‘Holy Spirit, fill me’ is a prayer I often pray. I pray it for myself and I pray it for others. It’s a prayer deeply rooted in Scripture (Ephesians 5:18) and in the tradition of the church. It’s a good prayer.
But what about asking God to empty me? I’ve been thinking about that recently. About asking God to remove all that is unhelpful. To pull the plug and drain me. Whilst I regularly pray prayers of confession and dedication, I rarely am so explicit and pray ‘Lord, empty me’. But I’ve found myself doing that over the last few weeks, partly inspired by the example of Heidi Baker. She explicitly encourages people to empty themselves before asking God to fill them.
Of course she gets this from Jesus. Philippians 2:7 could not be clearer that Christ ‘made himself nothing’ – or literally ’emptied himself‘ of his own desires and will, humbling himself to the greater will of his Father. This idea of kenosis – of self-emptying your will to be entirely receptive to God’s will – was prophesied by Isaiah, that a Messiah would come who ‘poured out his life’ (Isaiah 53:12). Followers of this Messiah are to do the same.
To live lives that are empty of ourselves doesn’t mean we are passive or boring or dull. Neither does it mean we get pushed around or become doormats. It means we live lives of surrender.
‘What kind of people does God fill?’ asks Heidi Baker. Her answer is simple and true. ‘Empty ones’.