Friday, December 31, 2010

Praying the Prayers of Others

I did not grow up in a tradition that used or truly valued the use of prayers written by others. The only exception would be the Lord's Prayer which was used because, of course, it was written by Jesus. The spontaneous or "unique" prayer was what I was taught, learning to pray in public, putting my thoughts to God into words to be spoken, on-the-fly aloud in a group. Although I don't think anyone actually ever said this to me, I grew up thinking that this type of praying must be superior to reciting prayers or even pre-writing a prayer to pray outloud at a later time. And this type of thinking has engendered a type of pride within me because I know how to pray aloud, on the spot.

Not pretty.

Today as I was listening to an interview with N.T. Wright, something he said nailed me between the eyes regarding this pride that's been growing in my heart over the years. He says that to use the prayers of others is actually a sign of humility, allowing someone else's words to express some longing within my own heart and learning from them. He further encourages that if the Holy Spirit helped them to pray in that fashion, why not "ride in on their coat tails." [1]

These "old" prayers can serve as a structure, not that restricts or boxes in my prayers. Rather, they give me a framework from which to start, a springboard into areas of prayer and meditation that might not have occured to me before, offering me a fresh perspective of the Lord and His work in my life. The very speaking of them become a form of praise as I join in with another's expression of worship.

In these last couple of years, I have been discovering these ancient prayers and their writers and have been so blessed by them. But, to be honest, a part of me has struggled with using their writings and prayers in my "quiet time" because somehow I felt like it was less authentic since it wasn't spontaneous and uniquely from me.

Like a good friend of mine says: "We sing other people's songs. Why not pray other people's prayers?" I am looking forward to this next year, to discovering the prayers of the ancients (anyone older than I am) and being blessed by the move of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

1 "Reclaiming Worship: a training interview with N.T. Wright"

Who We Worship

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

The Trinity is one of the greatest mysteries and most important tenants of the Christian faith, and I am becoming more aware of how that Community and my understanding of it impacts the community I am a part of here.

As a worship leader, it is important to become “a prayerfully and thoughtfully informed Trinitarian” [1] through study and meditation of the character of God. I am reconciled to Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For most Christians who we worship is obvious: God. But by God, who do most Christians focus on? Father? Son? Holy Spirit? Depending on your particular church, you will probably find an emphasis leaning more towards one or the other, and yet to worship God is to worship all 3 Persons of the Godhead.

In the Trinity, each Person who “abides in the other, remains uniquely what He is…Each has a unique role to play in redemption and should be praised for His unique work. To lead the Church in worship, the worship leader must join with the persons of the Triune God in praising them according to their unique glory and work.” [2]

In the West, we tend to be very individualistic in our worship, in our faith practices, but God shows us the value of community by revealing it within Himself. It is not the Father alone, nor the Son alone, nor the Spirit alone. It is all Three working in community with each other: “the three persons, in perfect harmony, giving without reservation to one another, independent, bound together in love, all involved in a celebration of life, love, peace and joy.”

How does this play out in leading worship? First and foremost, I must choose songs that resonate the truth of the Trinity. The songs we sing are more often than not remembered far longer than the sermons we hear. As such, it is vitally important to choose songs and write songs that accurately depict the Triune God.

It also means that the way I participate in community will reflect my understanding and view of God as Triune. [3] Just as the Trinity works together without fear, competition, condemnation or shame, so I need to learn to live and work with those around me in a spirit of love not fear, being all I’m called to be while encouraging and supporting others in being all they are designed to be.

1 “Leading Trinitarian Worship” by Berten Waggoner, Inside Worship.
2 ibid.
3 “Who Is the God We Worship?” by Dr. Don Williams and Brenton Brown, Inside Worship.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Is Worship?

for the Essentials Blue In Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

What is worship? Is it music? Is it dance? Is it songs? When we say "let's worship" we typically mean something to do with music, but worship, in it's most truest form is so much more than that.

Worship is expression, prayer, compassion, proclamation. It is practiced within our relationships with family, friends, strangers, our culture. It requires character growth and holiness and a pursuit of truth. It resists compartments and embraces wholeness at every level. Worship invades every aspect of our lives and reveals who it is we are focusing on because we become like what (or who) we worship. [1]

As a Christian, I worship God. And I can only worship Him as He chooses to reveal Himself to me. He loves me, and I get to love Him back, pulling from the love He deposited within me. Worship belongs to Him and I can only do it out of what He has given me.

It's not a show to impress Him, to let Him see how hard I can work. It's a healing, restoring, beautifying experience that He initiates and I respond to. It's my whole life living in response to His love for me. [2]

N.T. Wright says that it is the task of humans to relect God into the world like an angled mirror. [3] Then I get to reflect back to God the "inarticulate praise" of the inanimate creation by articulating it through prayer, song, dance, art, words...

Matt Redman says that the revelation of God is what fuels the fire of worship. Without revelation there is no worship. [4] It is my responsibility to press into God and to watch for Him to reveal Himself to me. I must determine to keep my eyes fixed on Him so as not to miss the revelation, particularly in challenging circumstances when the temptation is to turn my eyes to the challenge and try to figure out a way to work things out. Worship means keeping my eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and trusting Him to strengthen and deepen my faith, praising Him and declaring His eternal attributes of faithfulness and goodness, knowing that He will work all things together for my good and that He will lead and guide me in the way I should go.

As I purpose to do this day in and day out, intimacy with God grows more intimate. Relationship with Him is the real adventure of worship and is never boring or dull. Brian Doerksen says, "Real intimacy is real adventure." Amen.

This intimacy allows me to have a life formed by Jesus that is at peace whether He is speaking or is silent. It allows me to be confident in the light or in the darkness because regardless of how it feels, I know that He is with me, actively loving me. It enables me to carry His image into the world and to show compassion in practical ways that change culture, establish justice, redeem brokenness, and free captives. Intimacy is the fount from which worship in spirit and in truth flows from me to the Father, Son and Spirit, relecting His image to the world around me. [5]

1 What Is Worship? a DVD Training Experience. Dan Wilt. 2006 Vineyard Music USA.
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.