“Renew in these your servants the covenant you have made with them at their Baptism…”
“Defend, O Lord, your servant with your heavenly grace, that he may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more…”
“May the Holy Spirit, who has begun a good work in you, direct and uphold you…”
I remind you to stir up the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Tim. 1:6
It has been said that in the 1979 Prayer Book, Confirmation is a liturgy in search of a theology. While that is mostly a true statement, given the major changes that the Baptismal service underwent, the reality is that something is happening when the Bishop lays her hands upon a lay person who has come to make an adult profession of faith.
The generic collect at the time of Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation as well as the specific prayers for Confirmation and Reaffirmation each, in their own way, mirror the prayer of Paul for his disciple turned Christian leader, Timothy. With full recognition of the work already begun by the Holy Spirit, Paul prays that Timothy himself might “stir up” or “rekindle” the gift of God, that is, the Holy Spirit, that was given to him by the laying on of hands.
It happens first in Baptism, it happens again at Confirmation, it is possible again and again during Reaffirmation, and it is the goal of every Ordination service: that the Holy Spirit might come with power and might to empower every disciple for ministry. What is interesting about these words from Paul, however, is that he isn’t praying for the Holy Spirit to rekindle itself in Timothy. Instead, Paul encourages him to stir it up with himself.
The work of following Jesus is not passive. A disciple does not just sit around, hoping that the Spirit will do its work within one’s own soul. Instead, having received the gift of grace and empowered by the Spirit through the laying on of hands, every disciple, from the very young to the very old, from the average layman to the Presiding Bishop, must take it upon him or herself to do the work of spiritual growth through the reading of the Scriptures, daily prayer, evangelism, and acts of service.