As we come to one of the most explosive moments in the Bible, the story of Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2), we, like the dejected disciples cowering in a house after the death of their friend and Messiah, are given the opportunity to make a choice; to go back to a ’normal life’ or to make a radical commitment to God’s mission, on fire with passion to seek and save the lost, to transform communities as we do so. It’s a high calling indeed and we cannot do it alone; we need our own personal Pentecost!
It’s my hope and prayer for you (and for myself) that these songs become heartfelt prayers for revival in the fullest sense of the word.
Come Holy Spirit!
‘O for a thousand tongues to sing’
I’ve chosen two very contrasting versions of Charles Wesley’s hymn because, not only are they both musically creative but the words resonate with today’s passage about the incredible events of Pentecost, where God’s Spirit enabled the apostles to speak in languages they had not learnt in order that people might hear the ‘wonders of God in their own language’ (Acts 2 v 11b). The original hymn had 18 (yes 18!) stanzas/verses (and we think some of the modern Christian worship songs are repetitive!) but most churches whittled it down to 4 or 5. The one that reflects the heart of Pentecost best is the eighth which says:
My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the world abroad the honors of Thy name.
‘O God of burning cleansing flame’
This hymn was written by the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, who, along with his wife Catherine, made an incredible difference to the fabric of society in the late 1800’s in over 50 countries. As an evangelist and preacher, he was uncompromising and direct, but his gospel message was accompanied by extravagant self-sacrifice and strategy to alleviate some of the practical issues faced by the poorest in society. The ‘Fire’ in his lyrics is one of the metaphors used in the bible to describe the Holy Spirit who not only appeared ‘as if tongues of fire’ in the story of Pentecost but also represents God’s purifying and unapproachable holiness. In the presence of such awesomeness, we are compelled to repent from the things in our lives which stain us and our society as a whole. His presence also empowers us to not only preach the message of Christ but to ‘live a dying world to save’ as the flames are fanned to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.
Look down and see this waiting host and send the promised Holy Ghost, we need another Pentecost – send the fire today!
‘Wind of God’ by Fred Hammond
In addition to the metaphor of fire, the Holy Spirit is also often described as breath or wind in the bible. In fact, the two main words for ‘spirit’ in the scriptures are ‘ruach’ (in Hebrew) and ‘pneuma’ (in Greek); both meaning ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ and carrying the idea of God’s invisible, life-giving and transforming presence. In the Pentecost passage, Luke writes ‘Suddenly there came from heaven and sound like a mighty rushing wind’ (Acts 2 v 2). This was no gentle spring breeze! This was the mighty power of God that transformed the cowering and confused followers of Jesus in to fearless preachers, miracle workers and world-changers! How we need the same power today!
Come and blow wind God, come revive restore our hearts.
Come and blow breath of life, speak Your word and we will rise.
‘Building your kingdom here’ by Rend Collective
This song, a firm favourite in our church, is a powerful prayer for God’s kingdom (a term for God’s perfect rule and reign) to come and ‘revive the earth’. Scripture tells the incredible story of how ordinary, flawed human beings, were given the privilege of stewarding God’s creation, enjoying and reflecting his beauty as they do so. We all know that’s not how the story panned out but, nonetheless, we are still given the same mandate by our creator. However, we know we cannot do it alone:
Come set Your rule and reign in our hearts again. Increase in us we pray, unveil why we’re made.
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope like wildfire in our very souls – Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your Church and we need Your power in us.
‘Spirit break out’ by Worship Central
Often it’s the walls we put up to God (self-sufficiency, pride, fear, apathy, embarrassment, etc.) which prevents us experiencing his wonderful presence in our lives. The first follower of Jesus were not educated, not influential (some were actually despised!); they were fishermen, tax collectors, craftsmen, simple people who had a life-changing encounter with Jesus; and that’s what made all the difference. And then, on the day of Pentecost, as they were praying, they had another! This song offers us a simple but powerful prayer:
Spirit break out – Break our walls down.
Spirit break out – Heaven come down!