Worship for Pentecost Sunday, 31st May


Today is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. We celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, poured out on all Jesus’ disciples.



A prayer of approach

Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, 
that your sons and your daughters may hear your prophetic word.
Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, 
that your sons and your daughters may know how to live according to your ways.
Pour out your Spirit, loving Lord, 
that your sons and your daughters may worship you 
in Spirit and in Truth.


(Prayer taken from the Roots website)

Hymn: A prayer for the gift of the Spirit

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1. Come down, O Love divine!
seek out this soul of mine
and visit it with your own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, your holy flame bestowing.

2. There let it freely burn
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let your glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and make my pathway clear, by your illuming.

3. Let holy charity
my outward vesture be,
and lowliness become my inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart
which takes the humbler part,
and for its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

4. And so the yearning strong
with which the soul will long
shall far surpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace
till we become the place
in which the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

(Bianco da Siena, d.1434)

A prayer of praise and thanksgiving

Lord our God,
we thank You that the Holy Spirit has been here from the very beginning, moving over the waters of creation,
bringing light out of darkness,
order out of chaos,
to breathe life into us who were formed in Your image.

We thank You for the Spirit’s anointing
of prophets, priests and kings,
and all Your servants,
who prepared the way for Your coming to us in Your Son.

We praise You for the Spirit’s anointing,
without measure, of Jesus and for everything accomplished in His life and ministry, His death and resurrection,
through the Spirit’s filling.

We thank You that,
true to the promise of Jesus,
the Spirit came in transforming power on the disciples at Pentecost to send them out on mission,
as Jesus was Himself sent by the Father.

We bless You that the Spirit came,
not for a fleeting visit,
but to stay with us for ever,
that this presence with us still holds the promise that one day in a renewed world of love and justice, all will worship Jesus Christ, its rightful Lord.

Thank You that the Spirit is with us here and now, as together we worship,
mediating the presence of Jesus,
ministering peace, comfort, correction and grace, bestowing new faith, new hope, new life.

Breathe on us, Breath of God. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

(Prayers from the Church of Scotland)

A prayer of confession and forgiveness

God of mercy and grace,
We remember that when the Spirit came down at Pentecost, not all were glad.
There were some who poured scorn on this gift,
and mockery on the now Spirit-filled disciples.

Forgive us when, in fear and folly,
we bar our minds and hearts to your Spirit’s work.
Forgive us when we refuse to acknowledge the Spirit’s action in others and in situations out-with our own comfort zones.
Forgive us when we quench the Spirit,
choosing darkness over light,
and stunt the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Forgive us when we block the Spirit’s constant promptings
to share the good news of Jesus with others,
by word and loving action.
Forgive us when we choose safe and comfortable paths
in place of the sometimes risky, even dangerous,
routes of service and mission
to which the Spirit directs us.

Cleanse our hearts by Your Spirit, Lord, to be Your dwelling place.
Fill us anew, that we may be bold and humble bearers to a world in crying need of the sovereign,
just and gentle rule of Jesus, in whose name we pray.


Today’s reading: Acts 2:1 – 21

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

Peter Addresses the Crowd

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams. 
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy. 
And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 
The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


The Bible has spoken before about a wind from God, blowing over the chaos of darkness before God called creation into being. Right at the beginning, the wind of the Spirit stirred up the deep waters, and the world began to take shape.

Now, that wind is blowing again, blowing to breathe new life and the Holy Spirit into these frightened, confused disciples. It is another new beginning, the creation of a new world where God’s spirit is alive in everyone who puts their trust in Jesus. But what is this new world like?

The Bible has spoken before about the thousands of languages used by human beings, ever since God confused the languages of the people who had tried to build the Tower of Babel. People lost the ability to make sense of each other’s language, and sharing ideas and feelings became so much harder.

The new world of the Spirit is one where people can understand each other at many levels. The disciples find themselves speaking with confidence, and being understood, in many different tongues. The separation and loneliness of Babel is overcome by the unity of the Spirit.

The Bible has also shown us a world where the gift of the Spirit is for kings, priests, prophets – but not for ordinary people. As Peter reminded his hearers, Joel prophesied that when God’s new world dawned, the Spirit would be for everyone.

The new world of the Spirit is one where all people – even the slaves – can receive the gift of the Spirit, can share in the life of God and live lives of hope, joy and peace. The experience of the early Church was that people from every part of society found themselves drawn to the saving power of Jesus’ love – Joel’s prophecy did indeed come true.

We still need all this today – and all the more in light of the current crisis. When our hearts are cold with grief and pain, God’s Spirit still blows to rekindle the passion of life within us. When we are lonely in our self-isolation, God’s Spirit still empowers us to communicate. When we feel insignificant, as though there is nothing we can do, God’s Spirit still reminds us that we are precious in God’s sight, we can share that life of love, joy and peace. The Spirit changes everything!

Images to inspire

This lovely hymn has many images which help us reflect on the ways the Spirit makes a difference. Pause over the pictures it offers and imagine them in your mind’s eye as you remember that God’s Spirit is alive with you, right now.

Holy Spirit, gift bestower
Breathe into our hearts today,
Flowing water, dove that hovers,
Holy Spirit, guide our way.
Love inspirer, joy releaser,
Spirit, take our fears away.
Reconciler, peace restorer,
Move among us as we pray. 

Holy Spirit, Christ proclaimer,
Wisdom bringer, light our way. 
Fire that Dances, wind that whispers,
Holy Spirit, come today.
Ease disturber, comfort bearer
Move among us while we pray.
Truth revealer, faith confirmer,
Rest within our hearts today.

(Author anonymous)

Prayers of Intercession

Come, Holy Spirit, restless breath of love, breathe on us now and help us to pray as we ought.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Come, Holy Spirit,
to Your world today.
As You brought order out of chaos at the beginning,
brood over the chaos

we have created in today’s world,
so that people everywhere may learn the way of life as You intend, and find purpose, meaning and hope in their existence.
Where there is oppression and abuse of others,
bring Your justice.
Where there is anxiety and fear,
bring Your peace.
Where there is hatred and division,
bring Your love.
Where the resources of this awesome world are exploited,
and we fail as stewards of land and sea,
grant us repentance and the grace to learn a better way.
Guide the rulers of the world
in ways of justice and integrity,
of truth and peace.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Come, Holy Spirit,
to Your Church today.
Breathe into us new life and zeal
and delight in the gospel.
Set our hearts on fire with Your love.
Grow Your own fruit in our lives.
As You did that day in Jerusalem,
in all our diversity make us one in truth and love.
Let the gifts of all be valued
and used for the common good.
Empower and equip us
to bear compelling witness to Jesus as Lord

by the way we live and speak and serve,
that many will come to know Him for themselves. Make us unafraid to stand out from the crowd, and let it be seen that we have been with Jesus.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Come, Holy Spirit,
to all who need Your presence today.
Spirit of comfort,
be near to all who are sad and lonely.
Spirit of power,
give Your strength to all who carry heavy burdens
and are weary on life’s journey.
Spirit of peace,
speak calm to troubled hearts and minds.
Spirit of life and light,
lift from despair those for whom daily life has lost interest, meaning and hope.
Shine the Christ-light into their darkness.

Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Come, Holy Spirit,
and do new work through the church in this land
and in all the world.
Revive us and equip us for those tasks to which Your people in every age and place are called.
Sweep Your church forward with
new life, new hope, new vision.
May we act ever more closely together,
in the rich diversity of the one body of Christ.
So may glory be given to You,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.

(Prayers from the Church of Scotland)

Where is the Spirit? Everywhere!

A hymn to celebrate God’s generous gift 

1. There’s a spirit in the air,
telling Christians everywhere:
‘Praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world!’

2. Lose your shyness, find your tongue,
tell the world what God has done:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!

3. When believers break the bread,
when a hungry child is fed,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world.

4. Still the Spirit gives us light,
seeing wrong and setting right:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!

5. When a stranger’s not alone,
where the homeless find a home,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world.

6. May the Spirit fill our praise,
guide our thoughts and change our ways
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!

7. There’s a Spirit in the air,
calling people everywhere:
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world.

(Brian Wren, b.1936)