Monday, November 06, 2006

Contemplation #208
Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:19

This request of Simon may be easily dismissed by us as patently and obviously wrong. We might think that we could never err in so gross a manner. Yet, the essence of Simon’s request is the desire for spiritual power. How many times have we yearned to pray more effectively, with more power and results? Have we wished that great and godly works could be done through us – our words, actions, touch, and prayer? Through ‘our’ ministry? When we desire the power of God to be in us, for whatever good of the kingdom that we might envision, do we really have a request different from Simon’s on our hearts?

Contemplation #209
When they arrived, the prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:15

Simon observed that the Spirit came upon the Samaritan believers when Peter and John laid their hands on them, but evidently he concluded incorrectly that this power was subject to the will of the apostles – that they could bestow the Spirit, and that he too could receive this power to wield. This was consistent with his understanding of sorcery which is all about harnessing power. However, Peter and John first prayed before laying their hands on anyone. The Spirit goes where the Spirit wills, and no power of God is subject to human will. We ought to forget every impulse toward desiring the power of God working through us, and instead seek to be humbly submissive to God’s will. The desire for power is too tempting, particularly for us, some of the most powerful people in the world.

Contemplation #210
I see that you are full of bitterness . . . Acts 8:23

Peter, in correcting Simon, diagnoses the source of his aspiration for power . . . bitterness. He was a man who’d trafficked in power, reveled in the amazement of people, and enjoyed their accolades. He still desired the prestige, and mourned the loss he’d suffered by the arrival of Philip. He was no longer the center of the attention of others, and with this new power he could see himself returning to the privileged status he’d lost. Our own desire to experience the power of God may be rooted in a bitterness about our own insignificance, even though we may not be consciously aware of it. This is precisely why we should seek only the life of a servant, and embrace the insignificance of the lowly. Our work is to humble ourselves.