My first conscious experience with the Holy Spirit was also my most dramatic.
I strayed into a Charismatic meeting at my ancestral hometown, Mangalore, India, when I was 17. My father was patronising and mildly amused, and flatly refused to take me again. And so I went to the visiting Spanish priest preaching the retreat, Father Marcellino Iragui, and asked him to pray with me for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (about which I had just heard) and which he was to pray for on the last day.
“Are you hungry?” he asked. “Is she hungry?” he asked my friend with me. Upon deciding that I was, he prayed.
And I felt nothing.
And woke that night, about 3 a.m. with overwhelming joy, worshipping and praising God in childlike and incoherent English, and then in a spirit-language which has never left me. It was the gift of tongues, glossolalia.
* * *
And for many years, decades even, when I prayed “Come, Holy Spirit,” that was what I was praying for: joy, champagne, an experience.
Gradually, I changed, experimenting more with Oswald Chambers’ life-verse inscribed on his tomb, Luke 11:13: If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
“I am sad, I am depressed. I feel lifeless. My spirit feels dead. Come, Holy Spirit.”
The first time I prayed this, with faith, I was amazed to find that my mood had changed. Almost like magic.
Now that I pray that more expectantly. “I am sad and empty. Come Holy Spirit.”
“I know the core of following Jesus is love, but I feel no love. Come Holy Spirit.”
“I am supposed to love my husband, but at this moment, I feel anger, not love. And murder is totally illegal. Come Holy Spirit.”
“The temperature of family life is hotting up, and I cannot change it. Come Holy Spirit, you are welcome here. Come and change the atmosphere.”
“I have a call to blog and to write, and my piece is not developing. It’s slow, and I don’t know how to write. You are the fountain of ideas and beauty. Come Holy Spirit.”
“I know I need to pick up this room before the cleaner comes, but I am so bored, finding it so hard to focus on it. Come Holy Spirit, fill my spirit with new wine while I do so.”
“Chocolate will change my mood, oh yes, but is there an alternative? Come, Holy Spirit.”
It’s bread, it’s bread, the bread of the Holy Spirit, given to help me in my weakness, in my low moods, when I am angry, when I need inspiration.
The Holy Spirit is no longer just champagne. He is bread, he is fish and eggs and vegetables. If I went through my day without him, that day would be sad; that day would be stressful and empty. I would live that day weak, and without God’s power to help me.
Come, Holy Spirit.