The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Christian


“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones – hear ye the word of the Lord” are the first lines of a Negro spiritual that was sung by a male quartet in my youth. A verse goes on to say, “… de toe bone connected with de foot bone. De foot bone connected wid de ankle bone, de ankle bone connect wid de leg bone, de leg bone connected wid de knee bone… Rise and hear de word of de Lawd.”

This was an interpretation of Ezekiel 37:1-14. There were some preachers in my youth who used these words in their sermons on this passage. I can remember picturing this field of white bleached bones, and wondering how in the world could they be made to come alive. Indeed, a great transformation had to take place. There had to be much rattling of the bones. Looking to verses 9 and 10, “then he said to me, prophesy to the breath (wind), ‘thus says the Lord God, come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slaves that they might live.’ I prophesied as God commanded me and the breath came into them. And they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” They had received the Holy Spirit. They had been brought alive, ready to go forth and renew the Israelite people as they returned to their own soil from war. God had breathed the Holy Spirit into them. The gospel of John teaches that the advocate or the Holy Spirit that God sends, will teach and testify the truth in Jesus’ name.

In a bible class that I attended a few years ago, we had concluded that we had too few sermons and lessons on the Holy Spirit. It makes one wonder if we even recognize the Holy Spirit today in our churches. We often hear the expression: “the Holy Spirit was here today,” after a song has been repeated many times or the minister has given an especially rousing sermon. Many times we don’t know what the sermon was about, but we just enjoy they way it was performed. If we truly recognized the Holy Spirit, would we constantly run short of finances to do the needed tasks for mission and operating expenses? If each member were imbued with the Holy Spirit, would the sick and shut in so neglected and so many who need counseling continued to be ignored? Would a church ever need to move its location to accommodate its members, rather than minister to the current residents of that community? We may not experience the coming of the Holy Spirit as in the “valley of the dry bones,” or like the day of Pentecost – but surely we need the breath of God to breathe in us and on us each day of our lives if we are to be empowered to do God’s will.

The hymn by Edwin Hatch says it so well, which is my constant prayer, to “Breathe on me breath of God.”

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

fill me with life anew,

that I may love the way you love,

and do what you would do.


Breathe on me, Breath of God,

until my heart is pure,

until my will is one with yours,

to do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

so shall I never die,

but live with you the perfect life

for all eternity.

Mrs. Mabel W. Thornton, alumna of Virginia Union and George Washington University, is a retired D.C. public school teacher, Deaconness emerita, mother and grandmother. At 90 years old, she is active with several prayer groups and continues to be an African American history and multicultural consultant and educator for her retirement community and church.


5 thoughts on “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Christian

  1. This article and accompanying videos are uplifting as well as instructive.
    It’s a shame that the ugly advertisements right below this wonderful essay, videos and author notes had to appear.
    Is there some way those can be removed?
    Lavinia LT Odejimi


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