Be filled with the Spirit, Creating a Culture of Prayer (3), May 15th 2022

Be filled with the Spirit, Creating a Culture of Prayer (3), May 15th 2022

Acts 11: Creating a Culture of Prayer (3) (Holy Spirit)

Acts 11:1-18

Father, thank you for your promises. We ask you to give afresh your Spirit to us, and teach us about your promises, and guide us into the truth of what it means to live

an increasingly Spirit filled life. In Jesus name. Amen.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit

We heard the story. The first part reminds us of last week – hearing God’s voice.

Peter is praying– God interrupts his prayer time with the vision of the sheet.

At the vision, in Acts 10, ‘while Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him…’’ – Peter had the revelation, but he did not understand the interpretation or application, until later, when he was with Cornelius. At Cornelius’ home he says: ‘’I now realize how true it is that God does not not show favouritism but accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right.’’ (10:14-15).

On the roof, as he is thinking, the Holy Spirit speaks for him to go with the men from Cornelius.

This is clear direction – speaking into the here and now – not a message about his distant future, Go, the Spirit says  – go with them  – and Peter is obedient.

He preaches and ‘the Holy Spirit came on them’.

So he is preaching about one thing, the Holy Spirit does something else…

Peter says ‘the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. ‘’Then I remembered what the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’’

It shows, as the elders in Jerusalem recognize,  that Gentiles have been accepted as children of God, they are able to receive eternal life, like the Jews, through faith in the Lord Jesus. It was an almost identical event Peter witnessed, to what had happened to him months before.  And there were six other witnesses – from the Messianic Jewish community –  who saw it with him (11:12).

It is a key moment – the Gentiles are publically, clearly, welcomed by Christ.

For us as Gentiles,   The Spirit is poured out as much on Gentiles as it is on the Jews.’

When the Old Testament, taught that the Spirit was poured on particular people for particular tasks at particular times. At that house, it changed.  Peter saw, truly now the Spirit is poured out on all who repent, believe, trust in Jesus Christ – on all Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male, female, young and old. No one was or is to be excluded from God’s gift.

The Holy Spirit.  What do we learn in Acts about him?

Being filled happens more than once. On Pentecost ‘’All of them were filled with the Spirit’. Peter described that experience:

‘Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father, the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.’ (2:33).  The language he uses, ‘poured out’  is like that of a heavy tropical rainstorm – the Spirit flooded their very beings. 

So that is it, isn’t it? Yet then we read of Acts 4 – weeks later. Peter and John – persecution has began – they return to the believers and they pray together. We read.  ‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’

They have been filled on Pentecost – but now filled again.

Clearly not a one off event, something that happens more than once.

Manifestations when filled.

Secondly, when people were filled, at times there were manifestations. This took place at Pentecost. And when Peter preaches to Cornelius and his family etc, there was heartfelt praise to God and the gift of tongues – praise and spiritual gifts. 

But external manifestations do not need to follow being filled with the Spirit.

We have mentioned Saul and Ananias. ‘Ananias placed his hands on Saul and said, ‘The Lord Jesus has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again.

Ananias was sent to Saul. Jesus command was for him to be prayed for healing. Ananias also prays for him to be filled – as it was a regular thing, as if it is something the believer needs from the start or what believers do for each other.

Saul – is healed – but no other external manifestation.

‘Be filled with the Spirit’. A person may experience absolutely nothing. Yet that does not mean the Spirit is not working or present. The silence does not mean his absence.

I am helped by the story of Revd Sandy Millar. Sandy was the vicar of the Church where Alpha took on the form it has now. When Sandy was a young minister, he heard about the filling of the Spirit. He said, he kneeled down in his office at the church and asked God to fill him with the Spirit. He said. At the time, and afterwards he felt nothing. He went back home.

Next morning as he walked to work, he noticed his heart was full of praise and joy to the Lord as he sang hymns spontaneously on the way. He had been filled but there were no signs until later.

I remember Sandy teaching on being filled with the Spirit, and he said ‘when you ask God to fill you with his Spirit, then say thank you’ trusting Jesus to do what he promised in Luke 11 – the Father will give the Spirit to those who ask.

Some people do experience powerful, physical manifestations of the Spirit, but others don’t. Peter experienced it, Cornelius experienced, Saul – Paul, personally did not…

Third. The importance of the Spirit for discipleship.

When Ananias prays for Saul, he appears naturally to pray for him to be filled with the Spirit.

Later in Ephesus, Acts 19:1–6: ‘Paul found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” ’

There are some people like that. Maybe they’ve been baptised, maybe they’ve been churchgoers, but they say, ‘We’ve never even really heard about the Holy Spirit.’ “……When Paul placed his hands on them – like Ananias had placed his hands on him –  the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues, and prophesied.’ They were filled.

Years later Paul writes to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 5 Paul says:  15 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,…’’

He has told them in his letter – they have been sealed with the Spirit – which took place when they believed. He warns them not to grieve the Spirit by how they speak and live. And despite the Spirit living in the believer, he says ‘be filled.’

Sealed by the Spirit, challenged not to grieve the Spirit, exhorted to allow the Spirit to have fullest control that we are conscious of, to open ourselves continually to the one – to God the Spirit – who can enable us to truly walk wisely and to understand Christ’s will.

Paul says our role towards the Spirit, is  to ‘be filled with the Spirit’.

There are our choices, our attitudes in our Christian walk and how we live wisely. But we do not do this alone or are we intended to do this alone – in our discipleship Paul says also, ‘be filled’. It is in fact, the key to making our discipleship work, he shares the key to all he has taught.

Looking more closely. ‘Be filled’.

The first thing that is seen – in the Greek used by Paul  – is ‘a present imperative’ – so the phrase ‘be filled’ is not about a one time action, but about a regular pattern of life.

2 forms of command – aorist and present. Aorist is a single command. Present is continuous. So when Jesus commanded the servants to fill the jars at the wedding at cana, the command – was aorist – since the jars could only be filled once. Paul says ‘be filled’ using a present imperative – we are to go on being filled.

The fullness of the Spirit is not a one off experience or one we never lose – but a ‘privilege’ part of God’s provision for us – to be renewed continually by continual believing it is for you and by obedient appropriation.

You could say, it is like your mobile phone reception – there are times you have one bar, other times full bars. We all have the Spirit – we all have reception – but today, we may not all be filled with the Spirit – have full bars – hence Paul’s teaching.

A Messianic Jewish writer says: the word filled, speaks of wind as it fills a sail, a perfect picture – as the word for wind and spirit in Hebrew is the same word – Ruach – a boat must go where the sail captures the wind.

So two commands. Do not get drunk. Be Spirit filled.

Be filled – how?

Be filled. It is a command – imperative.  It is not a suggestion. We don’t have the liberty to avoid this responsibility Paul says, anymore, than we can avoid the commands about walking wisely or being greedy or impure.  So be encouraged, the Lord seeks to fill.

Paul writes it in a plural form. It is addressed to the whole Christian community. None are to get drunk. All of us are to be filled. So this isn’t about the elite being filled, or the special ones, or priests or bishops or apostles, or even about being mature enough. It is available for all the people of God. Wonderful.

The Gk is a passive voice. It can be translated – let the Holy Spirit fill you.

No technique or special words. No formula to recite. But you choose.

We turn from what grieves him, we are open to him, to God,

we desire nothing to hinder him from filling us,

to surrender to the Holy Spirit…

Corrie ten Boom tells this.

A lady planned a house meeting, although her brother did not believe it would be successful. The next day, she proudly told him her room had been filled with women. The next report she reported that her room had been fuller still, and the third week, even fuller. ‘Impossible’ her brother said, ‘When a room is full, it cannot be fuller still.’ ‘Yes’, she said with a smile, ‘but every week, I took out more of my furniture!’.

We can be filled, and be still filled more.

Perhaps some furniture needs to be moved out of our heart.  Let him fill you.

Simply. We have been sealed with the Spirit once for all. He abides with us forever.

We need to be filled with the Spirit and to go on being filled

every day every moment of the day.

Something you pray for yourself.

Something you pray for someone else.

Praying for others.

We keep returning to Saul and Ananias as a model. Ananias prays for Saul, he prays for someone who has the Holy Spirit within him – and he prays for his practical need – in this case – healing – but he also prays for the Holy Spirit to fill him. Ananias says: that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

So when you are praying with someone, I’d suggest, it is suitable, as you close your prayers, to ask God, to fill Grant, to fill Andrew, to fill Anneke, with the Holy Spirit.

It is also possible, that you may be chatting with a friend or a spouse, and they have asked you to pray for more of the Spirit in their lives.

So a simple way to do it.

Father’s Promise.

Firstly be encouraged, when we ask the Spirit to come, he comes – the Father will give,  Jesus promises – but as we said, there may be signs or nothing – trust the promise, not wait for evidence.

It is the Father who gives, the Holy Spirit who fills,

so we pray simply, truthfully, in our prayers – no eccentricities or weird language.

Lay on hands.

You may, after asking permission,  then lay a hand on a head, or shoulder, or on an arm – being sensitive where you place your hand. Ananias – a disciple lays on hands on an apostle – so laying on hands for the prayer to receive the Spirit is not something limited to those in authority. A Christian can lay on hands on another believer for praying for the Spirit.


You may want to pray something simply like :

‘Lord, thank you for George / Jane and for your love for him / her.

Come now Lord, and fill him / her with your Holy Spirit.


After you have prayed, silently ask God if there is anything he wants you to say or do.

And be still and listen.

What comes to mind, quite possibly will be to guide any further prayers,

but it is possible, an encouraging bible verse or something else may come to mind. 

You can discern at that time whether to share.

Or if you are not sure, it is okay not to share at that point.

To take time to discern if it is right to share and then at a later time to let them know.

So trust the father, lay on hands, pray, listen, and when suitable end the prayer time.


Peter says,’ the Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning, and then I remembered what the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ The Spirit is poured out as much on the Gentiles as on the Jews.’

It is possible our experience may be shaped by confirmations, the Bishop prays for the filling of the Spirit on each confirmand. Yet to be filled is not a once in a lifetime experience.

Here at All Saints, we offer at Pentecost – as we will offer again this year – the opportunity to receive the anointing of oil, as a sign of a fresh infilling of the Spirit. But it is more than once a year.

As part of the Alpha course we run each year, there is a day of teaching on the Holy Spirit, and there is a time to receive prayer for a fresh filling, a fresh work of the Spirit within each person – these are very moving times – yet again, this is more than just when we do Alpha.

Paul is saying – be filled and keep on being filled. It is for daily.

To quote John Stott as he reflects on Paul’s words : ‘Here then is a message both for those who feel defeated and those who are complacent – a message for Christians at opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum and all inbetween.

To the defeated Paul would say: Be filled with the Spirit, and he will give you a new love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control.’

To the complacent. Paul would say: ‘go on being filled with the Spirit.

Thank God for what he has given you so far.

But do not say you have arrived. For there is much more, yet to come.’’ Stott, Ephesians.

Shall we pray.

‘Lord, thank you for your gift of the Holy Spirit given to all.

Please show me if you need more room in my heart for your Holy Spirit.

It is a joy to remove that which could stand in the way.

Father, again, would you fill me afresh with you Holy Spirit.

Thank you. In Jesus name.