Continuing on the theme of ‘Loving God through prayer’ – see previous post
We may not feel in a place of praise. We may only feel darkness. Our hearts may feel shrivelled within us; perhaps all we can utter are the words ‘blessed be your name’ even if they are hard to say. A prayer of worship in a dark and dry time can be a powerful thing indeed. The Psalmists often have to nudge themselves to worship – why are you disturbed, my soul? Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11, NIV)
Praise the Lord, my soul (Psalm 146).
Loving God – as we were made to love God – overpowers the frailness of our circumstances. It gives us the means of survival in desperate times, it drives us to love others in God’s name, it gives us that thin thread of hope in the barren and the bleak.
We worship God because he is God. We whisper ‘God is good’ even when the world has all gone bad and we are grieved by what we hear and see. We cling to that, although we do not understand it; we do not understand anything. I cannot grasp some of the atrocities that human inflicts upon tender human. I cannot; I do not know how to pray or praise as I contemplate these things.
In that moment, my prayer is in my grief. I grieve in the arms of God; I do not know where else to go. This too, is a kind of worship, acknowledging his might even though I do not understand what he doesn’t do.
Worship can be such a familiar word. As can praise, thanksgiving. Sometimes they can develop a kind of jargonesque quality. They are talking about something beautiful, but they’ve become…something less than what they mean. Some might find them rather twee. All words are a bit twee, when compared with the reality of God. WORSHIP of GOD – that phrase implies such a vast intent and such a huge implication.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
(Ecclesiastes 5:2, NIV)
Heaven in the bible is primarily defined as the place where God dwells, the place to which our prayers ‘ascend’. And the language of ascent is common in the Old Testament – Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? (Psalm 24:3, NIV)
The New Testament ups the ante! We are told we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), no longer dealing with the terror of Mount Sinai, with all of its terrifying “darkness, gloom and storm” but Mount Zion, “…to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” (Hebrews 12:18, 22-24, NIV)
And this shift, this opening up by grace, means that our prayers can be more daring, more eager, more intimate. But even under the old covenant we still get glimpses of these kinds of prayers –“My soul yearns” says the writer of Psalm 84, “even faints… My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (v2, NIV).
If our worship, if our loving of God, is to characterise our whole lives, in that we have the intention to love and honour God in everything, then prayer is an essential part of this.