A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at a young adults’ retreat. The topic of the weekend concerned the place and role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian believer. Because the sponsoring church body was Pentecostal, the implications of such spiritual matters were both ever-present and a bit daunting.
In the first session, I did my best to demystify the idea of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of the believer. Hoping to help many of those present move beyond past prejudices or presuppositions, I began with a basic definition of terms. Following this I shared a bit of my own story vis-a-vis Pentecost, hoping in the process to sympathize with their concerns and, perhaps, put a face to such ideas. I reminded those gathered that the idea of spiritual union with the divine is nothing new in the history of human religion, and is indeed a very natural search in our fallen world.
Because I’m an historian, I walked through a very brief history of the Church’s experiences with the Holy Spirit before moving on to the evening’s challenge. That night I invited the group to spend time in prayer…but not, as per usual, for any need in particular. Not for any specific manifestation of the Spirit’s work. Not for each other. Not for the miraculous. Just conversation with God and listening for his response. I encouraged them to take the time to meditate–by themselves–and simply commune with God.
Openness to God’s presence and existing deeply in that relationship were my goals for the evening. As a group of young adults who had either little awareness of such things or a history of over-Pentecostal emphasis on matters Spirit-ual, they needed time to merely be with God. Such free-form time with the Lord is foundational, and I hope that it was beneficial to those gathered. If in the midst of all of this they were able to understand how normal (or non-weird) such times of union or communion with God really are, I feel that we passed an important milestone.