduce on earth.

I once had an experience that illustrated this. I was with someone driving in a car with the radio on. We stopped at a red light, and I looked over at the next car to see the driver beating time to some music. It was in perfect time with the music we were listening to. Then I realized that he must have been listening to the same radio program we were. Something similar should happen with a body of Christians. They should be like the disciples of the lamb, “listening to” the same heavenly music and joining in together on earth.

Spiritual, Charismatic Worship

If the work of the Holy Spirit produces worship in us, we then have the question of when our worship is spiritual, or spiritualized. What criterion can we use to tell when our worship is spiritual?

This is similar to the question, “When is our driving spiritual?” A caricature of a charismatic response might say, the sign of our driving being spiritual is that we find a parking place because we prayed for it. That is, however, not an adequate answer.

The first answer is provided in Romans 8:9. There the apostle Paul is talking about the difference the Holy Spirit makes in redeemed people, Christians, and says,
But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
Our driving or our worship or anything we do is spiritual, first of all, when the Holy
Spirit dwells in us. But there is more to it.

We find a further answer in Galatians 5:16-23, the passage on the fruits of the Spirit. To summarize what was said in chapter 2, our driving is spiritual when we are spiritualized, that is, when the Holy Spirit is in us, but also when we drive in a spiritualized way. This means we have to drive in the fruit of the Spirit, keeping the commandments of God and manifesting the character of God when we drive. The same thing is true of our worship. We have to worship in the fruit of the Spirit, keeping the commandments of God.

The passage on the fruits of the Spirit teaches about the opposite of spiritual worship by specifically mentioning various “works of the flesh” that could keep our worship from being spiritualized: idolatry and sorcery (divination). We could add superstition, spiritual-ism, and other similar practices of worship condemned by the scripture. When these are present, our worship is not spiritualized.

Sometimes Christians think that any worship is good, because it shows an interest in God and spiritual things. That view, however, is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the scripture, which condemns false worship very strongly. Our worship is only spiritual when we are not idolaters, when we have true belief (including belief in the Incarnation and the Trinity), when we do not engage in spiritualism or divination, when we do not engage in human sacrifice, as some Pagans did, etc. — and when we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us so that we can relate to God as his sons and daughters.

Most formal Christian worship, then, is spiritual, because it is done by people in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and is done in a godly, orthodox way. The church service this week, formal as it may have been and lacking in vitality as it may have been, was probably spiritual. To be sure, this may not be true of some church services that are identified as Christian, which may be highly secularized or influenced by Eastern religions or new age thought, but it is true of a large number of them, including those that do not much impress us with their vitality.

A third answer can be found in First Corinthians 14. In verse 12 Paul says, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church, and in verse 40 he says all things should be done decently and in order. The third criterion, then, is that worship should be done in a way that builds up the body of Christ and so done decently and in order. This is actually an expression of the fruit of the Spirit, although it is helpful to mention it separately. Love leads us to seek the good of others and of the body. It also means at times giving up our preferences for the good of the body, including our spiritual preferences.

For those of us who would like to see our church services more spiritually vital, this means that when we attend church, we should enter into it as we find it. That does not mean that we cannot propose improvements when appropriate. But it does mean that we need to submit our proposals and also that we need to be able to enter into the service as it is, at least if it is orthodox and does not violate the commandments.

When is our worship charismatic?

This leads us to another question, namely, when is our worship “charismatic”? There are three answers that have been commonly given. The first is that our worship is charismatic when it is done in “charismatic style”. By that, people seem to mean the style characteristic of the charismatic movement.

Worship in the charismatic style tends to be “spontaneous” or “unstructured”, as distinguished from more formal worship which uses set words and set sequences. It also tends to have special practices, such as raising of hands and the “word of prayer” (everyone praying softly out loud at the same time). It usually has lively music, often accompanied by movement by the participants (moving in time to the beat). It almost always has active, expressive participation by those present, including chances for anyone to “share” or contribute, and several people involved in leadership. The charismatic style can be helpful, but it is not enough to make our worship charismatic.

The second answer commonly given is that worship is charismatic when it is open to spiritual gifts or inspirations for worship. There are several passages in the New Testament where we can see examples of such worship. The first is in 1 Corinthians 14:26-32, where Paul is instructing the Corinthians how to have a service that is orderly.
What then, brethren? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silence in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints…
The second is in Colossians 3:16-17:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The third is in Ephesians 5:18-19:
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
All three passages point to services where many people can contribute if they think they have something to offer. The first clearly speaks about the presence of spiritual gifts, and the other two likely do as well, because they are probably describing inspired contributions to worship.

Charismatic worship, then, is worship in which spiritual gifts give rise to various contributions, including tongues, prophecy and inspired prayers and songs. As the above passages indicate, there seems to be some connection between a worship service that has time open for everyone to contribute and one in which spiritual gifts are used. For fully charismatic worship there needs to be some space for active, informal participation.

Adding the word “fully” here is intended to avoid saying that non-Pentecostal, non–charismatic church services are not charismatic at all. Very often the preacher or homilist at a normal church service or a music leader contribute in ways that we can experience as having charismatic power. But the rest of the congregation has no opportunity (or, usually, inclination) to contribute, regardless of what God maybe doing in them.

Adding the phrase “some space” here is intended to avoid saying that everything has to be informal or open in order to have charismatic worship. Informal and formal worship can be combined and often are better than either by themselves. In fact, there is nothing so dead as a dead spontaneous prayer meeting. The formal patterns can foster active worship and can be especially helpful when those present do not seem to have much to con-tribute that is inspired. In fact, most Pentecostal and Charismatic groups, no matter how much emphasis they put on open, spontaneous meetings, seem to have a certain pattern to their worship and rely on singing that is led and prepared talks.

Nonetheless, for fully charismatic worship, there needs to be some open space. That is the reason why there seems to be some equation between informality or spontaneity and charismatic worship. The informality, however, is not the key factor. The presence of spiritual or charismatic gifts is.

The third answer to the question of when worship is charismatic is when the people present, or the core of them, have an experiential relationship with God. According to this answer, charismatic worship is worship by people who have been baptized in the Spirit. This is something that cannot easily be identified by external signs, but can often be “felt” intuitively. When a group of people has an experiential contact with the Lord, when they turn to him with expectant faith, some spiritual interaction seems to happen that is absent in many other situations. And the Lord seems to interact with such a group, both in regard to what he does for them individually and the way he leads them corporately.

It is the experiential relationship with the Lord that brings “the charismatic emphasis” of praise and worship. When people have experienced the Lord, know his greatness and majesty in a personal way, they desire to praise the Lord and to express worship to him. In addition they tend to pray in faith for the things they ask for, since they have more conviction that he is there and that he answers prayer.

Again, we need to be careful in emphasizing the experiential nature of people’s relation-ship with God. Having an experiential relationship with him and expressing that in prayer is not the same as having “devotional feelings”. Many, in fact, focus on trying to stir up their feelings of devotion, or evaluate their prayer by how intensely or fervently they felt during it. When, however, God is real to us, someone we know, and our relationship with him is interactive, our worship is experiential, even if we are not experiencing much in the way of devotional feelings. This goes back to what we discussed in the second chapter about an experiential relationship with God.

Speaking in tongues provides us with an object lesson of how we can worship in a spiritual way without devotional feelings. It is often somewhat routine. Many times we even do not notice that we are praying in tongues. It can be like breathing in this respect. It most commonly is not exciting or moving. It is, however, usually prayer, and we know it is.

If we equate devotional feelings with an experiential relationship with God, we are often derailed by “dryness” in prayer. Sometimes the dryness comes because of sickness or other circumstances in life, usually trying ones. Sometimes it comes when we are entering a new stage of life or a new stage of the spiritual life. Periods of dryness can be helpful, because of the temptation to stop praying since it is no longer satisfying. They force us to choose God over a satisfying experience of prayer, with the result that they help purify our motivation, so that we pray because we want a good relationship with God, not be-cause we want a good spiritual experience.

In addition, different people respond to the emotional or feeling aspect of life in different ways. Older people respond differently than younger people. Men respond differently than women. Personality types respond in various ways. Some of us find devotional feelings easier to have than others. Some find that they once experienced many and strong devotional feelings, but do so less now that they are older or their circumstances in life have changed. The variation in devotional feeling is not a reliable sign of whether our prayer life is good.

This leads us to still another question. Our worship is spiritual when we are spiritualized in the way we pray. Our worship is charismatic either when we are open to spiritual or charismatic gifts in worship or when we have an experiential relationship with God or both. But when is our worship good? Or to ask the question another way, what is the criterion for success in prayer and worship?

We have to begin by asking why we pray. The answer should not be: to have a good experience. The answer should not be: to benefit ourselves, to get something out of our relationship with God or to get him to help us — important as such things may be. The answer should be: to be in a good relationship with God and to relate to him well. We should relate to God for his own sake, out of love of him, not just for what we get out of it. Our prayer and worship, individually and corporately, then, should be an expression of our relationship with God and should be motivated by a desire to have a good relation-ship with him.

The most important things we need to do to relate to God well, of course, are to have faith in him and obey him, to love him with our whole mind, soul, heart and strength. But when we pray, we turn to him in a conscious, personal way. We address ourselves to him, while at the same time expressing our intention by posture, gesture, etc. We do that be-cause our relationship with God is personal and therefore has to involve personal interaction. However, it has to involve a special kind of personal interaction, because he is God, our creator and Lord, the infinite, eternal source of all that we are and will be.

In order to relate to God as God well, we need to honor him or glorify him. We honor him especially by praise and worship. We need to express that he is God and do so in a way that acknowledges who he is and our acceptance of that, our appreciation of that. We also need to thank him. We need to thank him not just for the things we are currently grateful for or happy about, but for everything he has done for us to create us and sustain us. We need to do so because he is the source of all good and because every moment of our existence we are benefiting from his goodness to us.

We also need to hear him, hear his word, hear what he has to say to us. We need to read his word in scripture and listen for it in prayer. We need to hear him, because his word is life, because we live by knowing the truth he teaches, and because doing his will is our delight. We need to repent for our sins as needed, confessing them, rejecting them, making up for the damage we have done when we can. We need to ask him for the things we need, both the things we need every day and the things we are immediately in need of.

In other words, in order to have a good relationship with God, we need to interact with him in a personal way. This is somewhat like the way we relate to other human beings, but also somewhat different — because he is God. If we do those things in prayer that we need to do to have a good relationship with him, our personal prayer life and our community worship are good.

We might add that there are charismatic emphases that can be present in good worship. Those who have had a charismatic experience will probably emphasize praise and worship more than others. They will also seek to have God speak, not just in the general way he speaks to those who read his word, but also in the sense that they seek him to speak to them in a way relevant to their current situation in life. They may also look for inspirations for their personal prayer time, as they do for prayer meetings.

Such charismatic emphases are helpful in worship, can improve prayer. But prayer and worship can be good without them as long as it is a means of expressing and maintaining a good relationship with God.

There can be more. We can have visions and revelations, be caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-3). We can have a special gift for prayer. We can immerse ourselves in scripture, gaining wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. (Isa. 11:2). We can continue in supplications and prayers day and night (1 Timothy 5:5). Nonetheless, our prayer life is good if we do the things we need to do to have a good relationship with the Lord. We should not only notice what more there could be and fail to notice when we have a good relationship with God, so that we constantly feel that we are spiritually sub-par. Nor should we, as sometimes happens, neglect the basic things we need to do to have a good relationship with God out of spiritual ambition or spiritual desire for more spiritual experience. A life of prayer and worship that is pleasing to him is accessible to all of us, no matter how busy we may be or how weak we may be.

This gives us our fifth conclusion. To approach a particular area of the Christian life, like prayer/worship or evangelism, in a charismatic way, means to expect the Holy Spirit to make direct, experiential contact for us with God so that we might receive personal spiritual strengthening and added light and power, including gifts and graces, to act effectively in that area. It should not be confused with the style or approach of the charismatic movement, which commonly is helpful, but is simply a means.

God’s Purpose for Charismatic Spirituality

The Lord poured out his Spirit for a purpose, as we saw in the first two chapters. He had something he was aiming at, both for the human race as a whole and for individual human beings. His Spirit was given so that he might enter into the life of the Christian people as a whole, including each grouping of Christians, and into the life of individual Christians and bring them to the purpose God created the human race for. The New Testament, all good Christian teaching, tells us that we cannot live the new covenant life by ourselves, but that God needs to do it in us and through us. In fact, he equips [us] with everything good that [we] may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:21).

The purpose of having a charismatic spirituality, then, is not to create a special group of Christians, but to experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives the way God intend-ed for all Christians when he poured out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost on Mt. Zion. Good charismatic spirituality, then, is achieved in our prayer life and in our life as a whole when we love God and neighbor by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a spirituality of renewal of the Christian basics, not a special spirituality, a special way only for those who might find it helpful.

Certainly there are many features of the charismatic movement in our day that constitute “a special way”, features that many have found helpful but that are not integral to full Christianity. But what we have talked about in this book as charismatic spirituality is for all. It can be had by faith in what Christian revelation teaches that God wishes to do for those who receive his Son in faith as their Lord and Savior.

Charismatic spirituality does involve some special emphases nowadays. There is a special emphasis on experience, although it should not make us experience-focused. There is a special emphasis on faith, although it should not make us neglect love of God and love of neighbor. These are special emphases that come from a call to renewal addressed to cultural Christians or traditional Christians who lack spiritual vitality. It is also a call addressed to good traditional Christians who have spiritual vitality but who lack the power of the Holy Spirit that could make them effective in advancing his kingdom.

These emphases may come from a special call to Christians in our age due to the transition of the Christian people from a Christendom situation to a diaspora situation, one in which they cannot rely on the societal supports but need more of a direct spiritual support from the Lord. Be that as it may, the special emphases in a charismatic spirituality for today are emphases of elements integral to Christianity. The work of the Holy Spirit is not an optional extra, much less a specialty item.

In order to be helpful, however, a charismatic spirituality needs to be a mature Christian spirituality. It needs to sustain a relational faithfulness to God and others. It needs to carry us through trials, dryness, routine, temptation, and aging. It needs to be a balanced spirituality, one that is not hyperspiritual, constantly leaving our humanity behind or ignoring it, rather than seeking to convert and transform it, to spiritualize it. It cannot just live by “charismatic novelties”, new waves, rediscovery of spiritual gifts and healings, new and deeper experiences, although such things can be helpful at times.

The basis of a mature, faithful, balanced charismatic spirituality is the conviction that we have the Holy Spirit — a spring of living water, a dynamo of spiritual power — inside. Such a conviction needs to be more than a notional conviction. It needs to be a confident faith that allows us to draw upon the Holy Spirit for our daily life Christian discipleship. The sign of its presence is the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:6), manifested in the desire given by the Spirit, even in the midst of tribulation, to praise and thank God, to give him glory.

This article is adapted from the book Charismatic Spirituality: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Practice, Chapter 5, copyright © 2004 by Stephen B. Clark and published by Servant Books, a division of Saint Anthony Messenger Press. Used with permission.

> See other articles by Steve Clark in Living Bulwark

Steve Clark has been a founding leader, author, and teacher for the charismatic renewal since its inception in 1967. He has authored a number of books, including Baptized in the Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Finding New Life in the Spirit, Growing in Faith, and Knowing God’s Will, Building Christian Communities, Man and Woman in Christ. Steve is past president of the Sword of the Spirit, an international ecumenical association of charismatic covenant communities worldwide. He is the founder of the Servants of the Word, an ecumenical international missionary brotherhood of men living single for the Lord.

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