There is nothing more difficult than to ask. We desire and crave and suffer, but only when we’ve reached our absolute limit do we ask. What finally makes us ask God for the Holy Spirit is a sense of unreality. We sense that we are not spiritually real and that we cannot become spiritually real on our own. When this happens, when we glimpse our powerlessness, we must ask God for the Spirit, basing our request on the words of Jesus: “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit is the one who makes real in us all that Jesus did on our behalf.

“For everyone who asks receives.” This doesn’t mean that if we don’t ask, we’ll get nothing; God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good” alike (Matthew 5:45). But until we ask, we won’t receive from God directly. To receive from God directly means that we have come into a specific relationship with him—we have become his children— and now we perceive, with moral appreciation and spiritual under- standing, that all things come from him.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God” (James 1:5). If you realize you lack wisdom, it is because you’ve come into contact with spiritual reality, and your eyes have been opened. Don’t put on the blinders of reasonableness again. Don’t listen when people say, “Be reasonable; preach the simple gospel. Don’t tell us we have to be holy, because that makes us feel abjectly poor.”

If we are abjectly poor, we are in the right condition for asking. “Ask” means “beg.” We must ask out of poverty. If instead we ask out of greed, we’ll never receive. We must ask because we know that, without God, we have nothing. A pauper isn’t ashamed to beg. Paupers beg because they are poor; there is no other reason. Blessed are the paupers in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

Wisdom from Oswald

Our danger is to water down God’s word to suit ourselves. God never fits His word to suit me; He fits me to suit His word. Not Knowing Whither, 901 R