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Your Questions, Our Answers

When is the Holy Spirit first mentioned in the Bible? Jesus said He left us the Comforter in the New Testament, but are there references to the Spirit in the Old Testament?

The first mention of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1:2: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Holy Spirit was at work restraining the “darkness” upon the waters, appearing as a participant in the Creation. The next clear reference is in Exodus 31:3, where God fills Bezalel “with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills,” so that he and Oholiab might construct the tabernacle and its furnishings. A third is found in Numbers 11:17–29, where God rests on the prophets the same Spirit that was upon Moses. While this is a very different working than the permanent indwelling of the Spirit in the New Testament, we can see how the Spirit empowered God’s servants in the Old Testament for a particular task.

I have a friend who says we should pray only to the Father, not Jesus or the Holy Spirit. According to my friend, the Lord’s Prayer is the basis for this. Is it wrong for me to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit?

The Lord’s Prayer gives us a pattern of approaching the Lord. The pattern begins with acknowledging God as our Father, which for a first-century Jewish person would have meant simply acknowledging the one true God. The Father is the “one God” to the people of Israel who would have acknowledged Him in the daily reciting of the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–9.

However, believers in the early church commonly cried out to the Lord Jesus. For example, when Stephen was being stoned, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Immediately he again prayed to Jesus, saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (v. 60). In one of his benedictions Paul prayed, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess. 2:16–17). This prayer is directed to both God the Father and Jesus. Paul’s inclusion of such language means that the Father approves of Jesus receiving the same prayers as He does.

Most importantly, Jesus said to His disciples: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). Jesus’ expectation was that His followers would pray directly to Him or the Father, for He and the Father are one. We can pray to the Lord Jesus, in His name, and expect that He will hear our prayers. There are no New Testament examples of praying to the Holy Spirit. However, in keeping with the working of the Spirit and His role in redemption, and in conjunction with His full deity, it would not be out of bounds to ask Him to fill you or a group of believers with His power, or to pray that He might bring revival to lost places around the world (see Acts 13:52; Eph. 5:18).

I’ve heard some people say they have a life verse from the Bible. How do you know what verse out of so many in the Bible is the one for you? How do you find a life verse?

Many people choose a special Bible verse they have found to be greatly encouraging in their faith journey. Maybe they read it during a time of discouragement. Or, perhaps, the verse played a significant role in their conversion or early Christian growth. Others return to a verse repeatedly to find direction in the Christian life or an assurance of the Lord’s faithfulness. Taking hold of such verses is something people do freely, and there is no obligation for you to choose one.

If you wish to identify such a verse, I would suggest seeking one that reveals something about God, offers you instruction, or reminds you of the hope you have in Christ. I know many people who have chosen Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This verse reveals God as the one who empowers us to do His will. For the apostle Paul, that meant being content whether in need or with plenty. A verse like this can become invaluable to a believer experiencing prolonged job loss, the stress of long-term elder care, a decrease in household income, or the burden of waiting for a wayward child to yield to faith in Christ.

More important than choosing a life verse is the practice of memorization and faithful Bible reading. The Lord has given us the fullness of Scripture in order for us to hear His voice in every aspect of our lives. You would do well, therefore, to begin memorizing portions of Scripture, such as the Sermon on the Mount. Memorizing lengthy passages may seem a huge challenge, but if you memorize a verse a day, you will have this memorized in four months. You will be strengthened for a lifetime by hiding God’s Word in your heart (Ps. 119:11).

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as an assistant professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men's’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).