Who Is the Holy Spirit and Why Is He So Important?

The Holy Spirit

Luke 11:1-13

Teaching t14096


Over the last two weeks, we have studied the New Testament’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit (who assures, sanctifies, and empowers those who entrust themselves to Jesus as Messiah), and the Holy Spirit’s role in Jesus’ life and ministry (not as a super-hero, but as dependent upon the Holy Spirit for His life and ministry).

We turn now (this week and next) to what Jesus taught His disciples about the Holy Spirit’s future role in their lives (i.e., after His ascension – EXPLAIN WHY).  Most of what He taught them on this subject waited until His final conversation with them (NEXT WEEK).  Prior to that, He taught them about this topic only three brief times.[1]  We’ll look at one of these today. 

Read Lk. 11:13.  This is very general promise that emphasizes God’s generosity.  But it poses a problem for biblically literate Christians, because it seems to imply that Jesus’ followers need to continue to ask (present tense) for the Holy Spirit to indwell them.  Eph. 1:13 (read) clearly teaches that all who put their trust in Jesus as Savior automatically receive the Holy Spirit (GOSPEL).  What then does this promise mean, and how does it apply to us?  In order to properly understand this promise, we must understand its preceding context – which is about the role of prayer in serving people. 

Read 11:1.  The disciples had connected the dots between Jesus’ spiritual impact (i.e., meeting people’s deepest needs) and His prayer life (both private and with His disciples).  So they asked Jesus: “Teach us to pray.”

Jesus responded by giving them a model prayer (read 11:2-4), which emphasizes the priority of drawing people to God (explain 11:2), and asking God for the resources to do this (explain 11:3,4). 

Then Jesus told a parable that further explains how to pray so that we may effectively serve the people God brings into our lives (read 11:5-8).  In every service situation there are three parties, just as in this parable – the person (or persons) in spiritual need (the “friend” arriving at midnight), the person called upon to meet the spiritual need (“one of you” - the man visited at midnight), and God who alone has the resources to meet the spiritual need through us (the “friend” awakened, as will become clear in the following verses). 

So Jesus is saying: “You will be able to effectively serve other people by praying to God – not in some religious way, but with three heart-attitudes – willingness to serve, helplessness, and shameless audacity.

Willingness to serve

Re-read 5:6a.  In the ancient world, there were very few inns, and predictable travel-schedules were non-existent.  This is one reason why hospitality was a solemn duty.  “A visitor was to be welcomed and cared for, regardless of the hour of his arrival.”[2]  This man who was visited at midnight could have put a pillow over his ears, but he acknowledged his responsibility to help, and got out of bed and opened the door.

God is daily sending us people who have spiritual needs.  Some we already anticipate and have scheduled time for (e.g., teaching home church or cell group; discipleship time), but some are unexpected like this man who came at midnight (“interruptions”).  Some are obviously “spiritually important” (e.g., witnessing to a relative in crisis), but some are less obvious though just as important (e.g., building up someone after home church; being an “aroma of Christ” at an office meeting; coming home after work to our children).   Some come to us and ask for help (e.g., home church friend seeking counsel), but some require our notice and initiative toward them (e.g., home church friend needing encouragement or admonition). 

God wants to give His spiritual life to them through us, and this is our greatest privilege and responsibility in life.  Will I get out of bed, or will I put a pillow over my ears?  This is the attitude of willingness – to open myself to serve the person in need. 

There are lots of ways to put a pillow over my ears.  I can fundamentally reject serving others as a life-style responsibility (PILLOW DEVICE SLIDE).  I can decide that I will not serve today, that today is a “me” day.  I can decide to serve only those I expect, but not those who “interrupt” me.  I can decide to serve only those who are in my tribe, but not those who are very different from me.  I can decide to serve only those whom I feel competent to serve, not those who are “over my head.”  Those who refuse to serve others will have little experience of the Holy Spirit.

So this kind of prayer begins with the choice before God to be willing to serve others, but it doesn’t end there . . .


Re-read 11:6.  When the visited man goes to his neighbor friend, he says “I have nothing to set before him.”  He not only doesn’t have any extra bread; he doesn’t even have the flour to make bread!  He goes to his neighbor because he knows he is helpless to provide what is needed, and he expresses this helplessness to his neighbor friend.

This is our position in every serving situation.  Whether it is sharing our faith with someone at the office, or spending quality time with our children or spouse, or preparing for and/or giving a teaching, or visiting our aged parent, etc. – whatever the situation, we have nothing to set before them (read Jn. 15:4,5; 2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5,6a).  We do not have the love or the wisdom or the power or the patience or the courage or the clarity of speech, etc.  Only God has the spiritual life that they need, so we must acknowledge our utter helplessness to ourselves and express this helplessness to Him.  Sometimes we can stop and do this out loud and/or with a brother or sister.  More often, we express this silently to the Lord.

Some of us pray rarely or never in these situations because we don’t believe we are helpless.  Jack Miller says: “Increasingly I saw myself as a desperately needy person, like the man who goes to his friend at midnight and says, ‘I have nothing.’  Before this, my problem in praying was that I had something – namely, reliance on myself, my training, my study, and my work.  But the man at midnight has no bread for himself or for others.”[3]

Some of us know we have nothing, but let our inadequacy paralyze us from going to God.  “Do not become (discouraged) because of your helplessness.  Above all, don’t let it prevent you from praying.  Helplessness is the real secret and impelling power of prayer . . . For it is only when we are helpless that we open our hearts to Jesus and let Him help us . . . according to His grace and mercy.”[4]

So let us turn to God in every such situation and both affirm our willingness to serve and admit our helplessness.  But don’t stop here . . .

Shameless audacity

Re-read 11:8b.  Why did the neighbor agree to get up and give the man as much as he needed for his guest?  Jesus uses the word anaideia – the only time this word is used in the New Testament.  The NASB wrongly translates it “persistence;” the NIV is closer with “shameless audacity.”  Anaideia means” “shamelessness,” (NASB margin), “impudence” (ESV); “without regard for etiquette.”  Anaideia is what John Kennedy Jr. expressed in this famous photo (SLIDE).  Anaideia is what these two children express (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh4f9AYRCZY).  Similarly, this man won’t take “No” for an answer.  He insists: “This guest has come to my door, and I don’t have anything to give to him.  You have what he needs, so it doesn’t matter what time it is.  You must give it to me so I can give it to him!”

Jesus says we should pray like this in every serving situation (read 11:9,10 – “So . . . ask, and it will be given to you.”).

On what basis can we ask in this way?  Not because we’ve been so morally awesome lately, or because we are important people, or because we feel confident, or even because the need is urgent.  We can ask with shameless audacity because God is our Father.  Unlike the neighbor, God is not a reluctant helper.  He is our Father who is gracious and generous, who has promised to give His children everything we need to serve others, and who is delighted when we ask on this basis.  It is this contrast between the reluctant neighbor and God as our Father that Jesus emphasizes in 11:11-13 (read).

And what will our Father give us when we ask with willingness to serve and helplessness and shameless audacity?  Re-read 11:13.  The Greek text is: “How much more will He give Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”  In Greek, this lack of definite article emphasizes the Spirit’s provision rather this His Person.[5]  That is, He will give whatever provision of the Holy Spirit is needed to enable us to serve in this situation.  It may be courage, or wisdom, or discernment, or patience, or compassion, or forgiveness, or clear speech, or mercy, or spiritual authority, or endurance, etc.  We don’t even have to know exactly what we need; we just need to ask and He will give us what He knows we need.  This was the key to how Jesus served God so effectively – He asked for a fresh enablement from the Holy Spirit.  And this is the key for our effective service.

Luke, who recorded this promise by Jesus, also wrote the book of Acts – the history of the early church – to narrate the beginning of this promise’s fulfillment.  As they faced different opportunities and challenges related to serving people as Jesus’ representatives, they chose to pray – and then the Holy Spirit “filled” them to do whatever was needed (see Acts 1:14 >> 2:4ff.; 2:42 >> 47; 4:24-30 >> 31; 6:4-7; 9:11-17; 10:2,9ff.; 12:5ff.; 13:2-4).

And so, after asking Him, we can plunge into the situation and count on the Holy Spirit coming through.  We shouldn’t wait until we feel He has answered; we should pray, and then step out knowing that He will give what He has promised.  As Andrew Murray says: “As we pray to be filled with the Spirit, let us not seek for the answer in our feelings . . . (Rather) let (us) believe, the Father gives the Holy Spirit’s (help) to His praying child . . . (In this way) the blessing, which has already been given us, and which we hold in faith, may break through and fill our whole being.”[6]


God wants to work powerfully through us as His agents of loving and serving people whom He dearly loves.  Ask God to help you view each day as a series of such service opportunities.  Ask Him to remind you to pray to Him in each situation with willingness, helplessness, and audacity.  And then thank Him by faith as you move into the situation.  This kind of prayer will enable you to embrace a lifestyle that experiences the Holy Spirit and gives you true joy!

NEXT WEEK: John 14-16 – “The Holy Spirit as the Helper”



[1] Lk. 12:11,12; Jn. 7:37-39; Lk. 11:13

[2] Darrell L. Bock, The NIV Application Commentary: Luke (Zondervan, 1996), p. 310.

[3] Jack Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Zondervan, 1986), p. 96.

[4] O. Hallesby, Prayer (Augsburg, 1975), p. 21.

[5] “In the English New Testament, the phrase ‘the Holy Spirit’ occurs 88 times, and always with the definite article. In the Greek New Testament, however, the definite article occurs in only (34) cases, while in (54) instances it is just ‘Holy Spirit,’ with no definite article.  Luke 11:13 is one of the latter instances.  What is the significance of the different usage?  Dr. H. B. Swete has pointed out that in the Greek, where the definite article is used (‘the Holy Spirit’) – the reference is to the Holy Spirit as a Person.  But where there is no definite article (just ‘Holy Spirit’), the reference is not to Him as a Person, but to His operations and manifestations . . . Here is a most exhilarating and encouraging truth, which opens up great possibilities to the believer. What the passage seems to mean can be expressed this way: ‘If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give that operation of the Holy Spirit that is needed to enable . . . an effective ministry to those who ask Him.’ The verse, far from being redundant, conveys an open promise that just awaits our appropriation.” Oswald Sanders, In Pursuit of Maturity (Lamplighter), pp. 211-213.

[6] Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, chapter 7.  Dr. F. B. Meyer: “Reckoning that God has kept His Word with you, dare to believe it, though you may not be conscious of any emotion, and you will find when you come to work, or to suffer, or to meet temptation, that there will be in you the consciousness of a power . . . which will indicate the filling of the Spirit.” (cited in Oswald Sanders, The Holy Spirit and His Gifts, pp. 142,143.