The Spirit Helps Us in Our Weakness

Novena to the Holy Spirit (Introduction+Nine Days)

Day One – Friday of the 6th week of Easter

[The practice of praying for God's spiritual 'gifts' is attributed to Christ himself when he instructed his Apostles to 'stay in Jerusalem' and await God's promise of the Holy Spirit [Acts 1:4-5]. Since there are nine days in between the Lord's Ascension and the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, the custom developed of praying each day for nine days to obtain spiritual favors. This we call a 'novena'. I have done this often with wondrous results. This year I felt inspired to do something I've never done before, which is to also invite people who are in need of a spiritual lift to try this form of prayer. I'm thinking in particular of those who have had a sincere desire to find God (let me use the term 'seeker') but have not been able to obtain satisfactory results.

In the past I would have 'prayed for' such individuals (something we call intercession) but this time I hope to have you join in directly. This Novena to the Holy Spirit really highlights some 'gifts' that are designed to bring about and strengthen our very relation with God. It's not a prayer for food, health or prosperity, etc., rather it's a prayer to foster our relation with God himself. I'm also hopeful that those who are in need of a spiritual boost or who feel lukewarm regarding their faith will tag along. As much as possible I've added links to scripture passages to show my thought and make it easy for you to view, please click and view the brief passage. Take some time each day to pray for results. I discussed a possible prayer format in my introductory post. To all souls of good will, who were guided here and are truly seeking the 'unknown God,' I ask you to lay up the oars on the boat and instead, hoist the sails, for the Wind is now blowing.]


The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech. He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God himself wills. [Romans 8:26-27]

It's good to occasionally be reminded that we need assistance in our prayer, we need help because we don't see clearly: we lack; we are weak. The fact is we're so confused that we really make a mess of it: yet according to St. Paul, one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to intercede for us. Reflecting on the passage above, the Holy Spirit knows us in a way that words can't express; knows us in the way of God; and the Father knowing us in this manner, acts according to His own Will.

Similarly when the Father chooses to reveal something of himself or his ways, to us, it is via our Advocate, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit accomplishes his revealing through his 'gifts.' Holy Scripture speaks often of the 'spirit of the Lord' as 'resting' upon someone…

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might (fortitude), the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord (to delight in worship is piety). He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear. [Isaiah 11:2-3]

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [Matthew 3:16-17]

(Jesus at his Ascension said to them)…'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you: and you will be my witnesses [Acts 1:8]

Most versions of the Novena to the Holy Spirit use the same ordering of the gifts (though sometimes in exact reverse). (1) Fear of the Lord, (2) Piety, (3) Fortitude, (4) Knowledge, (5) Understanding, (6) Counsel, (7) Wisdom. Though they are not listed in scripture in this fashion (see Isaiah above) they certainly seem to build one upon the other, as for example: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [Ps. 111:10a] I hope to speak of each of these gifts one day at a time and add a conclusion on the ninth day. There will also be a question or two for your own reflection. I invite as much sharing as possible through the comments section.

An important point to understand as we pray this Novena is that there is a purpose and intent to desiring and receiving the 'gifts of the Holy Spirit'. God bestows his 'gifts' in a manner that implies service and fidelity to the Kingdom of God. Indeed scripture also speaks of someone's 'gifts' as being dried up or taken back if not used as the Lord intended. "Those who have will get more until they grow rich, while those who have not will lose even the little they have" [Matthew 25:29]. Our Lord curses the fig tree for bearing no fruit [Matt 21:18-22]. In the parable of the tenants he warns that the kingdom of God will be taken away for rejecting the word of God [Matt 21:43]. In a very real sense, we either use our 'gifts' wisely, or we lose them (as well as our relation with God).

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! [Matthew 7:7-11]

Reflection questions: Do you agree that receiving the 'gifts of the Holy Spirit' implies service to God's Kingdom? In what ways have you 'proclaimed the Kingdom'? In what ways might you be 'blocking the Spirit's gifts'?

Say the following as often as you can bring it to your mind throughout the Novena:

Come Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love.

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