Praying with the Holy Spirit

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Praying with the Holy Spirit

by Chris Sullivan

The language of prayer is mystery, the mystery of the encounter between the human soul and its Creator, the invisible God. Indeed, we scarcely need St. Paul to remind us that “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:26). So many of the circumstances of our lives can defy our poor power to respond in prayer. How do we sing of God’s goodness? How do we lament our deepest sorrows? How do we extoll God’s glory? What is the language that can express our love of God and our reception of God’s love for us?

The Holy Spirit can speak for us through the Scriptures. The Word of God is alive, because it was written under the inspiration of the Spirit. When we take those words upon our own lips, the Spirit speaks anew through us. Many traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs take their lyrics directly from the Scriptures too. Whether we speak or sing biblical texts, we can offer back to the Father, by the Spirit, God’s own perfect words.

Sometimes our prayer is beyond being captured by any words. This is when the prayer of our hearts can be made by the Spirit in language beyond our understanding, “with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Try the following exercise that can help us to trust the Holy Spirit to pray in and through us.

Prayer Exercise

Come into a space of quiet. Become present to our ever-present God. Invite God to be with you.

Become aware of your breath. The very act of breathing is an expression of the presence of God, who sustains our lives in this moment and every moment. Remember, in Hebrew, Spirit and breath are the same word, ruah.

At our Baptism and Confirmation, God sends his Spirit to reside in us. As you sit in the quiet, notice how you experience the Spirit residing in you. Where in your body do you come to know the active presence of God? In your heart? Your mind? Your gut? Be aware of this truth: God lives in you by the Spirit, here, now.

Continue for as long as you feel called to be in the stillness, aware that God is with you. What might the Spirit be praying in and through you? Set words completely aside. Listen.


Chris Sullivan 

Chris Sullivan is a writer, speaker, and spiritual director-in-training. Chris works within her own Roman Catholic faith community as well as in interdenominational Christian ministry in the areas of faith formation, training, and emotional and spiritual healing work.

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The Holy Spirit reminds us; he reminds us of all that Jesus said. He is the living memory of the Church, and when he reminds us, he helps us understand the words of the Lord.

This remembrance in the Spirit and by virtue of the Spirit . . . is an essential aspect of Christ’s presence within us and within his Church. The Spirit of truth and charity reminds us of all that Christ said and helps us enter ever more fully into the meaning of his words. We all have this experience: one moment, in any situation, there is an idea and then another connects with a passage from Scripture. . . . It is the Spirit who leads us to take this path: the path of the living memory of the Church. And he asks us for a response: the more generous our response, the more Jesus’ words become life within us, becoming attitudes, choices, actions, testimony. In essence the Spirit reminds us of the commandment of love and calls us to live it.

A Christian without memory is not a true Christian but only halfway there: a man or woman, a prisoner of the moment, who doesn’t know how to treasure his or her history, doesn’t know how to read it and live it as salvation history. With the help of the Holy Spirit, however, we are able to interpret interior inspirations and life events in light of Jesus’ words. And thus within us grows the knowledge of memory, knowledge of the heart, which is a gift of the Spirit. May the Holy Spirit rekindle the Christian memory within all of us! And there, that day with the apostles, was Our Lady of Memory, who from the beginning meditated on all those things in her heart. Mary, our Mother, was there. May she help us on this path of memory.

—Excerpted from Walking with Jesus: A Way Forward for the Church by Pope Francis