Perhaps no topic is covered more extensively in Christian teaching than prayer. Books, seminars, retreats and Wednesday night prayer meetings are just some of the ways we encourage this way of communicating with God. But there are questions, many more than we can cover in this space. Is prayer a private matter between us and God or is it to be conducted in a public place? Is it the privilege of all or the province of only a select few as it was in much of the Old Testament? Is it about praise, petition, supplication or all of the above? Does God hear all prayers or just those of the righteous, as some scripture suggests, basically saying we need to clean up our own act or God won't listen?
Jesus was asked by his disciples to teach them how to pray. Apparently they weren't comfortable with their own prayer life, assuming it even existed as an individual matter in those days. On several occasions, Jesus went away to a private place to pray, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. Jesus left his followers with the Holy Spirit as our Wonderful Counselor which strongly suggests that we would communicate with our Triune God in spirit, i.e., through prayer.
In our study of Abraham, we find that he actually talked with God, hearing His voice or interacting with angels sent by God. Later praying was done mostly by priests, prophets, Kings (David) not the Hebrew people. Jesus changed that and brought the idea of a personal God, although prayers of confession are still heard by certain priests in the Christian religion.
We have begun including an open prayer segment in our Bible Study. Participation is optional but it gives us a chance to communicate openly with God in the presence of our Christian brothers and sisters.
Worship or Worshiptainment?
At our October 30th Service, Mr. Ed Hinshaw briefly spoke of worshiptainment. Are churches, are worship services in the business of entertainment?
Much of this article is from Mike Livingstone in his writing, "The Heresy of Worshiptainment,"
"I may stand alone, but it grieves me when I see worship services characterized more by props, performances, and pep rally atmosphere than by any sense of divine sacredness; and hallowedness giving way to shallowness."
This is not about worship styles, i.e., not traditional versus contemporary versus blended worship. It’s not organ versus worship band. This is about the heart and focus and intent of worship.
Consider these questions when thinking about worship services:
• Who or what is the “spotlight” really on? If the "spotlight" is on anything other than God, it is not worship. If the “spotlight” shines brighter on human performance than on the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not worship. If anyone other than Jesus is receiving our adulation and applause, it is not God we worship.
• What message are we communicating? The message of the church – the message the world needs to hear from us – Is not - “Come and have a good time,” or "Come and be entertained," or "Come and find your best life now." Christ calls people to carry a cross; Christ does not call people to have fun in His name. The message of the church is the message of the cross. Lest we forget, Jesus’ cross was a source of entertainment only for those who mocked Him as He hung on it.
• How are lives changed? "But our methods are attracting and winning people," say some. Winning them to what? To true discipleship, to self-denial, to holy living, to nobility of character, to self-discipline, to love for God, to study the Word of God?
Writer David Platt has asked, "What if we were to take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens were gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for His people to come together? Would it be enough?"
There are many places one can enter into worship. We can worship in our car on the way to work. We can worship God as we sing praise to Him while dressing. We can worship Him as we kneel down by our bed in the morning or at night. We might sing, speak, or silently pray to Him. The basic definition of worship is actively glorifying God our Father and Jesus Christ our savior.
Let us focus on the motivation, methodology, and outcomes of our worship to God. Some people like singing and acoustic music, while others prefer pipe organs and classic hymns. As long as the music, songs, and especially the lyrics give praise to God alone and do not detract from the focus on Him, that is worship.
2 Timothy 4: 3-4. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. Let our focus be on God in worship, in our speech, in our thoughts, in everything that we do.