3 ways you can make room to be filled by the Spirit
Written by Brad Jenkins

When the Bible says you can be filled with the Spirit, we often think it’s something that happens passively. In other words, we feel like we have no control over being full of the Spirit, that being filled comes randomly. But we can do things that make room for the Spirit to fill us.

We see that in Acts when the Spirit comes to the disciples. They are praying and united. They had made themselves open to a spiritual awakening. A few sentences in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church later in church history actually spell out three things we can do to be open for the Spirit to fill us.

Here’s what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18-21: “Be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ.”

Three practices that can fill us with the Spirit are listed: worship, giving thanks and submitting to one another.

These are not accidental moments. They require some action.

Worship and sing

First, Paul says that when we worship, we are filled with the Spirit. And he further says that we can do it together (“speak the truth to each other”) and individually (“in your hearts”). Paul’s vision of worship here is both corporate and individual. Being together in worship on Sundays is vital to our life in the church, but we can’t limit worship to Sunday mornings; our worship should be part of our everyday lives. So, worship in the car on the way to work. Worship with your family. Worship on a morning walk. Worship always.

When you do, try to sing. Paul emphasizes singing, and he doesn’t reserve it for the musically talented and the worship team. We’re all called to “sing and make music,” even those of us who can’t carry a tune. When we sing, we make room for the Spirit to fill us. Interestingly, Paul mentions three kinds of music (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs), so it seems that God delights in a variety of worship music. So it would do us well to sing and speak all kinds of music as we seek to be filled with the Spirit.

Give thanks

Next, Paul says we are filled with the Spirit when we give thanks. Thanksgiving really can transform our outlook. In our household, whenever things get tense or we are sensing someone needs some encouragement, we stop everything and “do some thankfuls,” going around and saying one thing each we’re thankful for, sometimes for several rounds. Reluctant at first, we often end up in a better place as we are filled with the Spirit.

Submit to one another

Finally, Paul urges us to submit to one another so that we can be filled by the Spirit. This is the most surprising of the three. Of course, worship and thanksgiving can fill us up, but submission? Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising, though, because love is at the heart of submitting to others, and the Spirit (because he is God) is defined by perfect, sacrificial love. That’s because the Spirit is sent by Jesus, who Himself demonstrated His love for us in the most sacrificial of ways. So, as you seek to be filled with the Spirit, live with a spirit of teamwork among your fellow Jesus-followers and think of others before yourself. That will help you make room for the Spirit.

Here’s what’s clear: God desires for us to be spirit-filled. And while it is God who does the filling, there are ways to make ourselves more open to being filled. Paul gives us three: worship, give thanks and submit to others. Then watch and see what the Spirit can do as He fills you.