05 August 2007

With a Humble Spirit & a Contrite Heart

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Following the lectionary for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for Pentecost X.

The hallmarks of godly prayer are two things: a humble spirit and a contrite, repentant heart. A humble spirit and a contrite heart indicate true faith, which is necessary for true prayer. A humble spirit and a contrite heart open the soul to hear what the body is saying and doing. And a humble spirit and a contrite heart give life to your prayer so that you both do and obey the words (Ex 24.3 lxx) you hear and say.

A humble spirit and a contrite, repentant heart are not attitudes, thoughts or approaches to prayer that you can muster or conjure on your own. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit. They are gifts He freely gives to all who invoke the Lord’s Name; to all who pray. Yet these gifts are of no use if they are not used. For the Spirit does not automatically impose upon you a new spirit. Rather, your spirit must not reject but welcome and serve the Holy Spirit. In the same way, your spirit must not simply receive the Spirit’s gifts, but must unwrap, use and enjoy whatever the Spirit gives. Those who leave the Spirit’s gifts unopened may say all the prayers in the right way, and do all that the Lord requires, and follow all the disciplines of the Church; but their spirit will never be animated by the Holy Spirit. For they have not lived in the Spirit, but according to their own spirit. But the person submits his spirit to the Holy Spirit—that person welcomes and uses the Spirit’s gifts and so will no longer strive with God’s Spirit (Gen 6.3) but will, with his spirit, serve in the gospel of God’s Son (Rom 1.9).

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