Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I Believe About Worship and Prayer

Let me begin with two simple definitions:
Prayer: Having a relationship, conversation with God.
Worship: Being with, in the presence of, God.

My definitions for prayer and worship are somewhat different than traditional understandings. The most important difference, for me anyway, is the active nature of both prayer and worship.

For prayer to be effective and meaningful we must be engaged in an active relationship, a conversation with God. Conversations go in two directions. There is give and take. There are requests and answers. For my prayer life to flourish and grow, I must listen at least as much as I speak to God.

For worship to be inspiring we must be actively in the presence of God. Often we think of worship as an obligation, something that we have to “show up for.” Unfortunately, we may be more interested in showing up for the Super Bowl in the basement rec. room. Worship is more than sitting and listening, or kneeling and yawning, or standing and singing. Worship is making an effort to be present with God.

For prayer and worship to be active and meaningful, we need to engage
  • Emotionally. Although we are discouraged from displaying emotions, God made us to be emotional. He created our capacity to know joy, fear, sadness, apprehension. He is the one who made us capable of laughter and tears. Our emotions need to be invested in our prayer and worship.
  • Intellectually. You do not need to leave your brain at the door to trust God. This division between the mind and the spirit is unnatural and unnecessary. Think when you pray. Think about what you pray.
  • Physically. Sometimes worship and prayer requires a physical response to God. We kneel, bow, close our eyes and raise our hands because we are in the presence of God himself.
  • Relationally. I know that in many situations men and women have no choice but to worship alone. Spouses, children, parents are not followers of Christ and so you must attend and participate alone. However, prayer is more effective in a group. Worship is more fulfilling in a congregation.

No one can live and grow in the Christian life without a healthy, active relationship with God. The two primary building blocks of that relationship are prayer and worship.

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