This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on “Prayer and the Holy Spirit preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday March 24-25, 2012.

Here is one of the best definitions of spiritual maturity I have heard – accidentally plagiarizing Jesus. It’s not fake and it’s not me. Spiritual maturity is the middle ground between hypocritical piety and sincere sin.

Think of the sincere affection of a child watching their father. They watch his actions, listen to his words, and study his responses to various situations. Three responses begin to emerge:

1. The child overtly imitates their father, play-acting their hero – hypocrisy (from the original Greek word meaning actor).

2. The child sincerely gives into their desires and breaks the rules – sin (a child does not have to “try” to be bad, their sin-nature just spills out).

3. The child instinctually (no play-acting) responds like their father to an unpleasant situation – maturity (plagiarizing character as if it were their own until it becomes their own).

I love these moments with my sons (almost as much as I am troubled by the moments when they plagiarize my sin). Where do they come from? (1) Affection. (2) Interaction. (3) Imagination.

It begins with affection. If we would be like Jesus, we must love God like a child loves a good father. Without affection the second two factors become forced. According to I Corinthians 12:3, it is only the Holy Spirit that can give us the affection for Jesus necessary to call Him Lord.

Affection draws us towards interaction. Our affection for Jesus should cause us to pray like a child who is interrupting a distracted father, “Papa… Papa… Papa.” Ask that child if it is hard to “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17). In their mind no adult conversation could be more important than their father’s eye contact even if they don’t want anything important.

According to Romans 5:5, it is the Holy Spirit that pours this kind of love into our hearts. According to Romans 8:15, it is the Holy Spirit that confirms and gives us a felt sense of our adoption by God which causes our hearts to cry “Abba! Father!”

Affection cannot help but give itself to imagination. Children imagine living as their hero in their own world. I often hear my children pretending to be “the grown ups” and when they do, they sound like me (for better or worse). This is when my children are on the brink of accidentally plagiarizing me. They are role playing me in situations in which they have not seen me.

This is a powerful part of prayer. We often talk of prayer as intercessory faith – believing God for something on behalf of another person. This requires imagination. Do we visualize the heart of God for the situation we and those we know find themselves in? Do we role play Jesus in those circumstances or do we only ponder “what we should have said/done”?

It is only the Holy Spirit that can silence our flesh and fears to allow us to see a response outside our own instincts. It is only the Holy Spirit that would give us words that lead to the gospel instead of our own interests or protection. When this happens – affection, interaction, and imagination are guided by the Holy Spirit – we begin to accidentally plagiarize Jesus. We begin to sound like a child who loves their father (Eph 5:1-2).

This notion of imaginative prayer can be said another way, “Jesus in my place.” We see Jesus in our place throughout the day like a child who imagines their father in their situation (i.e., place) and grows mature by virtue of their imagination. Let us see Jesus clearly in the Bible and then pray with Spirit-filled imaginations about what Jesus in my place (i.e., home, workplace, school, etc…) would look like.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Spiritual Disciplines” post which address other facets of this subject.